ST Valentine’s Day is the patter of feet walking across garage forecourts to buy emaciated flowers. It’s the swell of minor chords on the radio.
It’s the squelch of snogging and the gentle flop of cards on doormats.
It’s also the crash of raised expectations. A 2004 study (Morse and Neuberg) discovered that couples were 2.55 times more likely to break up around Valentine’s Day than any other month. “Call that a bunch of flowers? Get your coat — you’re dumped.”
I detest Feb 14 (and so does my wife). It’s the ostentatious displays of affection that make my bile rise: women carrying roses like trophies, men being ‘spontaneously’ romantic. I knew a wally who proposed to his girlfriend over the intercom on a flight from Rome on Valentine’s Day, though they had become engaged three months earlier.
Actor Will Smith tops the charts for Valentine’s Day showiness. He reserved the top floor of a restaurant, decorated it with flowers and hired a quartet for his wife, Jada.
Did it impress her? Two years later, the couple denied rumours they were getting divorced.
Even Ozzy Osbourne buys into Valentine’s Day. Every year, he buys Sharon pearls. There’s probably a gag in there about pearls and swine.
I still have nightmares about my own, pre-marital Valentine’s Day ‘massacres’. One of the most embarrassing was doing a solo ‘gig’ in McDonald’s. I was dateless and agreed to sing romantic songs to lovelorn punters as they munched Big Macs and tonsil-wrestled. My wages were a ‘tenner’ and as many chicken McNuggets as I could eat. (It was the ’80s. I needed the money).
My worst experience was on Valentine’s Day, 1996, when I was trying to impress my future wife with dinner in our village’s swankiest restaurant. I was working part-time after the closure of the Irish Press and living with my parents. Before leaving the house, I’d had a row with my mother. Big mistake.
After a nice, romantic meal, under a heart-shaped balloon, I called for the bill to discover that I had forgotten my cheque book. I rang home and left a message on the answering machine. Five long minutes ticked by. Then another 20. People came and went. I noticed Pat Kenny arriving with his wife and being presented with a bottle of wine. ‘Nice to be famous,’ I thought.
Eventually, my mother stormed into the restaurant.
“Here’s your bloody cheque book,” she said at the top of her voice, flinging it on the table. The room went silent.
“That stupid woman on the door,” she said, “wouldn’t take it from me. She made me come in here dressed like … this.” My mother was wearing her pyjamas and slippers. I had got her out of bed. People started to snigger.
She stormed off (silently, as she was wearing slippers) and I melted into my chair.
My date had a look in her eye that clearly indicated where she was going to shove the heart-shaped balloon.
The following day, a friend asked if we had enjoyed the bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape he had secretly ordered for us. I told him we hadn’t received it.
“I left it in your name: ‘Kenny’,” he said. The penny dropped. Pat Kenny, if you’re reading this… you owe me a bottle of wine.
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