So here’s a thing: I never had a Valentine’s card until I was 24.
No flowers, no chocolates, no cross-eyed teddies or poem mugs or any of the other ‘romantic’ gubbins that filled Clinton Cards from the first week of January onwards, like a red velvet blizzard – not even an ‘i fancy u’ note or a furtive snog or somebody giving me the other half of their two-finger Twix. The whole of my teen years passed completely un-Valentined.
I’d love to say I was always totally cool with this, but that would be a bigger lie than “oh how lovely, a teddy from Clinton Cards!”. I was not at all cool with it, for many years. At primary school I turned up every year on the big V-Day hoping that a pink envelope would have found its way into my drawer or desk, and even at an all-girls high school where literally the only boy I ever even had contact with was the caretaker’s son, who I glimpsed through a gate, I still got a little giddy every year imagining the Valentine’s booty that might turn up in my locker.
“Dear Lauren, I saw you through a gate that one time and now my heart is yours forever!” the card might say. But no. Nada. Year after year, Cupid screwed up his sat-nav.
One especially mopey February 14th my Dad even, very sweetly, bought me flowers (we were categorically not a Dad-gives-everyone-a-Valentine kind of family, thank God), but made sure it was a smaller bunch than the one he gave my mum. “Lovely wife; pathetic spinster daughter” – I was convinced I could see the thought process. The year after I got a date (A DATE!) on Valentine’s Day itself, which turned out not to be a date at all when we ended up eating marmalade sandwiches and playing Monopoly with his younger sister.
Several years after that I managed to snare an actual boyfriend (A BOYFRIEND!) in late January, only to find out he was staunchly anti-Valentine’s Day. A signed-up, snarling member of the “it’s all commercialised sh*te!” brigade. Undeterred, I made a huge chocolate cake and invited him over. He fell asleep, never turned up, and I ended up eating half the cake myself, alone, reading my Chaucer textbook. I’d like to imagine Jennifer Lawrence playing me in the rom-com adaptation of this story.
It’s ok though, there’s a happy ending. Not me eventually getting a Valentine’s Day card, although that was nice – but learning to be my own Valentine instead.
It might have been easier to rage against the romance machine and join the “it’s all commercialised sh*te!” brigade myself, but in all those years of waiting round for a pink envelope or a fugly teddy, I never really did. I still wanted to take part. Because there’s nothing wrong with loving love, or with using February 14th as an excuse to go a bit heart-eyed and see the world through rose-tinted glasses. But what is a total waste of time is thinking that you need someone else to put those glasses on for you.
If February 13th is (inspired by Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope) officially ‘Galentine’s Day’, a day to show all your most treasured female pals some love, then I say we reclaim the 15th as a day to show yourself some love.
Give yourself treats. Buy that thing you want. Play your guilty pleasures out loud, without feeling even the tiniest bit guilty. Eat that sandwich filling you adore that everyone else finds disgusting. Run up a nearby hill and shout “I AM AMAZING” off the top of it. Have a bath until you prune, or don’t have one at all and sleep for an extra hour instead. Make a chocolate cake for yourself, and ice it with your own damn name. Tell everyone you love that you love them, in the most lavish ways you can frankly be arsed to. Borrow a puppy. Tell your crush you think they’re hot, but also that you’re quite busy right now. Make the whole entire week an extravagant, delightful love-fest in every way you can think of.
Because here’s the thing: whoever gives you Valentines in the future, and however huge/glittery/expensive/fluffy/romantic they are, those people will never get it as spot-on perfect as you can get it yourself. Cupid can be stupid, but you’re smart. And you are so much better than a teddy from Clinton Cards.
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Image: Manjit Thapp