Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching and I find myself wondering for the first time, rather bemusedly, how much I care.
Even Woolworths, the shopping behemoth, has let Valentine’s Day slide by with barely a nod of acknowledgement. Sure, there are a few tweets but if you look at their shelves: they’re predominantly stocked with bunnies and eggs.
When I was single Valentine’s Day took on monstrous significance. Every February the 14th that rolled around marked me as Single, Alone, and Possibly Desperate. It felt like a luminescent stamp across my forehead, a foghorn that blared and scared away potential non-creepy future-boyfriends. I would mournfully count the reasons I (thought I) was single, eat a lot of chocolate, and watch Rom Coms (my favourite is still Pride and Prejudice: ‘I love you most ardently’). If I wasn’t watching Pride and Prejudice, I was slipping into small black dresses and drinking over-priced alcoholic concoctions with my similarly single friends in packed, noisy bars.
It felt like my various male companions had secretly marked expiration dates reading BEFORE VALENTINE’S so it was with cautious exuberance that I went into Valentine’s Day last year with The Boyfriend. My first pink-hearts-and-chubby-cupid day with an actual boyfriend. I should feel different, I thought. I’m loved now. I have someone to prattle to about my day in exhausting detail. I have a reason to buy red lipstick and save up for La Senza.
However, there were several factors I had not counted on. The first was that The Boyfriend had spent the previous five years in a serious relationship, so aside from the Y-chromosome and the ‘dumbing down’ affect it has (gender stereotypes are fun!) when it comes to Hallmark Holidays, Valentine’s Day was genuinely not significant to him. He’d never spent it single and sadly wondering why.
Secondly there was the whole ‘long-distance’ thing. The distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town feels almost intergalactic on birthdays and days like (I’ll admit in a small voice) Valentine’s Day.
So last year I found that Valentine’s Day was staggeringly unimportant and I spent it in exactly the same way I’d always spent it. Alone, eating chocolate and watching Rom Coms. Even though I had a boyfriend.
This year (despite some glaringly obvious hints I’ve been dropping to the contrary) I expect to spend it much the same way. I may have spent the last few days trawling food blogs for red velvet breakfast crepe recipes…
…and had small but highly detailed fantasies about waking The Boyfriend up with heart shaped pancakes, or surprising him with a picnic in the lounge and an Arrested Development card…
Then I remembered the time, early in our relationship, when I came home from a particularly stressful day at work (I was staying with him in Joburg for a week) to find a bunch of flowers on the desk with a chocolate. He quietly prepared supper while I worked and I realized, wow, this is love.
I remembered the necklace he got me to match my dress when we went to his friend’s wedding.
I remembered the arm he put around me when we were cold in New York, and the hand he held when we were in crowds.
I remembered the flowers he brought me on a flight from Joburg to Cape Town (causing all the men to ask him, aghast, what he had done wrong).
I remembered him turning to me on the plane, 12 hours into a 20 hour flight, and calling me beautiful.
I remember these things and then I think, who needs flowers on Valentine’s Day when (prepare yourselves for a nauseating turn of phrase) I have a garden growing in my heart? (Gah. I feel nauseous just reading that.)
Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter for squat. And there are a million small ways to say I love you, all the time. But word to the wise? Flowers don’t hurt. Any day of the year.