I don't know about anyone else, but I noticed a death last week - something much bigger than an ice-cream scientist who led a small country 25 years ago.
It's a bit of a long and winding road to my realisation, but bear with me. I'm sure this has sprung up in most areas now but there's a new page on Facebook called Spotted: 'insert your town/village name here'. As I write, 2373 people apparently like the page where I live. If you don't know what it is, let me explain the concept - a concept that in theory I love. The idea is that if you've seen someone about your local area whom you think is attractive, then you can message the page and they will put your message - grammatical failings and all - onto the page anonymously. Then said person will hopefully be recognised by friends or indeed themselves and one may like to think that from then on, someone might get the chance to meet up with their crush on and love may blossom.
Before I get to the meat of my meandering though, let's just take the page to task a little bit first. There are laughs to be had of course; people not grasping how the posts are done anonymously, assume they can just post on the page and somehow it'll magically become anonymous. Of course it isn't and the post displays their full name. The standard of writing is atrocious too, it really is. Not only that, but almost every post seems to be bookended with the most awful double entendre you could imagine. It's like a rejected Carry On script on there. "2 da girl who workz in co op u can put cornflakes on my shelves n e day" is an example that I've just made up and is also better than what is actually on there.
There's shameless self-promotion whereby people ask why they can hear a disco somewhere or who did someone's nails, which is then rapidly liked and answered by someone who isn't at all related to the business involved... Overall though, just seems to be a place for cowards to post snide messages about people which will of course inflame those involved and trouble will therefore ensue. Some are true, some are hilarious, but it's still not the forum for such comments. Oh I've been tempted to post things on there which could destroy some people I'd love to see destroyed. But I won't. Ne'er-do-wells eventually destroy themselves anyway, so I'd prefer to let nature take its course. The administrators of this page though - who appear to be the banker off of Deal Or No Deal, the yeti and Mrs Mangel's husband - really ought to take a bit more responsibility and confine the page to a hub for potential lovers.
As I say, I like the theory, but my main gripe when I first found out about this was WHY THE HELL COULDN'T WE HAVE HAD THIS WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER? My old diaries are littered with repeated references to "that fifth year with the brown hair and the Reebok jumper", "Metro girl" or "that one who walks a bit like Pingu". I would have loved a way to find out who these objects of my desires were. I suppose realistically though, it would have been a nightmare. I was hopelessly shy of girls in my teens and I would surely have cocked things up had I ever got to meet them anyway. I used to go to pieces when I was in the same airspace as a girl I fancied. I recall walking home from Sainsbury's one time, when I girl I was crazy about appeared and started walking behind me. I was so paranoid and self-conscious about how I was walking that I actually forgot how to walk. Christ knows what that must have looked like. She must have thought she was following the basketball-playing crow from the Kia-Ora advert on his way home from a lock-in.
It's not just in my teens though. Only last year I could have done with this and spared myself the fruitless-yet-impressive task of asking out a woman who I kept seeing on the bus. I had no idea who she was, whether she was betrothed, whether she thought it would be a good idea to ever bring back 'Catchphrase', but I'm pretty sure I would have used Spotted instead of asking her out face-to-face one evening. In case you're wondering, she went with the safe staple of "I've got a boyfriend". Despite my being charming and polite (yes I was), I still think she must have gone away thinking I was some sort of weirdo. In any case, she looked a bit like a gargoyle... Which I fancied... So perhaps she's right?
This leads me to my claim that romance is dead - it is. Thing is though, most women would say that they love romance. They love romantic gestures. They love romantic films where a man will go to staggering lengths to find out the identity of his beau. And this is called romance. Yet in the reality of 2013, it's called stalking. We never heard or used the word stalking when I was younger. We thought nothing of finding out a girl's name, looking her up in the phonebook and then ringing her up. Not only was this not labelled 'stalking' it was also bloody brave. Because of course a landline would more often than not be answered by someone's irate parent. It was terrifying at times, but we did it. In some ways it was better that we didn't have Facebook to hide behind because it meant that women couldn't hide behind it either when responding/not responding. They had to answer you and not just completely ignore the fact you sent them a message asking them out (mentioning no names, or the local primary school they teach at). That's why I like Valentine's Day. This is the only day on your Sasco that you can safely let someone previously unknown to you know that you fancy them without fear of prosecution.
But now, you only have to ask someone who that girl in accounts is with the short hair or request her 'friendship' on Facebook and you're labelled a stalker. And don't ever try and ask a girl out more than once now. Persistence is now called harassment.
I love the idea of moving mountains to get to know the girl of your dreams. But I wouldn't do anything like that anymore. Once upon a time though, a man who acted on impulse and did everything he could to find out who that person was, was a romantic. Now they're the start of criminal investigation. Why do people always want to think the worst? Why couldn't it just be that perhaps he's seen someone who made his heart pound with a billion butterflies? Why couldn't it be that he's fallen instantly in love with someone in a heartbeat?
So don't bother anymore gents, it won't be appreciated. If you see someone who you think could be the love of your life on the train, find out where she works and send her a bouquet of blooms decreeing her beauty and asking her on a date, the most likely response you'll muster in return is "Bit weird isn't it?"
Romance is indeed dead and this is one passing I think we should all mourn...