To all the lovers

So, it's only minutes until the day that strikes fear into the hearts of the masses almost as much as New Year's Eve does - just as you are judged by how you spend New Year's, the world has already pre-packaged you into your Valentine stereotype.

You could be the sweetly simpering lovebirds toasting eachother over dinner in some cosy bistro or your candlelit kitchen, or the jubilant, upbeat and noisy bunch of singles drowning out the date with laughter. Whoever you are, you'll find yourself, for this day only, defined totally by who you are or are not with. Especially if you're lucky, or unlucky depending on your view, enough to need no other company on this fateful day than your own.

I stopped buying in to the whole notion of a day mandatory for grand gestures of lack thereof when I sent a heartfelt love note to an ex only to have his classmates quote it to me for the rest of the day. Ceremony is trite. Gifts lose their sanctity. Spontaneity is dead. As is romance, when you are given a 20% off cards voucher when buying some gum in WHSmith.

This is my first year without someone who'll send me a card in four years. It became a formality in the end, the love having faded away long before the end actually came, and a piece of non-recyclable card with vague representations of love on it weren't going to change that. The date is not cement for anything. The first time, however, back when the honeymoon period was still going, there are photos, flowers, cards to mark the occasion. Now, lucky for him, he has photos with someone else. There will be cards, there will be flowers.

Because that's the saddest thing about the day, and that's who loses out in the big game of commercially inforced affectionate gestures. For those lucky enough to have a name to proudly shout from the rooftops, get tagged in pictures with and smile when their name appears on a new message, the day is about the mutual celebration of feelings. Even if you can happily share with friends in being free.

The saddest ones are those who have to hide, to keep those names in the shadows, to cover their tracks and watch their trails for fear of revealing something that was supposed to stay hidden. The last few people I've dated have been kept secret from most, and will probably stay that way. And that's the sad part, because while some of us have merrily gone about replacing gaps in our hearts with new names to smile at the mention of, I haven't found a name to shout from the rooftops just yet.

So instead, I'll be shouting mine. And I'll be shouting yours. Because the Valentine myth arose out of love between strangers, and friendship, and a listening ear and trust. And while some of us have been lucky enough to find just one person that we want for all that, the luckiest ones of us have a whole network.

So I send out all my love (because, like memories, I'm still full up with the stuff) to you all. Be you single, in a relationship, in several, cheating, keeping secrets, happy or sadly alone. Be you people I know or people I've never met, people whom I've upset, hated, or have hated me, or people whom I adore. There is so much love to be had, and if you're lucky enough to have just a little bit of that for yourself, then you don't need a plastic rose, a card, or a fancy dinner. You are very fortunate indeed.
And because I love you all so much, I'm going to give you a perfectly fitting Valetine's gift - inapproriate, godawful and euphorically annoying. I give you Bono.

Now, I'm going to bed, and tomorrow I'm going to wear my reddest dress, my sternest Peggy Olson expression, and go to my first day at my new job. Which is, in my opinion, the very best Valentine's Day I will ever have.

Happy Valentine's Day.

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