My Valentine’s Day

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. There is this assumption that if you are a couple, or in a relationship that you would automatically be happy on Valentine’s Day. Or at the very least, that you would appreciate a day dedicated to lovers.

Honestly though, I can’t think of a worst holiday – intended to put pressure on couples already in a relationship, a day making singles feel worse than ever. I suppose there is only one type of couple who would enjoy Valentine’s Day, the same kind of couple who would enjoy endless attention on their wedding day, the sort that invite the press and the Tattler to cover the minute details and attention that they put into their wedding: ‘Oh, see those roses over there? Yes, I had it brought in from Cameron Highlands. They were picked at the peak of their blossom as the sun began to emerge over the horizon. Oh, but why talk about the roses when you can talk about my shoes? See these? These were designed by Dato’ Jimmy Choo. Yes, I know he had retired, I forced him out of his retirement for my wedding. I’m that important.”

I met up with my friend, N yesterday for Valentine’s Day. And I brought my husband along – I don’t want him to feel left out on such a special day. We were going on a date, N and I. We were going to eat burgers and then we were going to watch a romantic movie starring Bruce Willis. With lots of guns and bombs.

We were late to meeting her as it was particularly crowded at Midvalley yesterday. We had to maneuver around a number of couples, diligently holding hands because that is what is expected of them for the day, a number holding lifeless bouquets of roses and all of them, looking more bewildered and stressed out rather than genuinely in love. I suppose it’s difficult feeling like the feeling when you have to battle a swarm of forlorn couples, figuring out what to do. One couple began to quarrel almost immediately after the man gave his woman a bouquet of flowers. There was a long queue outside TGIF, couples holding hands waiting for their turn to eat at at the restaurant. I wonder how many of these couples will head home tonight, or to a hotel and make love, even though they don’t want to but because they are expected to.

I told N this and she had a good laugh. N said that we were cynics. I don’t know what gave her that idea.

My distaste for Valentine’s Day began early – it began in Malaysia where the government school I attended, a rather conservative secondary school I might add, sold roses to young lustful boys by enterprising students who would then distribute the flowers to their high school crushes during class. They made a grand show out of it even, coming into a class with armfuls of roses and announcing the name aloud: “Farah!” “Yee Ling!” and the girls would get up, and saunter as gracefully as a fourteen year old could to the front of the class to receive their roses like it’s the bloody Oscars or something.

And then for the rest of us, the not-so-popular and the not-so-pretty, we squirm in our hard seats, hearts pounding fast as we give a quick prayer to God: ‘Dear God, please, please, please let me have someone send me a flower. I know I’m technically not supposed to pray for someone to send me a flower because it might lead me to think about lustful thoughts and to lustful situations that I’m not supposed to be in, but please, please, please God, I’m not so sure if I can handle the humiliation of not getting any roses when two-thirds of the class have received flowers.’

I think the trauma of Valentine’s Day in High School is enough to put anyone off Valentine’s Day for life.

I have to be honest though. When I finally did meet that special someone, I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I really did. I wanted to see what’s all the fuss that Hollywood was talking about. But my special someone happened to be Eizwan. Eizwan is the best man for me, who else would patiently help me roll out sheets and sheets of pasta when I went through ‘I-want-to-make-my-own-pasta’ phase or watch a crappy Korean drama without judging me. You can’t have everything though, because Eizwan is not particularly romantic. I mean he has ideas on romance, just sometimes, he falters on execution.

Like the year when I hinted I want a Valentine’s Day celebration. It coincided with a busy period for him – but he tried. Apparently, he had this grand ideas of creating a paper tree made of hearts, with each heart containing a poem on how much he loved me. On Valentine’s Day, I was waiting for roses, or a nice night out but nothing happened. Every restaurant was booked and the ones that were not, were places like TGIF where you pay a whopping RM 90 per person for a set that you would usually pay RM 30 for on any other weekday.

And of course, nothing says romance more than celebrating Valentine’s Day in a restaurant where they make you stand on a chair as the waiters sing and stomp their feet for your birthday.

We ended up in KFC that night.

I was getting very agitated and upset, like if you love me, why don’t you do something for me? Finally, I confronted him about it and Eizwan broke into cold sweat and said, ‘I did! I tried! See, I wanted to make these paper hearts but I discovered, I’m not very good at arts and craft and every heart I made was ruined, so I bought more paper and I’m trying to cut them at traffic lights.’ He showed me the half-cut cards at the back of his car, together with sticky tape and scissors and the instructions he printed off the net on how to make them as proof that he tried.

The ever reasonable girlfriend, I burst into tears and refused to speak to him.

Clearly, it worked out okay, or we wouldn’t be here today, but we never bothered to celebrate Valentine’s Day since. After getting that moment of madness out of me, I’m done with Valentine’s Day.

I had been done with Valentine’s Day for years since. Last year Eizwan got me a small teddy bear for Valentine’s Day and I looked at him and asked ‘What is it for?’ and then he sulked because I had forgotten Valentine’s Day.

As we had our burgers, I thought about the couples who had made so much effort for this evening, walking around Midvalley aimlessly, hoping to find a restaurant that could fit them in. When they do actually find one, they would be seated a little closely to another couple, as restaurants try to pack in as many lovebirds on their biggest money making evening of the year. And then, said couple would inevitably overhear conversations about love from the couples surrounding them and feel pressured to outdo the couple next to them, to proclaim that, no, they love their partners more.

And suddenly I felt this burst of euphoria and superiority. I am superior, I wanted to shout aloud. I am superior over all of you. I have not been conned by this madness, I have not been conned by this capitalist holiday of making you spend and celebrate love even when you don’t want to. I am not a sheep! I am free to make my own choice, to celebrate love when I want to celebrate.

Of course, that feeling of superiority ended when I watched ‘A Good Day to Die Hard.’ In what is possibly the most cynical attempt at milking the Die Hard series, I felt like a real sheep herded into the movie theatre by a Hollywood producer shepherd. As it turns out, my date with John McClane turned out to be a real dud.

How did you celebrate your Valentine’s Day?

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