What did Valentine’s Day bring for you, I wonder? Errm, nothing. I’m too old for that lark. When was it anyway…..? We don’t celebrate such Americanised nonsense. We prefer to grumble about the retail giants who maximise their percentage by stepping on our hearts. Besides, we’ve been married long enough to know we don’t much like each other.
The thing about love is that it isn’t the first bit that makes any impact whatsoever beyond the affixing of a ring and the fact that ‘I’ am required to become ‘We’ overnight. Where I drop my socks is no longer my choice, nor is the clothing I might select for a quiz night or my daringly cut gown for a ball. I may not shoot off on a long weekend without saying where I am going and with whom. In the choice of soft furnishings I can no longer choose retro Quant if my significant other feels sick at the very sight of those garish colours and that clumsy patterning. I may not invite in a passer-by for tea if I know my S.O can’t bear his or her laugh. I begin to announce when I am going to bed instead of just going to bed. I may not lend the secateurs to a neighbour without checking with my S.O first. And so on and so fourth and fifth and sixth. This is marriage and this is (possibly) when the dislike begins.
When children come, blessedly as very small babies at first, everyone thinks life is now perfect, which it is, up until the drugs wear off, and the car arrives to transport me home. But the motherlove is ferocious and singular and exclusive and the poor old dad, who has barely dared to allow his new name to roll off the tongue, is banished to second base. As far as he is concerned, he didn’t do anything wrong, but wrong he is, if he should dare to question the new pecking order in the home. It was aye thus.
However tricky life is after that initial falling into love (which never lasts long) in a relationship that has gravitas and texture, one that hasn’t died of boredom or drink or infidelity, but is just a bit peely-wally, attention is required. Celebration is a good place to begin. I have listened to those who tell me ‘we don’t do birthdays, or Christmas, or Valentine’s’, and then watched the one who said it rather hurt when his SO took an old schoolfriend to Hawaii for 3 weeks on her 50th birthday. We need to notice each other for flipping years by the way, to gift and to show romance. I believe this would keep couples together for much longer, for all their time on this earth, if we all woke up to the important fact that every relationship needs food. Weekly, not once in a while.
For my Valentine’s, I got a lovely card, addressed to ‘My One and Only’ and a box of chocs. He has remembered the romance of Valentine’s Day for almost 45 years, even if, in between Valentine’s days he has been a difficult S.O.b So, have I. This marriage thing is a walk in the dark, not the park, for not one of us has an easy ride, like what America tells us in her movies where everything is rosy at the end. There is no ‘rosy’ unless we accept that roses have their season, scenting the whole garden, filling the eye and the heart with a gasp of wonder…… and outside of that season there is little, or no, fragrance at all.
I want to shout WAKE UP people, but I don’t. I just wish that young couples out there can hold onto hope, can find the legs to walk on, can understand that a marriage is not one person trying to change the other, (and if that fails, which it always does, there is the justification to move on) but a complete ballsup, a collision of stars, a chaos that only ever needs a regular butterfly.