Chocolate Hearts… The Sweet Taste Of Love
Here we are again. Valentine’s Day. The lowest point in the single person’s calendar. The day when every couple conspires to make you feel unloved. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Surely that crass, commercial excuse for a romantic festival can’t really bother you? Surely a singleton with any sense can rise above that?
Well, of course, I agree. But when it’s four o clock on V Day and you’re passing five dozen kissing couples as you wend your way home, the knowledge that the whole thing’s a cliché does nothing to alter the fact that you are single, and the rest of the world is conspicuously not.
Or at least it seems like the rest of the world, thanks to the pervasive influence of retailers and a media that insists that from the end of January one does nothing unless it is born out of love.
Buying clothes? It’s for Valentine’s Day. Getting your legs waxed? It’s for Valentine’s Day. Cooking a meal? It’s for Valentine’s Day. Last year there was even Valentine-themed kitchen towel.
In vain, I tried. In vain, I told shop assistants that I didn’t want my things gift-wrapped. I spent hours trying to find chocolate not covered in hearts. Yet the most humiliating experience by far came not in Clinton’s, nor in even La Senza, but from one of the less amorous quarters of the high street: Debenhams.
To be precise, the Debenhams bedlinen department, to which I’d come in search of a new pillow. One pillow. It didn’t seem like an outlandish request. Yet when I turned to the shop assistant (after searching fruitlessly among the piles of double sets) I faced what can only be described as sheer, undisguised bemusement.
“One pillow, Madam? I’m afraid we only sell pillows for two”.
“But there’s one of me.”
“And I have one head.”
“So I need…”
“I see, Madam, but we assume people buy them in pairs. Perhaps you will need the other one soon?”
It was, in the grand scheme of schmaltzy things, a fairly minor rub – but it is representative of a larger point. Look around you and you’ll see a world purpose-built to serve the needs of the couple, be it ready meals, hotel rooms or BuyOneGetOneFree offers. And adding insult to indifference, any offers that are there for singletons are for dating sites, or lonely hearts ads in papers. The overwhelming assumption is that single people are couples-in-waiting. Yet while this is true of many – myself included – there’s a lot more to it than a straight ‘four legs good, two legs bad.’
Take last 14 February, for example. The day that turned sour in Debenhams reached its nadir when I set fire to my dinner. Trundling reluctantly home with my duo-pillow set, I’d decided on Spaghetti Carbonara because it is exceedingly bad for you. Yet no sooner had I chucked spaghetti into the pan and switched the TV to E4 + 1, then the smell of burning filled the air.
My spaghetti was alight. As in actually in flames. By the time I’d quenched the inferno, only half was left. By the time I’d realised that I was, in fact, missing all other carbonara ingredients I was in tears. By the time I’d slathered it with mayonnaise instead of eggs and cheese I was past caring. Reader, I spent Valentine’s Day eating charred spaghetti with mayo. Should this year’s celebration of affection and love prove disappointing to you, think of that.
And yet, while my case was a very sorry one, and my example not to be followed, there was one silver lining to my black cloud. Determined to salvage my evening, I ventured out to buy ice cream, passing the station on my way. As I did, a suited man came out, spied the flower stall – and swore loudly: “Valentine’s Day! Oh Bloody HELL!”. Stooping, he picked up the last, sad bunch of roses and threw a coin at the assistant. As I watched him go, a comforting thought went through my mind. I may be alone this Valentine’s Day. I may be two stone heavier by tomorrow. But I’d rather do without love than be on the receiving end of that…