It is a common misconception that single people hate Valentines Day. Having spent an even amount of years being both single and in relationships over the past four years, I can tell you that I like Valentines Day no better or worse either way. Annoyingly to most, I've had four of the best Valentines Days between 2009 and 2012 complete with scenarios even your best rom-com writer couldn't dream up.
For me, Valentine's Day is a lot like New Years Eve - overrated. Both days are essentially designed to stress you out and put an immense amount of pressure on your friends and loved ones to ensure you have a day that meets impossibly high standards. My streak of fantastic Valentine's Days began in 2009 because it was the last time I attached sentimental value based on the reciprocal participation of someone else on that very day. Is that cynical? No. Let me tell you why.
2009: It was my first year at Oxbridge and I was in my first serious relationship. I had lunch with a friend of a friend from another college whom I had met once or twice. It was only the day before that I realised that I had agreed to lunch on Valentines Day with a boy who was not my boyfriend. It was pretty much just for banter, even though I was on fine date form. I'm very expressive when I talk, often using my hands for emphasis, and managed to hit my fork quite forcefully, sending the salad on the other end flying into the air. At another point I dropped salad in my lap, and after a discreet attempt at picking it up and placing it on my bread plate, my date noted, 'I would have been much less impressed if you had eaten that.' And took the piss once more when the waitress collected our plates and all that was left was a ring of lettuce around where my bowl had been. I don't think I've ever laughed quite so hard on a first date, and despite leaving him with nothing but a kiss on the cheek and great chat in exchange for lunch, we stayed in touch.
Later that evening my actual boyfriend, who was suppose to take me on the kind of date I'd had earlier, but obviously much more romantic and with less spinach throwing, stood me up for a date with his faculty library. I knew he had pressing deadlines, but he failed to notify me that they would deter him for the entire evening prior to his mobile running out of battery. Assuming myself to be stood up, tears naturally ensued.
Friends came to rescue me from my self-imposed misery that came from the millions of scenarios I had imagined to be the case. Had I been dumped? Was he with someone else? Why was his phone off? There was no instance in which I would imagine the exact reason that I would get the next day, but after a healthy glass or three of wine I didn't care, and headed out with my friends for one of the best nights out I had during my uni years.
Confident that I was happier alone than coming second to a library, I was single soon thereafter. That Valentine's Day was essentially perfect.
2010: Despite my terrible table manners the year before, and despite only having seen the boy I had lunch with on the previous Valentine's once since (we may have snogged at a garden party), he asked me to lunch again for Valentine's Day. We went to a local pub near his college and enjoyed our general banter, but I was becoming increasingly aware of the time. It was the day of the England vs Italy Six Nations match and, in case you don't know, I love rugby. Far more than I like Valentine's Day. 'Do you like rugby?' I asked, apprehensively. Some blokes don't. His eyes widened. 'What time is it?!' He had beers and a telly in his room, so we headed there to continue what was quickly becoming an amazing date. I honestly would have had an almost identical day had I been on my own. Almost identical, as I'm pretty sure halftime would have been much less exciting had I been sitting alone in a pub versus what activities we got up to.
It can't go without being said that our dates were essentially continuous awkward moments, punctuated by us pointing out and laughing at said awkward moments. For example, at halftime he decided it would be a good time to show me from the sitting room to his bedroom, while I was wrapped around his waist, kissing him as he walked us through the flat. Stumble is more appropriate than walk, but I digress. At one point there was a loud crash and we stopped, startled. I looked down to realise that at the mere touch of my foot the world's flimsiest shoe rack had burst into a million wooden pieces. After the initial shock had subsided, we laughed our way into the bedroom for some fun, and made our way back to the sitting room in time to see England scrape their way to victory (the final score was 12 to 17). A triumphant afternoon for all. It was perfect.
2011: I had recently begun dating the kindest, funniest, cutest mix of loveliness I had ever met. I don't think any man would want to be described as such, but I was madly in love with him. It was as if I had found my personality doppelganger. We hadn't known each other long, nor had we been dating for longer than a month at that point, but it was no matter. The fourteenth of February in the year two-thousand and eleven will stand as one of the best dates I have ever been on. And I've been on my fair share of dates.
I have been wined and dined, taken to shows, balls, gala events, etc ... but it would be hard to match the levels of fun we reached that night. After googling, for continuities sake, whether it would be possible to have an identical date despite which Oxbridge city I was actually in, I can't find that to be the case, so for anonymity's sake, and for the sake of keeping at least an iota of my relationship with him to myself (our eventually subsequent breakup is written about in agonising detail over the course of many months) I'm not going to outline our itinerary in detail. It was an excruciatingly heartbreaking breakup, so sometimes it's nice to remember the good bits. Our date was simple, but the kind of evening where your cheeks hurt so much from laughing or grinning like a fool all night. Fools may rush in, but I hope to never lose that kind of foolishness that's so inherent in my nature, because that night was perfect.
2012: The pain from breaking up with the previously mentioned boyfriend had subsided by this point. For the most part. Okay, marginally. I hadn't been in a relationship since. Rather, I had put most of my energy into friendships with men which wouldn't end abruptly. My best friend is a boy and essentially provides all the companionship one could need without the drama or fear of abandonment. Romantically, I was casually seeing one or two boys consistently, one of whom was becoming more consistent but never serious. My working life was coming together quite nicely and though I loved my job, it had a much more demanding schedule than uni, with far less flexibility for impromptu nights out on a weekday. My new friend with whom I had consistent adult sleepovers was in the banking business, and thus in a deficit of free time as well. We met at his, shared a bottle of champagne and had a lovely, stress-free evening like every other evening we had ever spent together. It was perfect.
My point, friends, is this. [Cut to me taking a break in writing - I hand write most my work first - to go to the bar, order lunch and a pint, ask that they put Six Nations on, and contemplate what my point is whilst finishing my pint and waiting for the England vs Scotland game to begin.] My point is that my days are often perfect because I do what I want, enjoy the freedom of spontaneity and choice that comes from avoiding putting unnecessary emphasis on what I should be doing for Valentines Day. Or any day for that matter. I'm not saying bin work or responsibility, but when it comes to life - love and relationships in particular - it's just too short to worry about what you should do. There's absolutely nothing as important about Valentines Day as Tesco wants you to believe there is. The point is, why reserve expectations of enjoyment and love for certain days? Do the things you like, and if you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with. Luckily I have a very healthy love for myself, which is why watching England destroy Scotland alone whilst writing in the corner and drinking a pint is an ideal afternoon for me. It was perfect.