Happy February 14th!
I worked out last night, that in 31 years, I’ve only been in a relationship 4 times on February 14th. Four different Valentines. One at 15, one at 16, one at 28, and now, at 31. And so it’s probably no surprise that I’ve always viewed Valentine’s Day rather cynically. My Dad used to refer to it as a greetings card holiday, though in the years since his death, it’s become one of the biggest annual focusses of the entire PR world. Almost every shop on the high street has hearts in the window, and everyone has their ‘unique’ take on love and romance, in an attempt to get us to favour their product, restaurant or service.
It can be horribly overwhelming. Particularly when you’re single.
I remember one year, having gone through a particularly rough break-up, only to be faced by row upon row of hearts everywhere I looked. I couldn’t even escape when I was food shopping … and the hearts seem to appear almost as soon as Christmas decorations come down. Even if you’re in a relationship, the whole V-Day premise can put unnecessary pressure on a relationship – forcing you to say the ‘L’ word too soon, or making you feel obliged to shower each other with presents, for fear you won’t measure up if you don’t put in adequate effort. Just this morning, as I walked down my local high street, I couldn’t help smiling at the number of men buying last minute flowers from the stall outside the station. Is that really romance? (The Rugby Boy also grudgingly bought flowers for me from the very same stall!)
The thing to remember throughout, is that it’s just another calendar date. Another gimic. In a few days’ time, the hearts and flowers will be replaced by eggs and chicks, as the ever-moving PR cycle moves towards Lent or Easter.
However, there is one positive thing, which Valentine’s does always remind me. Just how great my best friend is. Not only is she always there, the years that I’ve been single, but also, for as long as I can remember, we’ve sent each other ‘anonymous’ Valentine’s cards. I think we must have started it back at secondary school … and no matter where we are in the world, the cards arrive. Sure enough, yesterday my anonymous Valentine’s Day card appeared … and that was my annual reminder that I’m loved. A card which will alwaysmean far more than any V Day card from a boy, because my best friend doesn’t need to send me that card. Society isn’t telling her she has to. It’s simply a cute tradition which we’ve built up together over the years.
Valetine’s Day also offers a more general positive role. Something we can all use it for, no matter where we are in life. Because Valentine’s Day is a great time marker. It’s one of those dates in the year that stand out in memory. And it’s interesting looking back at my last Valentine’s Day, and working out how much my life has changed in the past 365 days.
On Valentine’s Day 2014 I was still working in banking. I was living in Pangbourne, and single … sort of. I’d been seeing Mr SC for about six weeks, and I genuinely thought I’d met the man I would marry. I’d never fancied someone so immediately and overwhelmingly in my life. But Valentine’s Day last year was a miserable one. Despite my lack of interest in the day, it’s always nice to see it acknowledged in some way … just to know the other person cares. Even if they do so grudgingly. On Valentine’s Day last year, I sent Mr SC a card. And didn’t receive one in response. That evening, as I sat alone in my flat, texting him at Sandhurst, our text conversation was cut abruptly short, and I didn’t hear back from him until Sunday. It was at that point that I realised, no matter how excited and inspired I was about him, I needed to be a priority. I needed a real boyfriend, who was so excited by me, that he put me ahead of work, and his family …. and with a daughter and a career in the making, Mr SC wasn’t able to do that. That Sunday I broke things off with him … and I haven’t heard a word from him since.
One year on, and my life has changed completely. I live in London. I just started the job of my dreams, running Dating for global multimedia brand Time Out. I’m no longer single, and I’m seeing a guy who replies to my texts. A guy who I see four or five times a week, and who didn’t think twice about heading off to Iceland with me last week. In the last year, I’ve set up the UK Dating Awards, spent 6 weeks in Australia, and headed to LA and Vegas in the name of work. Every week, new and exciting opportunities come my way, all thanks to my crazy 30 Dates experience, and my dating and blogging journey … something which involved Mr SC, but didn’t end with him. And whilst a part of me will probably always be a bit sad it didn’t end there, if it had done, I wouldn’t have found the life I’m living today.
This morning I was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today show about online dating. Sitting next to me in the radio studio was none other than TV and Radio veteran Nicholas Parsons. It was one of the most random and memorable points of my two year journey with 30 Dates, but also one of just a number of incredible experiences I’ve had in the past year.
So if you’re sitting at home, reading this with a heavy heart. Glaring at the love hearts in the window, and either mourning a lost love, or wondering why you’re bothering with a significant other … I promise things can change. Just look back across the previous Valentine’s Days, and remember how different your world was back then.
Everything changes all the time … we just don’t always see it. So use Valentine’s Day as a time marker, to appreciate just how much can change in a year.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx