14 February 2011

A Token of My Affection

On this day of love, companionship and general smoochiness for all, I thought I’d do my bit for the cause by posting a few sensitive and poignant observations about the whole St. Valentine’s phenomenon. First among them is this:

Romance is stupid.

Now, before you fire up the flame throwers, let me qualify by adding that I’m all in favour of finding ways to make someone feel special, which is what proper romance, at its core, is supposedly all about. My beef is more with the traditional motifs we’re expected to utilise (just who is doing the expecting is unclear. I suspect it may be department store promotions teams) to convey affection. Here are a few of my favourites:

Flowers: Flowers are the quintessential romantic icon. Nothing shows true love like a dozen red roses in full bloom; they’re vibrant, classical, passionate and they smell great. But I find the whole symbolism of flowers a little creepy. To me it says “My love for you is like this gerbera; bold, colourful and dynamic this week, but by March it will be faded, limp and dead.” But that’s fine. If someone bought me flowers, that would be weird anyway.

Jewellery: Now you’re talking. Buy your love something lasting, precious, opulent and sparkly. (If you happen to be spending V. Day nervously carrying an engagement ring in your breast pocket, just skip over this paragraph). I suppose there’s something to be said for adorning your beloved with valuable finery, but it seems weird to me that we spend all this energy reminding ourselves that beauty is only skin deep and that true love comes from what’s inside, not what’s on the exterior, and then we spend all this money decorating the outside anyway. Somewhere, some would-be Don Juan is announcing,
“My soul mate, from the bottom of my heart I love you just the way you are. Please accept this ornamental chain to help improve your outward appearance slightly. Look, it’s shiny!”

Stuffed animals in curly pink ribbons: I really don’t get this one. I can only assume it’s an optimistic attempt to transfer some of the immediate outpouring of affection (Oh my gosh! A scrub turkey with a pink ribbon! It’s so cute! I’ll call him Freddy and he can sit on my computer at work and I’ll love him forever) from the gift to the giver. And I don’t really fancy sitting on anyone’s computer for very long. To be fair on the fairer sex, many of the women I’ve spoken to agree that this one’s drawing rather a long bow. I guess it depends on the personality of whomever you’re giving it to. To me, stuffed toys are for children and hospital visits, to provide a skerrick of companionship during long periods spent alone and miserable. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, but that wouldn’t be my expression of choice for a loved one.

Chocolate: I eat far too much chocolate as it is. As a Valentine gift, it sure puts the ‘token’ in ‘a token of my affection’. It’s supposed to say something like “This gift is sweet, but not as sweet as you”. But to me, it just says… actually, forget it. Chocolate is an awesome idea. Once I’ve finished writing this I’m going to go and find some.

My point is, whatever the ads in shop windows might tell us, proper love isn’t something you can convey with a stereotyped decoratively gift wrapped present. The best thing anyone can give to any relationship (romantic or otherwise) is time and attention. But if that’s something we can only manage once a year in February, then maybe we’d all better just stick with a bunch of orchids.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Garry with 2 Rs

P.S. If you have just gone out and bought your significant other a stuffed alpaca and half a dozen camellias, don’t panic. There’s a reasonable chance that everything I’ve written above is completely wrong.
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