So, here we go again: Valentine's Day. That romantic event wrapped around the quaint medieval notion of courtly shopping. Or at least, that is how it seems.
Maybe we should just all agree to give it a miss. Do we really need a special, public day mediated through purchases to show our love for the people special in our lives?
For the lovelorn, the whole idea of anonymous expressions of affection is suspect in a social media age where anonymity often means the unsettled ravings of trolls; and for the loved-up, there hardly needs to be a date in the calendar to remind them of their good fortune.
And for all those people stuck in hopeless relationships, or none at all, Valentine's Day seems to be a particularly Rub-Your-Noses-In-It sort of occasion. Loneliness is a growing problem in society, we know, and not just for the elderly. But we don't have a Loneliness Day to draw attention to it. Perhaps because nobody has worked out what to sell on the back of it?
And the idea of 'love' itself has been so commercialised and packaged as to make most personal attempts at expressing it seem to fall short, unprofessional even, leaving a rather sinking feeling on February 15th. For most of us, love is a complicated, changing, deep mystery that defies all attempts to turn it into a soft-centred truffle or cute soft toy, however hard we try.
Instead of a more or less arbitrarily fixed day in mid-winter to celebrate romance we could all just choose a day and act on it as we wanted. What could be better and more personal? Awkward for retailers, of course, keeping all that heart-shaped produce in stock throughout the year, but it might be healthier for the rest of us to give their slick blandishments and February 14th a pass.
As it stands, Valentine's Day arrives uncomfortably soon after Christmas, another tough time for the lonely. Its fixation with chocolate is the certain death knell to a lot of New Year resolutions about eating more wisely, too. Roses? Wrong time of year to look their best, as it is for most of us.
A date in Spring or high Summer might be best; and without everyone choosing the same date, there would also be a fighting chance of getting into a decent restaurant. But if it must be a particular day, perhaps it should be in blossoming May, when Chaucer probably placed it in the first known, written association of St Valentine and romantic love.
Something else has happened, too. Children also seem to be getting roped in, which is a bit unfair as they also have to stump up on Mother's Day and Father's Day. It also rather confuses the messages, not least around chocolate. As it is, Universal Children's Day barely gets a look in (Answer: November 20th).
Perhaps one thing we could all do this Valentine's Day is to spare a thought for everyone struggling with rather more than whether to opt for hard or soft centres. The struggle with loneliness is what really needs a day of loving attention.
For everyone else, expressions of romantic love are about as personal and constant as it gets in human relationships. We should take love back from the marketing professionals who see this most basic, and wonderful, of human instincts as just a chance to sell more stuff. And for one day only, of course, because in a minute they'll want to hustle us along to the true Easter message: chocolate and cute soft toys.Suggest a correction