Like pretty much every other Western cultural tradition, Valentine’s was once a Roman fertility ritual – one that involved gently flagellating village women with a sacrificial goat (so romance). The event was co-opted by Christians sometime around AD 300. While there’s more than a few St. Valentines on the Church’s register, one of the myth’s most popular versions tells of a monk that secretly married young couples forbidden to wed by the nasty Emperor Claudius II.
Medieval poet Chaucer was the first English-speaking chap to write about Valentine’s vis-a-vis Love, when he suggested February 14 was the day when birds get lucky: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day/Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”
Understandably, our people weren’t big on greeting cards and heart-shaped lollies until relatively recently – a proclivity encouraged by those fancy Victorians and their well-documented penchant for sweets, flowers and lacy correspondence.
If the wooer really wants to bring it with their wooing, a mere card’s not going to cut it
And, it’s mass-produced love notes that have driven the rise of the modern Valentine. In the US alone, 145 million Valentine cards are sent every year – second only to Christmas cards in terms of sales – making the greeting card industry a $8bn concern.
But, if the wooer really wants to bring it with their wooing, a mere card’s not going to cut it. Americans are likely to spend an average of $100 each on Valentine’s gifts this year, which is slightly crazy considering consumers are $1.7 trillion in the hole. You can’t put a price on outrageous displays of fiscal irresponsibility, however, so cashed-up lovers with a point to prove can this year purchase a “Diamond encrusted Millennium Bra by Victoria’s Secret” for a mere $10 million, or a “Golden Opulence Ice Cream Sundae” for as little as a $1,000.
If, however, you’re not into jewelled lingerie (or you’re lactose intolerant) here are a couple of ways to celebrate your love while keeping things in perspective.
Don’t Worry About It
There’s nothing more certain to kindle the flame of romance than a once-yearly commercially mandated marketing event, in which you’re forced to purchase love-themed merchandising. If you need Hallmark or Bras n’ Things to demand you show affection for one another, something’s seriously wrong.
Flowers, dinner, or slightly tipsy confessions of maybe-wanting-to-be-more-than-friends are for every day of the year. Also, partners who don’t give a hoot about Valentine’s Day are almost irresistibly attractive. Just get out there and get lovin’.
It’s Not Romantic if it Comes from a Service Station
Pretty self-explanatory. If you couldn’t be arsed organising something ahead of time, you obviously don’t put much stock in Valentine’s Day, or you’re not adequately motivated by the fear of being dumped. Sad gerberas from the Seven Star are scientifically proven to be worse than nothing.
Clichés are So Cliché
When you hear the word ‘Valentine,’ you can immediately picture one of the three gifts most commonly associated with the day: red roses, chocolates in a heart-shaped box, and lingerie. And, because it takes so little effort to conjure up these three things, they’re immediately disqualified from being romantic (If, however, you pictured Champagne, that’s a free pass, because it’s never not a good idea. Unless you’re pregnant).
Think Really Hard about What your Lover Might Like
No truly romantic gesture ever came from a top-ten list of expensive tat compiled by a PR account manager. If you really want to impress your boo, demonstrate that you understand them well by organising something specific to them.
Is your girlfriend a massive sludge metal fan? Then a private performance by Collapsed Toilet Vietnam would be über-romantic. Is your husband a Brony? An evening in with Friendship is Magic and a bottle of Château Mont-Redon could do the trick. I can’t tell you how to do this, which is entirely the point.
Outsource Romance to Someone Better
If, on the other hand, you’re useless, you can actually pay someone to be romantic for you. According to Airtasker, ‘a trusted community marketplace for people to outsource tasks,’ Valentine’s Day sees a roaring trade in ‘time-poor’ but romance-rich lovers buying courtly gestures.
For instance, previous free-market Don Juans have been as considerate as to ‘write a poem for their wife,’ ‘tell a beautiful someone that they love her a lot,’ or ‘organise and execute a romantic picnic.’ Paying someone to come up with and perform a deeply considerate and personal gesture is so callously opposed to the spirit of romance you have to admire its gall. Hell, why not outsource dinner and conversation as well?
Do Something Stupid
Ok, so it’s pretty easy to pick on Valentine’s Day – and really, what’s so terrible about a holiday that encourages people to be a little sweeter to their nearest/dearest? There’s a weird thrill in the blatant declaration of affections, some odd drive toward public debasement that keeps even the hardened cynic misty-eyed at weddings or the end of Love Actually.
So, if you’re determined to behave like a pillock, go all in. Like the man said, love makes fools of us all. Or something like that.