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For the past couple of days, as I venture up the big hill in Bristol to go to work and or the pool, I’ve noticed a sign in the hippie clothes and jewellery shop. It says something along the lines of: Attention Men, Valentine’s day is Sunday! Then babbles on about sale items that include a selection of rings with crystals that have various properties.

This sign strikes me as funny for several reasons, the first of which is that it’s only men who are involved in this non-holiday occasion. When I do have a boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, I make an effort. I have, in past, covered one young man’s room with cut out hearts and stars, which was great until a repairman had to come over and fix something, saw them, and gave my then boyfriend a funny look.

The second thing is that it would be in any way possible for any human in the western world to have missed the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day. In every shop, from supermarkets to drug stores, there are red cards and boxes upon boxes of chocolates. I even bought some strawberries at the supermarket yesterday – they came in a heart-shaped plastic box, which is frankly why I bought them. A heart-shaped plastic box! I am a sucker for such things. But never mind, it’s impossible to have missed the fact that it’s Valentine’s day.

My third question that this sign brings up is more existential: this hippie-type shop that announces what incense is burning outside the shop hardly seems the place to buy a romantic gift. Even I, who am quite fond of wooly toques – which are sold in abundance here – would be taken aback to be given one for Valentine’s day.

But never mind. As I don’t have a fella just now, it’s not an issue. I don’t have to worry about whether or not we’re going out to do something that will be over-priced and forced on a Sunday night which is obviously the night everyone should be in and eating food from a bowl – single or otherwise.

Back in the Toronto days, one of my best friends and I used to go and watch Clint Eastwood movies on Valentine’s. It started when we were dating and carried on even after we’d broken up. There’s something nice about a Clint Eastwood movie on V-Day – you know where you stand with Clint, and you know he’s not about to embarrass you with a very public display of affection, which is one of my worst nightmares. Those romcoms where the girl is proposed to in a big restaurant fill me with dread.

I much prefer Family Day, which is a new holiday, or at least it wasn’t a thing when I still lived in Canada. It seems nicer than V-Day in that you just have to hang out with your family. It’s not specific so it doesn’t have to be your real family, if they drive you nuts just pick another one, your friends, or adopt a family.

It’s a shame really that since Family Day has become a thing I’ve never been at home with mine for this rather under-celebrated holiday. I realise it was just the government giving people a much-needed day off in the depths of gloomy February, but you know…

Actually, I was home once after it became a thing, but I don’t remember what we did. Probably just had dinner, which is what we always do.

I do remember, though, the Valentine’s Day dinners The Mom used to make us when we were little and not so little. She loves an occasion and would manage to make these three course meals that featured all manner of red things and heart-shaped things. She can get pretty creative The Mom, and it was always cheering to see how she’d managed to outdo herself each year.

Mostly that’s how I like V-Day to be. A funny dinner with good folk around the table. I think next year, I might organise something. And take the pressure off big family dinner. I’ll have to find some more chairs, but wouldn’t that be nicer? Like the moment you realise that staying in on NYE is actually the best way to celebrate. Come as you are potluck style. Yes, that’s what I’ll do next year. This year, I’ll Skype The Mom and pretend I’m at Family Day dinner.

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