My first ever dinner party was on Valentine's Day, it was well before any of us had our first kiss. My friend's mum hosted it for us. I will never forget it because we were so excited, and felt so grown up around the table together eating a 3 course dinner. We had no concerns about receiving a Valentine's card, we were just so excited by our cute girly dinner party.
There was no misery or worry about being lonely, we were together as friends.
As we progressed through high school there was a buzz about whether someone might get a card, and then crowding around to see if we could guess the handwriting. The first time I received a Valentine's card from a boy, I had no idea it was coming. After some intense
investigating with my girl gang that CSI would be proud of, I knew who it was from. The next step was wondering what I was meant to do as the card recipient. Was I supposed to say thank you? Did it mean he was going to ask me to be his girlfriend and we would live happily ever after? None of these things happened, and being awkward teenagers we avoided each other and no marriage took place. A few weeks later I found out he bought another girl a chocolate bar on a school trip so the imaginary romance ended before it had even begun. I was livid to be honest, despite never actually talking to him.
As we started becoming more interested in dating, the pressure mounted to celebrate Valentine's Day, otherwise it meant you weren't a couple according to high school rules. I once went on a double date to the ice rink, our respective parents drove us there and we didn't actually speak to our dates. The boys stuck together and the girls stuck together, but I suppose strictly speaking it was still a date because we were on the same ice rink...just not near enough each other to actually talk.
When I was in sixth form (ages 16-18) a group of us decided to bake Valentine's cupcakes as a charity fundraiser. The idea was you could anonymously put £1 in an envelope along with the message you wanted to send your Valentine. We would then deliver the message in
a nice card with a cupcake to your Valentine's school desk. In a nice twist, the vast majority of donations were from friends sending hilarious poems to each other. I still have the poem that my best friend wrote to me, complete with hand drawn hearts using her best gel pens.
At university I fondly recall a group of us getting loudly drunk in Wetherspoons on Valentine's Day, drinking pink Prosecco because that felt appropriate. Needless to say no one approached us or asked us on a date as we danced in the streets singing 'I Love You Baby' at the top of our lungs. I can't confirm or deny if I fell under a table at the end of the night. Now that I am older I notice that people around me quite literally laugh when I ask what they are doing for Valentine's, and people seem a bit miserable about it. Last year I wished people I work with a happy Valentine's Day and took pink heart cupcakes to the office. They laughed at my enthusiasm but I saw them all smile as they tucked into the cute cakes. I have also been told that Valentines is a 'corporate conspiracy' to get people to spend money on junk one day a year. You can hate on card companies all you like but opening a card does make people smile and to me that's worth it.If you are reading this and are single please know that I am very much advocating that you celebrate the day regardless. Just because you don't have a significant other doesn't mean you have to ignore the 14th February. It is a great opportunity to do something in an otherwise boring month. You could use it as a reminder to meet up with that friend that you have been meaning to see for months. Being with other singletons, may just remind you there is no need to feel alone. If you don't want to go out then show yourself some love! Too often adult life takes precedence and between paying bills, feeding yourself and going to work there feels like there isn't time to do something nice for yourself. You could treat yourself to a new book, or a spa day if you are feeling extravagant. Use the day as a reminder to do something nice for yourself, whatever that is. As Miley sings 'I can buy myself flowers'...
As well as loving yourself you can also give love. I am already seeing Valentine's treats for pets in shops which makes my heart happy, there is nothing wrong with buying your dog a heart shaped biscuit! If your cat is your valentine, snuggle up and binge on reality dating
shows. They are strangely addictive and you can cringe at everyone else's dating blunders whilst you are safely tucked up in bed with a glass of wine and box of chocolates. There are always Valentine's Day charity campaigns to donate to, such Battersea Dog's Home which
often uses the day as a marketing push for people to adopt lonely pups!
For those in a couple but still think the day is a waste of time, buying a card or gift on Valentine's Day can be a really nice way of showing affection, and whilst you don't have to spend money to show someone you care about them, a little token of affection is nice to receive. I have utmost respect for people that make their own cards and gifts, I am simply not creative and I think my husband would cry laughing if I even tried. I don't buy him anything that you might classically consider as a gift, but I will add a bottle of red wine and a
good steak to our weekly shop and it makes him very happy.
I may be giving off the impression I am doing something fancy this Valentine's Day, but actually all I will be doing is sending my friends a text, then eating dinner with my husband at the table rather than in silence watching crappy reality tv like zombies. It might not seem like anything special, but life is so hectic that I can't remember the last time we ate at the dining table. Quite often we don't have time to eat together. I might stick a candle on to make it feel a bit more romantic! I may even suggest we go for a walk somewhere nice, and not just a quick walk to the shop because we have run out of milk.
Oh and I will absolutely be buying cupcakes and trying to spread a bit of joy!