I hate St. Valentine's Day. I can't do romance on prescription. So, this year, as I do every year, I leave my three children with some relatives, book a night in a hotel in Dublin, with dinner for two thrown in, and take a deep breath. Fun? I don't think so.
We arrive in the restaurant just as night falls. The place is coming down with amorous couples. For a split second, I think of ordering room service, but instead, like a lamb to the slaughter, I follow my wife to our table and sit down, hemmed in on either side by dates. To my right, a couple is sharing a dessert in the middle of the table. To my left, a woman is feeding her husband tiramisu from her spoon. Let's get this over with, I think. I flag a waitress - a Canadian, who just has to tell us her story, the night that's in it. She met an Irish man in Toronto and followed him all away across the sea to Ireland.
"Aww! That's so nice," my wife says, swooning. "He must be worth it."
"He is," she says, all starry-eyed.
I try hard not to say, 'We'll come back in 10 years and see if you're still starry-eyed' and I succeed. "Do you have fish on the menu?" I ask.
"Yes, hake," she says. ""How did you two meet?"
"We followed each other across the office floor," I say. "Nothing as romantic as the Atlantic."
She chuckles. My wife frowns. We order dinner. It arrives. The couple to my right entwine one another's hands. The pair on the other side of me start smooching. I check my phone for emails. I check my Twitter account.
"You're married to that phone," my wife says.
The couple to my left glare at me.
I order dessert. Separate spoons, of course. We eat up and dash outside to catch a taxi for Part II of our saga. My wife walks straight out onto the road, looking the wrong way. I save her life but take no pleasure in it, the day that's in it.
We arrive at Cineworld. Les Miserables is booked out.
"What are we going to do now?" I say, half hoping my wife will say 'Let's go home'.
"Walk!" she says.
And so we begin our trek through the streets of Dublin. We peep into IL SEGRETO. Music starts at 11pm - too late for us oldies. We call into the Sugar Club. Too noisy for us oldies. We turn a corner - crowds drinking outside a pub. Too young for us oldies. We buy chocolate and bottled water in Centra and head to the Burlington Hotel.
ADULT DANCING, the sign in the foyer says.
"Does that sign mean what I think it does? Adult as in adult shop, adult scenes, adult ...? Finally, some fun!" I say.
My wife giggles. "It's adult dancing for old-timers."
"Is that not us?" I say. "My feet are killing me."
We share our chocolate and drink our bottle of water in the foyer.
"Time to call it a day," she says. "That was a great St. Valentine's Day."
"Yes, it was so good not to have to live up to others' expectations. True love."
If only she had told me that earlier, I think. Next year, we're staying at home, for sure.
P.S. If you wish to find out more about my idea of true love, click here for the first chapter in my new novel, The Magic Pill, which will be published in March, 2013.