Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Be careful what you ask for this Valentine's Day...

“Every breath you take, every move you make, every step you take, I'll be watching you”. “You’d better run for your life, little girl; I’d rather see you dead than with another man”. “Whatever you do, I’ll be two steps behind you”. Eek! Is this a transcript from the diary of a deranged psychopath? Well yes and no; we are in fact plundering lyrics from the Great Love Songs playlist in the name of Valentine’s Day. Lurking close to the surface amidst the inevitable tide of bland, saccharine-sweet ballads that a Google search for ‘love songs’ vomits back at you, the macabre melodies just keep on coming, in this instance courtesy of the Police, the Beatles and, erm, Def Leppard. But then again, even the less sinister chart toppers have a distinctly – well, sinister theme going on. I can’t help falling in love with you. Hopelessly devoted to you. I will always love you. Crazy in love? I’ll say! Are we a nation of romantics...or a barmy army of obsessives?

At this time of year, I actually feel a bit sorry for all the healthy, balanced, genuinely nice guys (and despite the vile, murderous activities of the not-so-sane ‘brotherhood’ who have dominated the headlines of late, there are plenty of them around) who are attempting to quit the single life this V-Day. What’s a guy to do? Buy her flowers, and you’re old fashioned; pay for dinner and she’ll accuse you of attempting to buy time in bed; send her a Valentine’s Day card and you’re a cliché; turn up to meet her unexpectedly and you’re a stalker; play hard to get and you’re an egomaniac bastard – seriously, guys, you just can’t win. So how does New Millennium Man woo a Thoroughly Modern Miss without being accused of misogyny? Ha! Even quantum cosmologist Stephen Hawking can’t shed a light on this particular conundrum; the nation’s favourite geek recently declared that even he thinks women are “a complete mystery” – and I don’t blame him for such confusion.

When it comes to the dating game, the contemporary sisterhood bends the rules faster than you can say Chardonnay. Flowers? We all love them. Pay for dinner? At last! A Valentine’s Day card? How charming! He turns up to meet you unexpectedly? Thank goodness for touché eclait! He plays hard to get? Oh swoon, he’s Mr Darcy! So unless we have firm proof that the wooer in question has a reputation for ominously creepy behaviour, why all the accusations of him offering anything other than a brave attempt at attention-grabbing? Because to politely accept his advances would be to suggest that we need a man to flatter us, feed us or generally lighten up our lives – Emily Pankhurst would surely turn in her grave! So ‘Mr Perfect’ gets the heave-ho, and obsession on both sides starts to fill the inevitable void. Men – battered by rejection and challenged by the threat of obsoletion – turn into Patrick Bateman, while women – confused by unrealistic expectations and images of perfection perpetuated in the media alongside those vile, cautionary tales that grab the headlines – turn into Bridget Jones; the result is hardly a marriage made in heaven. Considering almost 2000 years have passed since the original St Valentine(s) bit the dust, we haven’t come very far, have we?

And yet, the ritual that marks the anniversary of the death of numerous early Christian martyrs continues to thrive. Creepy love songs will dominate dance floors across the land as restaurateurs curse all those tables-for-two, Clinton’s Cards prepare to have their dwindling profits bolstered and cheap confectionery in heart-shaped boxes ensures that lovesick behaviour comes with a side order of quease. Meanwhile, men and women across the land prepare to get their Mars/Venus passports renewed in readiness to take flight as crushes, flirtations and unrequited love turn into very unhealthy pastimes indeed.

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