This year marks the second time in my life that I’ll be in a relationship on Valentine’s Day and I have absolutely no plans.
It’s not because I don’t want to spend time with my boyfriend (I probably will), but if I do, the reason won’t be that it’s 14 February and Tesco is covered in love heart bunting.
The thing is, I don’t think there’s anything romantic about Valentine’s Day whatsoever because when you strip away the schmaltz, all you’re really celebrating is…well… capitalism.
Valentine’s spending is increasing in the UK too, with Worldpay data revealing that the amount of money people splash on presents for loved ones has risen by 13 per cent in the UK since 2017.
But it wasn’t always about money.
While accounts of the origins of Valentine’s Day vary, one popular theory is that the day was created in commemoration of a 3rd-century priest named Valentine of Terni. The story goes that he secretly married couples in spite of laws laid out by the Emperor that banned young men from marrying, something that was intended to keep them away from the home and on the battlefield.
He was beheaded for his defiance on 14 February, but the Catholic Church commended Valentine for uniting Christian couples, and so he was recognised as a Saint. His name and the day of his death subsequently became associated with courtly love.
Fast-forward centuries and it feels like Valentine’s Day has become less about spending time with loved ones and just about spending, period. In 1913 Hallmark Cards declared the day a national holiday. And things have pretty much spiralled from there, with the day now calling for lavish flowers and lingerie that takes 15 minutes to strap into.
But we’re being sold a lie, because, as Shakespeare writes in The Merchant of Venice, “all that glitters is not gold”, at least, not where love is concerned. And I’ve noticed this more than ever now that I’m in a relationship. Let me explain.
Music is not the food of love, but a sausage is
To many, restaurants become bastions of romance at this time of year. But their definition of a Valentine’s Day-appropriate meal is fundamentally flawed.
I don’t see the sexiness in seven-course set menus that will make you so bloated you want to fall asleep, nor do I understand why we’re encouraged to buy bottles of wine that cost as much as diamond earrings.
Also, why would I want to celebrate romance by ordering truffle celeriac rémoulades that look like mashed potato and soufflés that I have to wait an additional 20 minutes for? None of this appeals to me or my boyfriend, whose “active hatred” for Valentine’s Day, like mine, spans meals and menus.
And supermarkets are worse, lining their shelves with all things heart-shaped, from sweets and chocolates to steaks and even sausages, as evidenced by Marks and Spencer’s latest – and undeniably phallic – creation.
How exactly a “Love Sausage” is supposed to get you in the mood remains unclear. But such are the quirks of a day that has been commandeered by brands that prescribe the theory that anything is romantic if it looks like a heart.