Monday, February 15, 2010

Not So Happy Valentine Days

If you’ve ever been dumped on Valentine’s Day or spent the entire day gloomily checking (and re-checking) the very empty post box just in case the postman or the courier guy crept up while you weren’t looking, chances are you already view this dubious day with a healthy dose of skepticism.

But even if you’ve never experienced anything particularly bad in your lifetime of February 14th’s, if you’re a swingin’ single, chances are the day, with all its hype and sickly schmaltziness, really holds nothing but wholesome irritation!

The new year had barely begun when already we are bombarded with a barrage of Valentine’s merchandise, mostly, dare I say it, of the cheap n’ nasty variety. From the endless rows of fluffy toys clutching fuzzy red hearts emblazoned with the cringe-worthy words “I luv u” to the heart-shaped paraphernalia of every description (including heart-festooned lingerie “for her” and valentine red boxers “for him”), the message is clear: “romance” is a great way to package and sell just about anything!

Now, wherever you dare to venture, the reminders of this day, this smug ode to coupledom, are gleefuly shoved in your face. Turn on the radio or the telly, or surf the internet, and hundreds of adverts promoting the “celebration” of St. Valentine’s will coerce you to shop for cards and perfume here, roses and chocolates there.

Indeed, as I write this story, a newsletter from a national retail chain has just landed in my in-box, telling me that they’ll throw in free coffee and cookies if I spend some money on their valentine goodies at their store till Feb 21! So, am I still the only person suffering from post-new year shopping burnout?

Pity the single person going anywhere near a restaurant, coffee shop or a pub on Valentine’s Day. Concerned waiters will be “shaming” them, while sentimental maitre ‘d’s would send complimentary, “neutral” white roses their way. And if you happen to be on your own anywhere else in public, there’s sure to be the odd hand-holding couple nudging each other with embarrassment, pretending not to look.

But it doesn’t get much worse than Valentine’s Day spent at school. During my torrid high school years, some of us would anxiously check our diaries to see if the 14th would fall on a week day – desperately hoping and praying that it would not!

The reason why was that the day was always, inevitably, turned into a humiliating competition between all the boys, regardless of age or interest in the whole affair. Little cardboard hearts – white for friendship, pink for deeper interest and red, of course, denoting “love” - could be bought and “posted” throughout the day, with the recipients proudly safety-pinning them to the back lapels of their school shirt ( of course without the teachers knowing)

The varying degrees of popularity of the respective girls and boys could thus be detected at a glance, with the shamed heart-less shirts swiftly bundled up into schoolbags to be hidden from the others’ vicious, scornful laughs. Ahh, the cruelty of youth!

But then, of course, there’s also the horror of the office romance on this “day of love”. Many a startling revelation has come to the fore over the appearance of cute, heart-emblazoned coffee mugs or single, long-stemmed roses on particular co-workers’ desks during office hours.

“Who could it be?”, becomes the favored topic of conversation at the water fountains or coffee corners as jealous colleagues try to sniff out more evidence of a forbidden liaison.

It’s a terrible day, really, and more so because there are so many people out there who coin it at our expense.

I once had a lesbian friend who, feeling sorry for me one lonely year, sent me a special, hand-made “valentine” card – just too make me feel alright and convey that all women were mean! These days I’m still tempted to call the day just that because, you have to admit it, it’s got a great ring to it (though I now rather like women and wouldn’t dare imply that they’re anything less than wonderful at all times!).

Call me cynical if you will, but just remember this especially if you are a female: too much chocolate can make you feel sick…horribly sick, possibly diabetic...and fat, too!

So, if you’re single and tired of hearing or reading about sunset cruises, dinners-for-two, romantic picnics and marriage proposals, brace yourself for the side-ways looks and whispered asides and plan ahead for a day that celebrates singledom!

Here are just a few of the things that you can do on Valentine’s Day or any other day - alone!

> Go for a “man for the day” beauty treatment at your favourite salon, relishing in the fact that you’re being pampered from head to toe with absolutely no obligation to the person doing all of this (other than paying them the required fee, of course).

> Re-invent yourself! Get that haircut or permanent colour you’ve been delaying and buy yourself that fab outfit you’ve already fitted several times. Then go and drink cappucinos for the rest of the afternoon – you’ll feel so great that you’ll WANT people to look at you!

> Take the day off and catch up on all the new movies you’ve been dying to see, one after the other. Enjoy the peaceful, non-disruptive atmosphere of the cinema, for a change.

> Take the day off and get to the video store early enough to get an armful of their latest releases, watching them all in the peace and quiet of your own fabulous company.

> Take yourself out for dinner to your favourite sushi bar, ordering slowly and savouring each plateful as you read a new, glossy mag or that thick novel you’ve been putting off. Nobody would DARE stare at you at places like this!

> Act like a tourist and do things in your town that you would never normally do. Book yourself on a cultural tour or hang out at the museum or art gallery. You’ll learn something new and feel very pleased with yourself for being so cultured!

> If you live at the coast, take the day off and go to the beach with your ipod and book. By evening you’ll be exhausted and happy, so won’t really care what you end up doing!

> Start your day with an energetic workout, then treat yourself to an extended aromatherapy massage session. Nibble on healthy salads and feel great about yourself while the rest of the world over-eats on chocs.

> Buy yourself a bottle of the most expensive bubbly you can afford, crank up the volume on your favourite music and drink a toast to your fabulous freedom and wonderful self!

Or send me your Valentine's horror story since not all Valentines Days’ are a bed of roses, even when the most romantic plans have been made.


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