The Lonely Smoker

The lonely smoker turns her discerning eye to the bizzarities of Valentines dating rituals

Rose Troup-Buchanan

The problem with Valentine’s Day isn’t the fact that it is a horrible corporate invention, designed to make anyone who’s alone drink themselves into the alley next to Willow, and anyone who is in a relationship to suddenly develop a strong empathy for the actions of Sid Vicious. No, the most horrible aspect of Valentine’s Day is that you cannot escape it.

In two days time it will be the big event. Personally, I feel as if I am battening down the hatches in preparation for a zombie apocalypse; there’s a lot of red splashed about, people are/will be moaning and groaning, and a few corporations have stepped in and made a killing.

Ironically, I should love Valentine’s Day. It is one of the few occasions of the year when my particularly sarcastic, embittered, and general malcontent with the world is not only accepted, but fanatically embraced by every lonely single person within a five mile radius. As my friends unload their collective love-life regrets (bearing in mind none of us have yet entered our mid-twenties), and wail in stereotyped sonar about the misfortunes of our existence, I get to roll out Malboros like a Catholic priest dispensing absolutions after the weekend.

Valentine’s Day, or VD as I feel it should be known, both for its practicalities and the knowledge that come February 15th the local sexual health clinic will suddenly have a much broader clientele thanks to Willow and one pound shots, is Catholic in its concept. Whichever camp you’re in, whatever place you’re at, VD is a sure-fire way to ensure you feel guilty about something.

It’s a minefield. Normal people, who have formerly harboured standard and acceptable expectations of the opposite sex, suddenly start planning dates in a manner tactically akin to Hitler’s meanderings around Russia, and with equally unfortunate consequences. Girls, having previously been perfectly content with a couple of drinks, morph into sulking harpies whose shrill protestations of “I don’t want anything special” would be labelled poor acting on Made in Chelsea.

Smoking outside Willow the other night – always a great place for pondering life’s more profound questions – I considered the macabre mating rituals which were presently taking place above the glorified tackiness of La Senza. We are not a generation who should do Valentines. We have liberated ourselves from the conventions and traditions of our parents, and with that emancipation we’ve elected to get drunk, behave crudely, and throw up over someone’s shoulder after getting with them.

The collected horror stories of my friends’ dating history are testament to our disqualification from VD. My favourite was the tale of a friend who after being taken for a civilised cup of tea (earl grey) was then invited along to river to a spot where dogging was going on. After that, as she said, it all got a bit “weird.” Or another who was taken Salsa dancing, in a barn, in the depths of Devon for Valentines. Also a bit weird.

As my relationship history resembles nothing so much as a collection of empty cigarette packets and a penchant for reduced price whisky, my experience on the whole ‘dating’ front is limited. The real problem with VD is then perhaps less what you are required to do, and more that it requires you to think. For me this means that the week of February 14th is usually inordinately more expensive than any other period of the year. Being the dispenser of comfort and addictive tar to my friends can have its occasional draw-backs, chiefly expense.

However, if all this talk of smoking and drinking and thinking about VD is making you miserable, I have a solution. In a truly spectacular choice of date (who says academics don’t know how to have fun?) the philosophy department is kindly putting on a lecture called: “Emotional (self-)regulation” on February 14th. (The Bowland auditorium 6.30 p.m.). I’ll be the one smoking outside.