Yes, the Man-Hog has asserted himself once again. The latest is: “I don’t DO Valentine’s Day”, said with gusto and a firm smack on my rump. He continues: “I won’t be told when to tell you I love you. I’ll tell you when I want to tell you, as I have done for the past 25 years.” Yes, dear, so you tell me every year.
What he fails to understand is the shallow nature of my desire to be fêted on this seemingly ordinary February day. It is not about love itself, it’s about the visual manifestation of that love to others; the one-up-manship of appearing to be most beloved of someone in a public place – in my view, at least. Valentine’s Day is the one day he can display as much mushy sentimentality as I want. Anonymously, if that’s his bag. In fact, anonymously works for me too – mystery and romance, what better combination? Yet every year, I am doomed to be the only one sitting here at a desk bereft of any flowers, chocolates or cards bearing smudged question marks written by nervously sweaty mystery hands. It is my own fault, I suppose, for having married at birth. Romance for the majority of my life has been left to the one man on the planet that refuses to engage, leaving me exposed to the pitying stares and smug contentment of those with less recalcitrant, more publicly demonstrative soul mates. Bugger him. I shall do as I do every year and drift for a minute into the misty past, a time when one Valentine’s Day in particular stands out amongst all others……
I met J while in my last year at school. I was too young for the Man-Hog at this stage with our now-not-important-at-all age gap and so, while we were friendly, we were not – ahem – romantically involved. So I dated a tiny bit amongst my peers, and J was the chosen one for a while. Not a romantic on the surface, he did have an inner Cupid. He worked every weekend washing up pots and pans in a restaurant kitchen for a mere pittance. As Saturday jobs go, it was pretty low on the cool ranking scale. Almost as bad as my own spent in the staff kitchen of a local mental hospital. Part of my duties was delivering meals to nearby wards on an erratic electric trolley. Food that had to be passed necessarily through metal grills to the staff; entry to the wards restricted to nurses wearing chain-mail and who were dab hands with a dart gun. Not your average depressive or dementia patients, these. No, these were ones that even the prisons couldn’t handle – that threatened to bite off your nether regions if you so much as breathed near them and, given the opportunity, actually would. If I even so much as heard a bang or a muffled scream from behind the grills, I would drive that Benny Hill trolley so fast in the opposite direction, any lasagna left on board soon became mince milkshake. Anyway, lousy teenage jobs aside, J and I met whenever he could afford the two-stroke or whatever it was that fired his motorbike up enough to make the 5 mile trip to my house. Each time, he would bring some of his hard-earned wages, usually in 50p pieces, and we would place them reverently in a jar to save towards the Holy Grail of our fledgling relationship – the moment we would actually go out together in public and have a meal.
Valentine’s Day 1918 dawned (no, not really, but it was a long time ago) and the pop-pop-fizz of the boyfriend’s motorbike was heard at around noon. J came dressed in trousers, not his habitual jeans, and wearing a shirt. I thought he had been arrested and was off to court, but no. He encouraged me to leave off my Dexy’s Midnight Runner dungarees (terribly fashionable round our way at some point in the 80s – I blame Bananarama) and don a SKIRT and SHOES, both borrowed shamelessly from my older sister’s wardrobe. He then took my hand, led me solemnly to the garden, wrapped the brimming jar of 50p pieces in a towel and proceeded to smash it with a hammer. Quite why this was necessary bypassed me, since the jar had a perfectly good lid, but I suppose it was his inner Cupid going for the grand gesture. We had managed to save £28.50 as I recall. With this heady sum, we headed for the train to London and to that gastronomic enclave that was the Aberdeen Steak House in Covent Garden. J was positively bursting with pride as he pulled out my chair, beating the waiter to the punch. He then proceeded to order for me – I had been momentarily struck dumb by his sudden manliness and the sheer amount of red velour coating every surface in the restaurant. We ate steaks, drank a glass of red wine each (wow!) and stared into each other’s eyes whispering sweet nothings for over 2 hours as the waiting staff no doubt ached to pelt us with stale profiteroles. Talk about feeling like a million dollars. There was even a sunflower, my favourite bloom, produced from his unfamiliar jacket pocket at the start of the meal. I felt like the only girl in the world that night, as special as a special thing in Special Land. He had worked for that money, bore the chafed and reddened knuckles to prove it, had saved it up and then proudly arranged this special evening – in public, in front of everyone. Aside from wearing a hat that said “She’s Gorgeous and She’s With Me!” there wasn’t much more he could do to display his innermost feelings that night. Aah. Young love, eh?
It was THE singular most romantic evening I have ever had, bar none. Despite that, we were not to be. Sadly, J and I split up when the tax ran out on his motorbike and they simultaneously suspended the bus route that would have brought us together in the middle. Such hurdles were insurmountable at sixteen. I also discovered a George Michael look-a-like at around the same time and, fickle floozy that I clearly am, was all too willing to be consoled for many hours by “Careless Whisper” serenading me in the very uncomfortable front seat of a red TR7. That didn’t last long once I discovered that George Michael expected me to blow-dry his hair every time we went out. He took longer to get ready than I did. Ew – manly, NOT. So, I bumped into the Man-Hog at a party not long after and the rest, as they say, is history.
Happy as I have undoubtedly been, Valentine’s Day since then has been somewhat of a let down to say the least. No matter how much I sulk, cajole, bribe, scream, shout or deny conjugal rights – nothing has ever materialized on this one day of the year. It is not to say the Man-Hog is not romantic – he can be extremely and I can honestly say that I don’t doubt for a minute that when he says he loves me, he means it. It is just that he refuses to do any of those wonderfully romantic things on this particular day.
So how do I deal with this? Mature and responsible? Nah – childish and pathetic, of course! Following his announcement yesterday, I asked him how he liked our sofa. It’s great, he said, why? Because you’ll be sleeping on it until I decide otherwise. Suck on that, Cupidless One.
Resentment is a wonderful thing. Stored resentment over many years is even better – it’s the gift that just keeps on giving. He’ll be paying for this in so many ways!
Photo credit: http://dadcando.com