Some couples say they don’t buy into Valentine’s Day. They announce they’re not doing anything special, because they’re way too smart to fall for that whole cynical marketing device – and besides, every day should be Valentine’s Day, right? They’re not gonna give their hard-earned cash to The Man and his Hallmark Cards conspiracy just because they happen to be in love. But they’re quite wrong. Because Valentine’s Day is not a marketing ploy cynically manufactured by evil greeting card companies. It was cynically manufactured by couples, to give them one special day of the year to lord it over us single people.
The day isn’t supposed to be for lovers to do something special that they nauseatingly boast to the rest of us about. That’s only come about because they have hijacked it to seek the validation of their single friends’ jealousy. It’s meant to be a day for surprise declarations of love – for sending a card to someone you admire. And the US Postal Service estimates that a billion love cards are distributed worldwide – and since 85 per cent are purchased by women, we can assume that approximately half of these are directed to Brad Pitt.
But sending cards isn’t the Australian way. I’ve never heard of a couple getting together because one of them declared their feelings on the 14th of February. If anything, getting a card from an unknown, possibly obsessive admirer might feel a little freaky in this day and age, especially as it proves that they know where you live. There is only one approved Australian method for making a declaration of love, and that’s getting so maggoted at the pub that you disappear with your paramour for a sneaky pash.
The system has been developed because it preserves total deniability. None of us are ever willing to lay anything on the line, so having the defence of not being fully aware of what you were doing is necessary in case things don’t work out. Bold declarations of undying love, sending a dozen red roses, and dispatching a string quartet to serenade your beloved simply aren’t done in Sydney in 2008. Your only options, I’m afraid, are drinking, a life of enduring singleness, or worst of all, internet dating.
So in effect, the traditions of Valentine’s Day itself are un-Australian. And because no one’s sending anonymous cards (I have never received one, and am extraordinarily attractive – therefore, I can logically conclude that no-one must ever have received one), that’s left a huge gap for couples to fill with their infuriating smugness.
It’s not about the romantic activity itself. Of course not. Why would a dinner with the person you love at a fancy restaurant be any better on Valentine’s Day than any other day? It’s the same company and the same food – the only difference is that today, they jack up the price with a special menu. No – it’s a competition to see who has the best Valentine’s event, and therefore has the best relationship.
Just listen for these conversations tomorrow. How many roses, and what colour? Where did you go for dinner? Were there candles? Did a charming Latin man strum an acoustic guitar? Did you sing sweet karaoke duets together? What, you didn’t sing Islands In The Stream? We did, therefore we’re happier than you.
Even worse are the couples that celebrate ironically. They’re just as guilty of one-upmanship (or perhaps the term “two-upmanship” might be more appropriate) as the more genuine couples – they just want to gain additional credit for their hilarious cynicism. So they’ll buy each other the most over-the-top awful card they can find, or give one another a giant pink teddy bear that no one over the age of three could possibly like, or send a singing telegram to their partner’s workplace to embarrass the hell out of them. Thus rubbing it in to the rest of us even more vigorously, because the two of them have such amazing senses of humour that are just so incredibly in sync.
So couples, I beg you – spare us. By all means, use the day as a pretext for an awesome romantic evening. Just don’t tell us what you do. Even if we singles ask, it’s out of politeness – we don’t actually want to know. Say something like “oh, not much, just a quiet bite to eat”, rather than enthralling us with the story about how your boyfriend jumped on the table and performed a spontaneous a capella version of Unchained Melody while the entire restaurant applauded, and unanimously agreed that you have the most wonderful boyfriend in recorded history.
We’re happy for you, honestly. Just not today.