Picture the scene. 14th February. It’s a Year 8 form room. A nervous, chubby 13 year old with huge glasses starts to walk over to the cutest guy in the class, card in hand. He’s putting on his jacket ready to leave, and she speaks, voice wavering.
‘Nathan? Someone asked me to give you this?’ And she thrusts the 59p card into his hand, and walks away, feeling her cheeks filling up with embarrassment.
Now, this is just my silly experience of Valentine’s Day, but I’m sure that a lot of people can relate. Handing over a card, often not-so-subtly, then hearing nothing back. But, that was when we were awkward teenagers. What about now? The majority of us probably consider ourselves to be confident around the opposite sex. Some more than others, sure, but on the whole we can at least go up to someone we like and have a conversation with them, get to know them, and then casually get off with them after a great deal of alcohol. Isn’t that how these things work?
So with that in mind, some may say that the whole prospect of giving out secret cards is obsolete. Why buy someone a bit of cardboard confessing your feelings when you can just go up to them and tell them straight out, like we’re apparently supposed to be able to do at this grown-up stage of our lives? Are we just too old for it all? It does feel a bit childish, and slightly predictable, the whole ‘be my valentine’ and ‘love from ‘?’’ business. Even the designs are identical and infantile, with teddy bears and hearts and pretty pink pastels screaming up at you from the card stands. And then writing something is a nightmare. Everything sounds so cliché and convoluted, when all you really want to say is ‘please come to the bar for a drink.’
And also, when you get a card, how are you meant to respond? I mean, what are you going to do with the information? Surely the person who gives you a card wants to maybe go on a date. Bit difficult if you don’t know who they are! All you’ve got is a mystery card, and the person that sent it still has the messy business of asking you out to deal with. Of course, there are those that say that cards are a compliment – someone finds you attractive. Yes, hooray. I’m attractive to someone. But WHO? That’s the important bit. What if it’s someone I find attractive too? And then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend the next week obsessing over who gave you the card. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to go up to someone and say ‘you’re really good-looking’?
But what’s that I hear? It’s the sound of those lucky people in couples, saying how Valentine’s Day, cards included, help them express their love for one another. Don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t want a little note from the person they love reiterating how they feel. It’s sweet. Sometimes sickeningly so, but sweet nonetheless. This applies to the first Valentine’s Day as a couple more than anything, when both parties are so full of gooey feelings that they can write a perfectly constructed essay on why this person is the love of their life and they can’t imagine life without them. I’m the biggest cynic in the world, and yet I’ve read some first Valentine’s cards that have reduced me to a sobbing wreck. However, skip four years into the future, to the stage that my now engaged best friend is at, and priorities change. One Valentine’s, she turned to her fiancée and said ‘To be honest, rather than you spend a pound on a Valentine’s card, can I just have the pound?’
Does this mean she doesn’t love him? Of course not! It means they’re at an age now where they know how they feel about each other, and they don’t need to write it down for it to be real. Buying a card is not what the day is about, it’s about being together. Sure, this may not be the case for all couples, and getting a card you can put up is nice. But, surely after a few years it’s a bit obsolete? As Michael McIntyre said about buying a card for his wife, ‘Just last week I wrote “I still love you. See last year’s card for full details.”
True, if sending a Valentine’s card to your other half, or a potential girlfriend/boyfriend makes you and them fill up with warm, fuzzy feelings, then do it! It is the day of love, after all, and we should all express it how we want. But maybe we could update this ‘day of love’ for our generation, and make it about telling someone you love them outright, whether it be a friend, a family member, or that person you’ve fancied since Fresher’s Week.
Here’s hoping that someone confesses their love for each and every one of you, whether in the form of a Valentine’s card or otherwise. Safe to say that I, after checking my empty mailbox, shall be curled up alone with chocolate and a film. I much prefer Pancake Day, anyway!