Louise Ripley-Duggan

LOUISE RIPLEY-DUGGAN hates Valentine’s Day, and not just because she doesn’t have an ‘intimate companion’.

QUESTION: Was yesterday:

a) My friend Harry’s birthday
b) Valentine’s Day
c) The most stupid day of the year

ANSWER: All of the above.

According to Wikipedia (reliable as ever), Saint Valentine’s Day is: “an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.” What a ridiculous term. And just what, exactly, constitutes an ‘intimate companion’? Imagine turning up anywhere with your boyfriend/girlfriend and introducing them: “Oh hi, so nice to see you. This is my intimate companion; I don’t believe you’ve met.’ Risible.

Wikipedia also tells me that treating your intimate companion on Valentine’s Day began in Chaucer’s time, when “courtly love flourished.” Well thanks a bunch, you sodding courtly lovers: it’s 2011 and we’re still stuck with this very dubious duty. A dubious duty which requires us to show our intimate companions how much we care by way of flowers, chocolates and repulsive teddy bears clutching love hearts, emblazoned with: ‘I love you’. Because a stuffed animal obviously says it better than we can.

I like to think that I am surrounded by level-headed people. Honestly, none of us rationally attach meaning and importance to 14th February (apart from Harry, because it’s his birthday). And yet, this doesn’t stop the paired up among us worrying about Valentine’s Day and feeling compelled to spend the evening – maybe even the whole DAY – being blissfully happy and in love. Revolting.

Moreover, I only have one friend who told her boyfriend that under no circumstances is he to acknowledge what day it was yesterday. As she astutely reasons: it’s just a day like any other. It’s not your birthday (unless you’re Harry), it’s not Christmas and it’s not your ‘anniversary’. She, like I, maintains that anniversaries mark the passing of YEARS. Not MONTHS; YEARS.  You CAN’T have a ‘three month anniversary’. You just CAN’T.

One of the things that I hate most about Valentine’s Day is how it makes single people feel. It makes us feel like twisted, begrudging spinsters. I’m single, and usually I am genuinely content with my situation. However, yesterday I seethed with jealous rage every time I saw anyone smiling. I know these people could have been smiling because they just enjoyed a particularly good cup of tea, but I reasonably assumed that their grins were a smug labels which read: ‘I was woken up with roses, diamonds, champagne and millions of orgasms.’ Just. Fuck. Off.

Another thing I don’t understand is that Valentine’s Day seems to assume that being nice to each other should only happen on special occasions. I might be biased: I’m lucky enough to have parents who are still, 25 years on, obscenely in love and shower each other with kindness every day. But, really: are our expectations of our intimate companions so low that managing to make time for romance should be seen as a special occasion? Call me high maintenance (people have before and I’m sure they will again) but I would always choose everyday kindness over ostentatious and occasional gestures.

So, I spent yesterday in a foul mood. I was pissed off, slightly depressed, and confused as to whether it was because I hate Valentine’s Day or because someone told all the loved up people that it was the one day that their shining faces full of joy were in fact weapons for destroying otherwise happily single people’s sense of self-worth. There was one moment of light in it though (if you thought the rest of this column was sad, wait for this huge whopper of pathetic). I got an unexpected Valentine’s text while sitting in the library, contemplating how good a boyfriend Achilles would make (the conclusion is that he would be terrible. Such a sulky bastard). It made my day and made me feel warm and fuzzy – love you too mum.

University of Cambridge 14 february anniversary boyfriend chaucer girlfriend Louise Ripley Duggan valentine Valentine's valentine's day