It's all about the love: and the pictures to prove it!
ONE OF MY favourite moments in Miss Congeniality (you know the one: Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, American cop goes undercover in beauty pageant) is when fellow contestant, Miss Rhode Island, is asked to describe her perfect date.
"That's a tough one. I'd have to say April 25th, because it's not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket," replies the guileless 21 year old.
St Valentine's Day is almost upon us. In Ireland, we will buy millions of cards and flowers, scoff copious amounts of chocolate, and fill restaurants all over the country, on a cold night in mid-February.
I have reached a stage where I wouldn't eat in a restaurant on Valentine's Day, if somebody offered me a free meal. The reasons are not what you might think. OK, so, they are what you might think. But consider the following:
1. Do restaurants serve special 'Valentine meals' and hike up their prices accordingly? Tick.
2. Are they full of young couples, many on first dates, who are determined not to be alone on what we insist is the most romantic day of the year? Tick.
3. Will you be bombarded by flower sellers coming in to flog wilting roses? Tick.
4. Do you risk witnessing cringe-worthy, exhibitionist marriage proposals? Tick. Tick.
Despite the cynical tone (I know, I know), I don't mind any of the above. On any other day of the year. But on Valentine's Day, we all have to pretend.
It's like any occasion where we're forced to conform and behave a certain way.
Take Christmas. Are you gathered around the table/fire/box of Quality Street* with your family? Is everyone smiling and joking and reminiscing about Christmases of yore? Well, why the hell not? What's wrong with you?
It's the same with New Year's Eve. If you're not out partying with friends, getting drunk, and killing every last verse (there are verses!) of Auld Lang Syne, then you have failed, I tell you.
Birthdays? Anniversaries? Copy and paste, lads. You need to celebrate. Feck it, you need to go wild. YOU NEED TO HAVE FUN. And you need the photos to prove it.
The last bit, in particular, is a lot to expect. Thing is, when I go out, say, to a restaurant (which isn't often, you understand), I'm so damned grateful to have somebody present me with a plate of food I didn't have to cook, that I thank them, pick up a knife and fork, and tuck in.
The fact that I never, ever remember to photograph it all first, is, I realise, social death. Other people share beautiful platters of food and wonderfully-lit arrangements of wine/candles/flowers. Me? I have a half-licked plate of pasta and a lipstick-stained glass before I realise my faux-pas.
The other thing I do wrong, is talk. I try not to, obviously, but I can't help myself. If I'm out with The Husband or The Family or even a group of friends, I tend to talk. And you know, listen, obviously. There's a whole two-way thing going on: chatting. But when I stop to think about it, I get a bit self-conscious. Fewer people indulge now. Conversation is a bit like smoking: less and less tolerated in public.
Unlike sharing your food/drinks/selfies via your phone, with everyone you know, and plenty of people you don't. And that's the crux of it: the reason I won't do all the socially expected things on Valentine's Day. I'm just no good at it!
I suppose I could practice. At home, first. That way I wouldn't embarrass anyone, least of all myself. I could take photos of the meal I'm cooking tonight. I haven't decided yet what that'll be.
But even then, the pressure will be fierce. The food will have to be aesthetically pleasing. No burnt bits or gravy slops on the edge of the plate. The table will have to set properly. We usually just plop the cutlery in the middle and everyone helps themselves. Sometimes, there are no napkins. Gasp! It'll never work.
Does that mean I'm going to ignore Valentine's Day? What do you think I am? Of course I'm not going to ignore it! If The Husband is reading this, please put me down for a small box of artisan chocolates. I'm not greedy.
But my perfect Valentine's Day?
* I will get some exercise.
* Nobody will get bad news.
* I will write. Well. Or even well enough.
* The Husband will suggest we go to the sort of film he normally hates. And I love. (OK, so that's 2 things).
* And in the best tradition of beauty pageant answers, I will channel Miss Rhode Island: if the weather is fine, everything else is a bonus.
You might even get a photo on the day.
*Brand of chocolates.
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Wishing you a wonderful month, and a very happy St Valentine's Day, regardless of what you do.