Valentine’s Day: the season of Clintons’ cards, sinister teddy bears and extortionate flowers wrapped in plastic. If you’ve got a Valentine, that is. Perhaps you’ve instead opted for a – queue toe-curling marketing shtick – Palentine.
Whether you’re marking the fatal stoning and martyrdom of the Roman Saint Valentinus alone, with friends, or with the love of your life, we at the New Statesman have plenty of Valentines stories to share.
We’ve kept them anonymous to spare our embarrassment – but here are the best and worst, in all of their cringing, romantic glory. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Eventually, I just cracked
I once, when I was young and stupid, or at least stupider than I am now, broke up with a girl on February 13th. The proximity of Valentine’s Day wasn’t the reason, but the idea of faking my way through it when it felt like it wasn’t working didn’t help, so I broke it off before the big day rather than after. In retrospect this had seemed like quite a shitty thing to do.
So when, one January a few years later, another relationship started feeling irretrievably rocky, I was very determined to Not Do This Again. But there was a problem: we lived in different cities, and only saw each other a night or two a week, and the diary was starting to fill up. A birthday, a party, and then the following weekend it’d be Valentine’s Day.
And I couldn’t break up with her by phone, could I? That wasn’t a thing you could do. And it had to be in private, my closest female friend told me, several times, so that she could react however she needed to react. And I didn’t want to hurt her any more than was implicit in the whole breaking her heart thing.
So I came to the exact opposite conclusion I had the last time round, and decided I had to just fake my way through this awful festival of manufactured romance, and then break it off some time later.
The problem, it turns out, is I’m not a very good actor, and my attempts at faking it absolutely sucked. She asked what was wrong; and when I answered she asked again, because whatever words were coming out of my mouth my face said something different. This went on for I don’t know how long, but certainly an uncomfortably long time. And, eventually, I just cracked.
And that’s how it is I came to be the kind of person who would dump two different people the day before Valentine’s Day.
Could be worse. A guy I know specialises in New Year’s Eve.
[See also: It’s time to get over Valentine’s Day cynicism]
It was a Mighty Meaty moment
It was mid-afternoon on Valentine’s Day a few years ago, and I was – as always – single. I didn’t mind that much. I was doing a fun temporary job reviewing films and TV shows for a website, working in a cool office in the City where they used to play music all day long. (Although if I hear “Somebody that I Used to Know” by Gotye one more time, I’ll never write again.)
Feeling pretty relaxed about the night ahead, I was contemplating some drinks with my colleagues or friends after work, and then perhaps a cosy takeaway (this was before “Palentines” existed, and friendship was still untarnished by consumer PR).
Then I received a text. A text I had to open to read. These were the days before a handy preview of your message would pop up on WhatsApp and you could choose never to grace it with a double blue tick.
Here’s what the full-frontal, SMS message on my cellular phone said: “X just broke up with me. Can you come round?”
My blood rushed to my ears. Gotye howled in the background.
You know those couples in your life who are… a given? Solid. Just there. And have been for years. The kind of couple who are a permanent feature of your social sphere, always a two, and you barely knew who they were before they came as a pair? Who, when you’re teenagers, you joke about them having babies and growing old? Iconic. Like Ant and Dec. Or those two old people with rakes in that painting.
I’ve been dumped myself out of the blue before and genuinely this moment shocked me more.
So I finished up my work, and scootched over to my poor pal’s flat (also, inevitably, his ex-partner’s flat). He was crumpled on the sofa, eyes red and weeping. I ordered Domino’s. It was a Mighty Meaty moment. I spent the rest of the evening listening to his pain and silently lamenting the awkward future of my friendship group.
It was obviously a worse Valentine’s Day for him than for me (I got my anticipated takeaway, at least) and I’ve had far lovelier Valentine’s Days since, but it always sticks in my mind as significant. To celebrate the day of romance with a friend who has had their heart broken that same day was one kind of love. Even if there’s no marketing campaign for it yet.
[See also: Why is Britain falling out of love with Valentine’s Day?]
I cooked her steak sandwiches and strawberries dipped in chocolate
Years ago, my girlfriend of about two years decided to break up with me and go off to India. By the time she returned I had decided that we definitely shouldn’t have broken up and did my best to convince her of the same. After a couple of conversations about how great we had been together, I decided to try to finally woo her back and, with Valentine’s Day rolling around, I had a perfect(ly cheesy) opportunity.
As I was then living with my parents the only private place (other than my bedroom, which would have been a bit obvious) was my roof. I cooked steak sandwiches and strawberries dipped in chocolate, and then we took them up over the not-exactly easily accessible slate sloped roof and sat looking out over the city.
We stayed together for another (relatively) blissful year and a half.
The details are hazy. I’m still ashamed.
I broke up with my then-boyfriend on February 14th. It was either then or a birthday, and so being the thoughtful young person that I was, I opted for the burial date of Saint Valentine – surely a less meaningful occasion than the person in question’s actual birthday.
The details are hazy. I’m still ashamed. He brought me a snow globe of the United Nations, a surefire sign the relationship was already doomed. I sat shaking it, watching the plastic flakes fall slowly over Geneva. We walked around the Imperial War Museum. Admittedly it was a strange place for a breakup, chosen, again, for reasons of practicality (half way between our respective houses, with military paraphernalia to distract from the task at hand.)
My current boyfriend buys me a can of coke from the corner shop every Valentine’s Day. It’s not particularly romantic. I’m cool with that.
[See also: How Valentine’s Day sells us patriarchy disguised as romance]
My date got the mumps because his parents were anti-vaxxers
When I was 16, I had a very sweet boyfriend who said we weren’t going to do Valentine’s Day because it was too commercial (although my eyes roll now, that felt very cool and radical to me in my youth). However, when I got home that night, I heard my doorbell ring and when I went to answer it a personal-sized, homemade chicken pot pie was waiting for me on the doorstep. Arguably not just my best Valentine’s Day, but best day of my entire teenage life.
The worst, on the other hand, was with my on-and-off boyfriend at university. Being insanely well-off and having parents who gave him money for anything and everything, he’d planned for us to go for an incredibly fancy meal at a pricey restaurant for Valentine’s Day. He had been terrible to me for months, if not years, and I’d recently found out that he’d cheated on me. This was to (presumably?) make up for that.
What happened instead? He got the mumps because his parents were anti-vaxxers, and our dinner was cancelled. I spent the evening alone at my flat and he spent the evening getting mad I wouldn’t sext/FaceTime despite the fact that his face was deformed by two unsightly goitres. I am sad to say, reader, that I stayed with him for ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR. Please, please, learn from my mistakes.
[See also: Maybe you should just be single this Valentine’s Day]
This article was originally published in February 2019.