I once bought my dear dad a Father's Day card. He laughed, called me a silly sod, and asked how much money I'd wasted on it. My answer, £4.50, was apparently so hilarious he almost choked on his bacon. Fair to say 'death by bacon' wasn't the present I had intended to give him to say thanks for being a great dad. I haven't bought him another card.
My father's derision stems from his belief that Father's Day is a fake 'holiday' created by advertisers, greetings card shops and (worst of all) Americans, just like Valentine's Day, Halloween Mother's Day, Easter and even Christmas. Birthdays? They're just an indication that you're another year closer to death or, if you're lucky, retirement.
I have to say I agree with him. The enforced merriment of Christmas - with its cacophony of advertising nausea, week after week of work drinks and hangovers, death by repeats of Love Actually on TV and sickeningly sweet Lattes in red cups from Starbucks - is enough to turn anyone Scroogeish.
Valentine's Day, I admit, is even worse. The homeless, bereaved, or simply unlucky in love must feel a mixture of anger and bemusement towards the worldwide big-red-heart-fest, built around the feast day for a saint that no one really knows anything about. For florists, on the other hand, it is all their birthdays and Christmases come at once. Restaurants triple their prices, jewellers sell diamonds like sweets and petrol station forecourts spend the day masquerading as Dutch tulip fields.
One of my favourite past-times is watching young couples without a dinner reservation wander their local high street on the evening of 14th February.
The girl, mindful of society's prescription for the perfect Valentine's Day, and relieved to have a boyfriend, is nevertheless furious and bewildered by his inability to book a table in advance. The boy, guilty for not having thought ahead, baffled by how expensive the set menus are (£50 per head anyone?) and genuinely shocked by the popularity of every single restaurant, simply hopes still to be in touch with both testicles by the end of the evening. It really is hilarious.
For 364 days of the year, this forlorn chap is probably the best boyfriend ever. Breakfast in bed, adorable notes in her work diary, endless patience on shopping trips, open to watching Gossip Girl instead of football, permanent agreement that his girl is always right... But forget to make a reservation, and suddenly his genitalia is in peril.
So, you're thinking, I'll be boycotting Valentine's Day on a matter of principle. My lovely girlfriend will have to accept that I'll take her for dinner some other time, when it will be a little more spontaneous, just as romantic and considerably cheaper.
Well actually, no - I think Valentine's Day is a great idea.
Why? Because no one is that perfect boyfriend with the breakfast in bed and the Gossip Girl. In the same way no one is the perfect son, or husband, or friend. These occasions help remind us to try our best for the ones we love. They offer opportunities to celebrate what's important in life, at a time when it is easy to lose perspective. Grab the chance and cling to it.
If you don't want to line the pockets of Paperchase, you can make your own card. You could buy some meat from the local butchers, pull some candles out from the back of the drawer and treat her to a romantic meal at home instead of risking that reservation. Why not pick some nice flowers from the garden instead of the generic overpriced red rose? If you play it right, you might even come out of the day with some credit, and your manhood intact. Avoid the commercialism, if you want, but for god sake plan in advance.
As for me - I've booked. I've paid in advance. I'm not taking any chances.
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