Yes, I am a believer. I believe in Valentine's Day.
Okay, admittedly there is a lot of rubbish: for example, the giant 3ft cards and the stupid, fluffy, heart-hugging bears that make people want to puke even as they're allowing themselves to be robbed of their 25 quid. You don't have to be an eco warrior to recognise that the whole event makes a significant annual dent in the globe's resources. Without a doubt, Valentine's Day could show more love for the world as a whole.
But strip away all the crap and you're left with the sentiment. And it's a good sentiment! I wonder if the non-believers concentrated on the sentiment a bit more, instead of feeling so pissed off about being marketed to so heavily and then panic buying at the last minute, we might actually create less of a market and so leave behind less detritus each year.
I don't suppose, back in the third century, when the Christian priest Valentine was being beaten with clubs and facing execution by decapitation at the hands of Emperor Claudius II (who clearly was not a very loving man), he could possibly have imagined he'd become associated with all these hearts and flowers. In the hundreds of years that followed, with the help of a pagan festival of fertility that coincided with the anniversary of his death, Valentine's Day became a tradition. And come on, we just love a good tradition... don't we?! Take birthdays. There's no law saying we should receive gifts and cards, get taken out for dinner or get rat-arsed at the pub to mark getting another 365 days closer to the grave. We do it because it has always been done.
Perhaps it feels like one celebration too many for some people; just another 'Hallmark holiday' as it was dubbed in the States. A billion cards are sent each year worldwide and I wonder how many are purchased begrudgingly? I'm sure I'm not entirely imagining it when I feel a collective hatred from the (heterosexual) male camp towards this marked day in the calendar on which you're supposed to sign a card, make a gesture, buy a gift, and spend some time.
I'm not one for sweeping statements, so instead I'll be sweepingly vague. Of course, not all women love it and not all men hate it. Most single people do hate it. Some old marrieds do too. But I say: Valentine's Day shouldn't be just for women and girls, or the young, or newlyweds basking in the rosy glow of their all-too-short honeymoon period. Each Valentine's Day has something to teach us, depending where we are in life.
Believe me, I have seen February 14 from all angles. I was a plump spotty teenager humiliated by an empty locker (rectified that the following year, with my equally plump, spotty best friend and pact for swapping cards from 'mystery boys'); I was a student who received two decidedly creepy cards from secret admirers, one of whom (urgh) was almost certainly a sweaty lecturer; I was one half of a 'first love' scenario, who swapped (urgh) giant cards and fluffy bears; I was single and spent the evening necking tequilas (urgh the next morning) with an equally single friend, professing love louder than every other person in the candlelit bistro; I was single and home alone with a takeaway, a hot chocolate and a heavy heart; I was in love with a prat who gave me a ring – 'not an engagement ring', but he wanted me to wear it on that finger (he might as well have weed on my leg to mark his territory). It's never really been perfect.
Now, I'm with the love of my life and the father of my children. And while Valentine's Day may still not be perfect, lord KNOWS when you spend every day waking/working/looking after two toddlers/cooking/cleaning/washing/sleeping (sometimes)/waking/working... you really do need a day when tradition tells you to just take a moment.