Yes, it's that time of year again: Valentine's Day is upon us. It is an anniversary that I have come to loathe with a passion that burns worse than a thousand suns.
On Thursday evening next week, hordes of canoodling couples will descend upon the nation's restaurants to frot one another over their shared seafood platters. There is only one thing more depressing than being single on the 14 February and that's to actually be in a relationship. Whilst bachelors and bachelorettes worldwide will be able to drown their sorrows in a lonely den of iniquity, I will be forced to join the charade of institutionalised romance.
The trouble is, we men are familiar with the pitfalls of ignoring this ludicrous occasion altogether; the jilted lover will feign indifference before harbouring a grudge that is likely to last several millennia. Unwillingly therefore, we tolerate this tedium because, like a malignant tumour, the consequences of not actually doing anything are so much worse.
Who the hell is this Valentine character anyway? According to the facts - of which there are not many - he was a Catholic priest who was executed in the third century. Forgive me for sounding callous, but a Christian martyr is hardly a fitting apotheosis of the romantic ideal. In fact, I can't think of a more inappropriate aphrodisiac than a crucified monk, but perhaps I need to experiment more. In any case, as much as I sympathise with Valentine's untimely and gruesome end, I resent the influence he continues to exert on our dismally sentimental society.
What vexes me most about this quasi-anniversary is the music that is associated with it.
Invariably, romantic music is saccharine rubbish designed to tug at the heartstrings of the blissfully happy. It has turned artists such as Alanis Morrisette and her ilk into international sensations. It has also reduced all of us to an act of uncharacteristic ardour: the compilation of a Valentine's day playlist. Don't try to deny it - everyone has a meticulously pre-arranged playlist that they can turn to when - God save me - they want to get 'jiggy with it'. It is part of the necessary conditions conducive to physical entanglement with one's desired lover. The lights are dimmed, the massage oils are placed at arms-reach, and a selection of songs seamlessly gurgles in the background. If you're anywhere near as contrived as I am, you might also carefully 'scatter' a few cult novels and a literary journal that you have never actually read. On that note, I have also been guilty of brewing fresh coffee afore a romantic visit in the misguided hope that the aroma will make me appear bookish and intellectual.
Anyway, I digress, let us return to the matter at hand: the Valentine's playlist. Inevitably, this playlist is always a sorry compromise. It's not a collection of your favourite songs or a subliminal expression of your affections. On the contrary, it is specifically designed to be innocuous and inoffensive. At no point does one want their wooing to be rudely interrupted by an errant Cradle of Filth track. The resulting mix therefore is reminiscent of the sort of tripe you might expect to hear in a hotel lobby.
Don't misunderstand me; I am not against the concept of love. It is, after all, what makes life worth enduring. What I object to is how silly Valentine's Day makes us appear. If there is a heaven, I imagine the titular saint is having the last laugh as he watches sales of Lionel Ritchie mp3s soar for the 30th consecutive year.
"So", I hear you ask "what is the solution this February?"
Firstly, if you have any self-respect, do not book a table at a restaurant. If you must eat, cook something at home and make it as private as possible. There is nothing more cringe-inducing than sitting beside clones of quixotic lovers as you all discuss the set menu options. Secondly, if music must play a role in your evening, go to see a gig or a show. It will be far more imaginative than your Valentine's playlist and, in the darkness of the venue, you can pretend that you are all alone.
Do not, for heaven's sake, write a song for your loved one. You will look like a caterwauling chump. For this very reason, Kites have generally eschewed traditional love songs.
If you must indulge in any kind of feather-brained amour, please confine it to the bedroom and, in that respect, you should be as naughty as possible. I mean, there has to be one redeeming feature in a day otherwise devoid of substance.
Happy bloody Valentine's one and all.