I was keen to avoid the cliché of writing about Valentine’s Day on the eve of the much-debated annual celebration. However, whether you believe in it, celebrate it or completely ignore it, it is unavoidable.
Heart shaped chocolates fill the shops, cards over crowd shop windows and red lingerie is around every corner. It would be far too predictable of me to write about ‘being single on Valentine’s Day’. I’m sure it would be a post that many could relate to, because let’s face it we must have all had a year where we found the only medication for surviving the day as a singleton was to dance around the kitchen drunk with your girlfriends, desperately go out on the pull or make a very last-minute booty call appointment.
I’m determined not to highlight the fact that I am single this Valentine’s Day. Not to define love by an erotic relationship status but, instead to celebrate the essence of Saint Valentine; the essence of love. In whatever form it takes.
In order to do this, I would like to share with you some of my most memorable Valentines Day’s. The years that I have spent with or without boyfriends, and the people that have helped me to feel loved and cherished or make me wish that I was.
My first Valentine that I can remember is at Primary School. It felt like such a big deal when pre-pubescent. Figuring out how to kiss and what love was when it didn’t come from your family, a pet or a stuffed toy. I was in year five when a boy gave me my first card that hadn’t been put through the letter box by my mum. He signed it with a ‘?‘ but also wrote his name and scribbled it out very badly, as I think he wanted me to know it was from him. Luckily, I had sent him a teddy holding a love heart. Our relationship lasted all of two weeks before he told me that I was an ‘ugly c***’ over msn.
(Excuse the stars. I know I love a swear word. However, future employers or in-laws may read this, and although I don’t mind them knowing that I once wanked on an aeroplane, I’d be mortified if they thought I threw that kind of profanity around in everyday chit-chat.)
We were 15 when Ali and I decided that we would spend our first Valentines together. She got the 40-minute bus ride to my house and we picked her up from the station. My parents were having a dinner party so I had spent all day setting up a small table in our living room. I decorated it with red confetti, chocolate hearts and roses. We ate spaghetti and drank wine that my Mum had bought for us. Faye turned up later and we spent the night laughing, talking until there were no words left to say. We watched music videos and spoke about the boyfriends we had had, and the boyfriends that we wanted.
I’m not sure that I realised it then but, nights like this made me who I am today. They made me realise that nothing would ever beat the love that I had for my female friends, and them for me. No relationship, no matter how lovely it was, would be the everlasting love that I felt when I looked across a table covered in love hearts and spaghetti carbonara and saw my best friends looking back at me.
My first real Valentine’s day with a boyfriend was in 2016, when I was 18. He spoilt me rotten. As was part and parcel with our relationship, it was hedonistic, fiery and utterly destructive. We bought each other with gifts, extravagant getaways, food and sex, all to hide the fact that we were awful for each other. I loved him painfully. I found his need for me infectious and I accepted his boyish behaviour because I found it deliciously tragic. Like we were part of a song that made you sad but you loved to listen to.
I woke up with 24 roses in my face, a Victoria Secret’s voucher for far too much and a weekend away in London booked for later that month to spend said voucher and watch War Horse on West-End. I had made him a picture frame with photos of us and a poem. I realised then how different we were. None of it made me happy. In fact, I was embarrassed that he had showered me in gifts, which I knew that he couldn’t really afford. For the first time I was with a boy that I loved on Valentine’s Day and I was unhappy. I couldn’t fathom why and I felt guilty. Looking back, I know now that it was a mixture of things. I felt guilty because I didn’t love him like he loved me, I didn’t need or want any of the extremities and I was missing the pure sense of feeling comfortable with someone. Love is many things but comfort is the thing that holds them all together. Being open and comfortable with one other person. I didn’t have that.
I spent the following year with my next boyfriend. I moved on quickly and head first into the most powerful love that I had ever experienced. To this day this relationship has trumped all others. I was besotted by him. I would have walked over hot coals to touch his face. To brush my teeth in his kitchen, wearing nothing but his T-shirt. I would have left any party early to make love with him all night. I put him on a pedestal that I now question whether he deserved.
We had only been seeing each other for a month and I had planned to spend the day with Faye. I was so excited to stuff my face with cheap chocolate and watch shit films like ‘Oh in Ohio!’ Little did I know that she had been plotting the entire time. He had made a plan with Faye without me having any idea. My Dad went to pick him up from the station, even though they had never met, and he rang my door bell, holding a bouquet of flowers, a balloon and a smile that I quite literally could have died for. I loved him then. In that moment I loved him. I loved him for being bold. I loved him for spending 20 minutes in the car with my Dad. I loved him for loving me enough to make such a massive effort.
So, I’ve had Valentines Day’s that have been filled with love for many different reasons. But it wasn’t always being in a romantic relationship that made it better. Whether I was single or not made no difference to the amount of love that I felt on this specific day. Ali in my front room, Rach at a bar in Shoreditch, Holly on her Birthday (Happy Birthday baby), my Mum with a takeaway or the love of my life lying in my bed.
This year I’m spending it at netball training with girls that make me laugh and a coach that makes me scared. I’m spending it reading over a letter that Ruby sent in the post telling me how much she cherishes and believes in me. I’m spending it letting the people I love, know that I love them. I’m spending it with a big smile on my face, I’m not shunning it as a capitalist scheme to make money. Because actually, there is no reason to ever shun a day dedicated just for love. We need more of them.
Happy Valentine’s Day people.
Spread love. Reach out. Send a card. Snog a stranger. Be bold. Be fearless. Spend it with people or a person that you love and if you can’t it doesn’t matter because you have yourself – give the love that you would give to those special people to you.
LOVE IS ALL AROUND, you just have to look for it. x