Brace yourselves for the annual onslaught of heart-shaped commercial tat. Valentines is unarguably irritating, exploitative and exclusory… but I’m still holding out for a card !
Ever since I was a kid at an all girl’s convent boarding school, I’ve hated Valentines day. The anticipation leading up to it was relentless and in those first weeks of February, we prayed, not for the starving black babies in Africa, but for Valentines cards. Big ones. Delivered on the right day. Preferably in ostentatious red envelopes. Year after disappointing year my prayers went unanswered. On V day, Sr Agnes, the headmistress would hoik up her habit and climb onto a chair in the draughty assembly hall, brandishing a too-small handful of envelopes. It was hideous form of public humiliation. Every shriek of frenzied excitement was matched tenfold by the silent despair of those, like me, who realised that despite months of hinting, Mum had, yet again, failed to preserve my dignity by putting a card in the post.
By the time I was in the sixth form I had a proper boyfriend, but he never got it together to send me a Valentines card either. Of course by then it didn’t matter. I had taken matters into my own hands and would routinely send myself a couple as a safeguard. It was a tactic that I subsequently realised most of the other girls had adopted years before. In fact if I had only been smart enough to examine the postmarks on those much envied early Valentines, it is highly likely that they would all have borne the franking mark of the local post office.
Its funny to think back and realise that we all sent ourselves Valentines cards just to make ourselves feel special, but research suggests that this is not a behaviour pattern that is confined to lonely girls in convent boarding schools. According to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association women buy 85% of Valentines cards, which is a lot of cards if you consider that 24% of all cards produced by the card industry are for Valentines day. And a large percentage of them are undoubtedly being ‘returned to sender’ because according to a survey by Date.com, 75% of single women admit to having invented a faux Valentine and 80% of them have sent themselves flowers.
To be a single woman during the smuggest celebration of the year is a test. And the older a woman gets, the more depressing it feels. From birth onwards, the male-female sex ratio alters in favour of men. Although more boys are born than girls every year, testosterone fuelled risk taking behaviour means that boys have a much higher mortality rate. By the time a girl is 18 there are 51 girls for every 49 boys in the population, and that imbalance becomes even more pronounced later on because there are double the number of gay men as there are lesbians, and far more men wind up in prison. For the older woman with a shrinking social circle, online dating once seemed like the perfect way to ensure a date for Valentines. However, although most sites do their best to engineer an equal gender balance amongst their members, they can’t factor out the distortion created by the male fixation with youth.
Men aged between 22 and 30 make up nearly two-thirds of the male dating pool, but they focus almost exclusively on women younger than themselves When specifying the age of the women he would potentially date, the median 31 year-old male sets an ideal age range of 22 to 35 years. That means he is willing to consider a potential date who is nine years younger, but only four years older, than himself. This skew only gets worse with age. The average 42 year-old male is willing to date a woman who is up to fifteen years younger than himself, but his maximum upper limit is a woman who is just three years older. To add insult to injury, although women have more pursuers than men until they reach the age of 26, after that, men are more in demand and by the age of 48, men are nearly twice as sought-after as women.
If Valentines day sucks for singles, it isn’t much better for couples. Any kind of public holiday tends to amplify existing concerns about a relationship. Christmas,, arguably the biggest celebration of the year, is swiftly followed by a flood of January divorces, most notably in the second week, when work recommences and kids go back to school. Next up is February 14th, a date which has seen a 40% increase in requests for divorce lawyers according to US legal website Awo.com.
If you’ve been happily married for years a heart themed glut of commercial tat is unlikely to tip your relationship over the edge, but research carried out in 2004 suggests that the stress of living up to Valentine Day expectations creates so much pressure that couples who are in moderately strong or weak relationships are two and a half times more likely to split up during the two weeks surrounding the event.
The good news I suppose, is that all those breaks ups mean there are more potential mates on the market. And if you are male, single, and fifty plus, remember this top Valentines tip. You can stratospherically increase your chances of meeting a partner online SIMPLY BY DATING A WOMAN WHO IS YOUR OWN AGE. In contrast, if you are female, single and fifty plus, you will will fare better if you date from the remaining pool of single men in their early twenties, the ones who can’t compete for age appropriate women because they are all too busy dating older men with bigger paycheques. The bad news is that couples who are in ‘moderately strong or weak’ are probably best advised to split up now and save sixty quid, or dig a hole, climb into it and stay there until the rest of us have fraudulently acted out our ‘special’ day as best we can.
Although I blame female competitiveness for the cut-throat expectation associated with Valentines, the candy, card and flower industries have to take some responsibility. Ok, its fair enough for men to be forced to show they care on one day out of 365, but they Valentines day script particularly awkward because it requires them to proclaim their love and verbalise their feelings in a way that feels fundamentally female. I’m sure this discomfort explains why Valentines cards are supposed to be anonymous, although admittedly, that feature also works to the advantage of lonely hearts and desperate schoolgirls the world over. Decades later, that draughty assembly hall seems like something from the nineteenth century. I’m older. Wiser. More cynical about love. More cynical about everything. But my Valentines requirements haven’t changed much. I’d still like a card. A small one. Delivered on the right day. One that has actually sent through the post with a stamp, as opposed to one that has been propped up against the marmalade on the kitchen table. What are the chances?