There are many valid ways to respond to the inevitable approach of Valentine’s Day: scepticism, despair, resignation, excitement, terror. But whether you see the yearly celebrations as the oversentimental, sickly fruits of a capitalist agenda, an unwanted reminder that you need to order some flowers or a welcome excuse to show your undying affection, this year will be something of a leveller. Even lovers of grand gestures would be hard-pressed to spring any particularly dramatic surprises in lockdown – though I’ve no doubt some will rise to the challenge – and going to Paris to propose is certainly off the agenda. So surely now is the time to come together, strip away the commercial wrappings and give the most romantic gift of all: your undivided attention.
Not being able to travel, go to your favourite restaurant or book two tickets to the latest show may be frustrating to some. On the other hand, you could see it as a huge relief. Now that there’s not so much pressure succumb to the ever-rising expectations of that arbitrary date, you can calm down and simply enjoy the company of your other half. Maybe this year you’ve come to appreciate those everyday exchanges a little bit more, and this night can be the time to show it by finding an activity to enjoy together or taking the time to talk. Even if you aren’t in the same bubble, this is still a chance to get some perspective on what really matters. After all, no box of chocolates, necklace or giant teddybear can speak louder than a few carefully chosen words on Zoom. Though I’m not saying the necklace would hurt.
Those who still want to splash out in traditional style could take the opportunity to go local. Many restaurants are offering special Valentine’s Day deliveries straight to your door, and given their struggles over the past year, ordering from a small neighbourhood business would be a fitting way to show your love. You could also support a florist or chocolatier near you rather than buying from a nationwide brand. Admittedly, not all of us are lucky enough to have such fancy shops around the corner, but in that case you can search for companies supporting independent artists such as charm subscription service Jewel and the Gang or ethically sourced products such as Fair Trade Divine Chocolate. This Valentine’s day, don’t give in to the lure of big labels – commit to community causes.
If you like getting creative, this could also be the perfect time to show a little love for the planet on your partner’s behalf. Spending more hours at home means you may be able to spare a moment to craft something yourself. Whether it’s a hand-painted card, a homemade candle or a box of baked goods, putting in a bit of effort can reap great rewards. Gifts which require your time are even more valuable than those that cost a lot of money, and they are also better for the environment: no packaging or air miles required, and you can recycle from what you already have in the house. Go eco-friendly and give the earth a chance to breathe.
This year, how about we take it easy on the extravagance and find a romantic middle ground? Cynics can forgo the soppy mass-produced poems and emotional exhibitionism and try cooking up a private candlelit dinner for two (mood lighting optional), and saccharine sweethearts could ditch the PDA and try saving a little love for the wider community. After all, relationships are all about compromise.