Valentine’s is here again, a time when we feel that our love lives are under the total scrutiny of the world. They’re not, of course. Everybody is too busy looking at themselves unfavourably, much like nobody really notices what you look like because they’re all so busy looking at themselves in reflective surfaces. We are, after all, the introspecting species.
There’s a lot of negativity around Valentine’s day and I’m not sure why there should be. It’s a holiday aimed at the loved and the loving. And because at its heart it’s an innocent past-time, it attracts a lot of criticism.
Criticism of Valentine’s day tend to fall into one of three camps. One camp, the largest, is the love-lorn. For them Valentine’s Day is a bitter pin to prick the spur of their ambition, a day-long reminder of something they try to ignore every day: They. Are. Alone. They go to bed alone, they wake up alone, they have breakfast alone, and they go to work alone. To them, Valentine’s Day is the opposite of a validation: a criticism, like the Aunt at the wedding who asks them why they’re not married yet. “We thought you’d be bringing someone with you?” Shut up, saggy-features. Nobody cares. For these poor, sad people, who surely number in their hundreds of millions, Valentine’s Day represents a recognition of their failure to “pair up”: to become a binary system, to share their world with another. These are the people who, motivated by bitterness and humiliation, pour the harshest invective against this particular, inoffensive holiday. “It’s a made-up holiday.” Show me a holiday Octopodes or Grasshoppers recognise, smart-arse. All holidays are made-up. “It’s just designed for card companies to make money”. That’s putting the cart before the horse, chummy. It’s like saying Easter was set up by Cadburys. “Women don’t want chocolates and flowers”. No, they want power-tools and beer. “I hate it”. We know that, and be quiet. You’ve made it abundantly clear.
There’s a secret sub-group of the first. These poor souls are the bitter coupled people: the people who have found “happiness” and lord, do they want to tell you about it. “We’ve been married for thirty years”. Golly. “No, we don’t celebrate Valentines day. We just have a cup of tea and a mutual wank and get on with the day.” Cripes. Thanks for sharing. These people have a death grip on each other. They frighten me. They take “til death do us part” not so much as an affirmation of love but as a gritted-teeth promise. These people aren’t alone: they just sometimes wish they were.
Then there are the saps who say, “Valentine’s Day is too commercial.” These are the people who think Christmas is too commercial as well. Their rage stems from a lifetime of self-denial. These are the people who are either too embarrassed or afraid to ask for what they want. Of course they want stuff. Everybody wants stuff, and they want all of it. We did not get to where we are as a species following the path of self-denial. Do you want to see how well that goes down? Look at that tin-pot shit hole Tibet (and even then, the Dalai Lama has a golden palace. Did you know that? The hell you did). These people grind my gears more than any other. Their arrogant “look at me aren’t I so mature” attitude is really a mask for a lifetime of disappointment. They don’t like Christmas because they’re too afraid to ask for what they really want, so their wishes go unfulfilled, and to provide a crutch for their hatred of “commercial” holidays they backwards-rationalise a hippy, green-leafy-vegetable-eating, sandal-wearing, chakra-poking new-age wanker’s philosophy to justify their disappointment. They look down their po-faces at us, struggling with our bags of glorious consumer merchandise. They sip decaffeinated tea with lemon (milk gives you cancer and HIV) and sneer at people who have nicer stuff than them. These people want “world peace”. They want “everybody to drive hybrid cars”. They want “everybody to grow their own halloumi”. The hell they do. What they really want is booze and fags and chocolate and a new XBox game. You don’t fool me, chummy. I know you. I’m in touch with humanity.
Third and least vocal on Valentine’s day is the group of those incapable of starting, or maintaining, adult relationships. I’m talking about you: the freaks, the geeks, the losers and loners, the asexual and the truly ascetic, the misanthropes and sociopaths and autistic kids. These are those who regard the whole day with the quizzical bemusement of a dog being shown a card-trick. ‘Tis another day, they say, and go back to World of Warcraft or cutting up prostitutes. These are, I think, the people who are truly happiest on Valentines day, because they ignore all the preconceptions, the grief and shame and embarrassment that goes with sex and love in this culture, and just get on with what makes them happy. They just do what they do and then, one day, four eyes meet over a Warhammer table (or an autopsy), and true love blossoms.
Of the three, I know which I’d rather identify with. So, in an out-of-character volte-face, I’ll sum up by saying this: Valentine’s day doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it’s commercial because I reject the idea of a non-commercial holiday. I won’t be plunged into depression by my continued singleness. I like being alone. Let it be said: being alone isn’t the same as being lonely. To those of you in relationships, I wish you a good holiday: spend it with someone you love. For the single: relax. Everything’s under control. There’s six billion humans, you’re bound to find one you like. For the bitter: try loosening up. And to everybody: relish the fact the human race offers such diversity.
And one more thing. If today of all days you feel lonely, unloved, unattractive, bitter, or unhappy, remember this:
Good day to you.