Sunday, 13 February 2011

No date for the 14th: what are the loveless to do?

A girl aged 23 extracts only the pinks and reds from her neatly organised pencil case. It can mean only one thing: Valentine’s Day. But who is it who requires such attention to detail, such effort ascribed only to the warmer hues of the fine berols? Her betrothed? Her secret lover?

Of course not; this is London and the girl is a 20-something. She is, of course, striving just to keep her head straight and battle up the rickety career ladder. The attention of a permanent boy figure would only complicate things and make doing what she wanted an exception rather than the rule.

A day dedicated to being lovely and mutual respect I could abide nay, welcome. However Valentine’s Day works to separate the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’. (Such a stark division in life chances should have Labour vying at the Tories’ necks. Alas, not so; all the MPs are out buying flowers for their neglected spouses.) Around the 10th, the questions start: “what are you doing on the night?”; “where is he taking you?”; “is it a surprise?”

Like Medusa’s snakes, the questioners swirl around, address the issue head on, looking her in the eye. Admit to her lack of love and she unveils herself as the lonely single, without a lover who feels propelled to glue a crepe paper heart onto a piece of crimped card. This has a disarming effect, simultaneously cutting through vast swathes of confidence and accelerating the level of self-questioning which can only be executed over red wine and lashings of chocolate not something which requires much encouragement in the 20-something on the aforementioned rickety ladder.

Having a ‘break up anniversary’ on the 14th February serves to compound the morbid thoughts which come from an overwrought need to impress everyone but oneself. The polarising effect of this day, perfectly positioned at an empty period in the greeting card industry calendar between Christmas and Easter, is irksome. If a level of self respect and a head for fun stops them from sitting home doing nothing, the loveless are left with the matter of how to spend the evening. If masquerading as a girl-guy combo as fag and hag seems a something of a counterintuitive pretence, the loveless girl is left with her own girlfriends.

No doubt, the fortunate femmes will all be in relationships being showered with rainbows and feathers. If there is someone in the same situation, you can decide to do the ‘anti Valentine’s Day’: either get incredibly drunk and go clubbing – highly unlikely as this year it falls on a Monday (always be aware that the rungs on that ladder will be slippery when one is hungover). It would seem that unless you want to go out to dinner and be fluffed all over by awkward expressions of commitment and sincerity, there is very little for the young woman to do. Being without a long-term lover does not qualify me for ‘love is evil’ lectures or propel me to go on a tour of the poisonous plants at the natural history museum, thank you very much London.

As a singleton on the 14th, rather than indulge in contrived notions of introspection and ego inflation, show some love by genuinely thanking the barista for your coffee, smiling at someone on the tube or giving away something you value. I would suggest we need to grow our empathetic side rather than our selfish love side.

And the cards? Send them to all the women in your life who make it fabulous, of course.

On second thoughts, maybe the red wine isn’t such a bad idea.