With a broken heart and a string of meaningless relationships behind her, author Daisy Buchanan recalls one Valentine's when Cupid was hiding in plain sight, well on Twitter...
Arguably, Valentine’s Day has the worst reputation of any occasion that can be marked with a greetings card. It has become the opposite of what it sets out to celebrate.
Firstly, no-one wins – even if you’re in a happy, secure committed relationship, you start to worry that you’re failing at love because your partner has not bought you a cuddly toy holding a heart. And if they have, it’s somehow worse – because how could they express their passion with something so naff and flammable? They don’t know you at all!
If you’re single, it’s a maddening reminder that the world thinks like your mum, or a tabloid newspaper when Dec was briefly Ant-less and would really prefer you to be part of a pair. If it’s a bad year, every poster in Smiths offering free heart-shaped Lindor with every purchase of the Daily Telegraph looks like the world’s most invasive sign, flashing “AND WHERE ARE MY GRANDCHILDREN???”
Yet, I love it. Because on 14 February 14, 2012, I realised I’d had enough. I looked around at the teddies, chocolates, carnations and bad lingerie, and thought, ‘This is what I want. Well, maybe not this exactly – but I’m tired of pretending that I’m too cool for romance. I’m sick of saying that I’ll keep it casual, acting as though my heart is unbreakable, and telling boys that I don’t mind if they don’t text me, or want to sleep with other people, or forget my birthday. I want true love – in all its naff, shiny, polyester splendour.’
At 26, I’d believed that I could give up yearning in the way that other people managed to give up cigarettes, or sugar. After having my heart broken – mangled – by a childhood friend, I threw myself into a series of meaningless relationships. I was having a soul-destroying affair with a much older man who pursued me enthusiastically and waited for me to fall for him before making it clear that his life was too complicated for me to play any real part in it. For every hour I spent with him, I must have spent thirty in pubs, squinting at texts and trying not to weep as I muttered ‘I mean, I knew what I was getting into.’ I don’t think this man ever actually said ‘I’m married to the sea’, yet that’s what I remember him telling me.
The trouble was that these relationships weren’t meaningless. They made me think that I wasn’t worth true love, time and attention. I was depressed. Yet deep down, a tiny spark of hope reminded me that I didn’t want to give up entirely. It was time to try for the real thing. Typically, Cupid had a stupid disguise. He was hiding in plain sight.
Right before Valentine’s Day, I spotted something on Twitter that cheered me up and made me laugh. A company was offering a joke romantic ‘experience’ – ‘a romantic hotel stay, for three!’ The idea was a ridiculous gimmick, but the copy on the website made me hoot. It read like a Carry On film scripted by Vic and Bob. ‘FAQs: I once went to Aiya Napa with three chums in 1999. How will this experience differ?’ Without giving it much thought, I tweeted at the company ‘I fancy your writers!’ The writer in question made contact and slid into my DMs. Two weeks later, we had our first date. Three years later, we were married.
Our origin story might be silly, but I often think about the fact that he came into my life as soon as I decided to get serious about love – almost to the very second. At first, I thought he was too romantic. ‘He bought me a book I mentioned, he calls every night, he took me back to my flat in Brixton when I felt sick at the theatre, and then went all the way home to Walthamstow – is he not a bit intense?’ I complained to my sister Grace. ‘He sounds like the nicest person you have ever been out with. I think he’s The One,’ she replied. She was right. I had spent so long starving myself of romance that I didn’t know how to handle it when it arrived. Still, I learned to love it. It was worth waiting for.
This Valentine’s, I’ll be celebrating love, and hope – I doubt there will be any helium balloons, but I’m definitely holding out for a heart-shaped box of Lindor balls. More importantly, I’ll be focusing on how magical life can be when we allow ourselves to value our desires, to be vulnerable and to be open to love, in all its cheesy, terrifying, thrilling glory.
* Daisy Buchanan’s latest novel, Insatiable, is about women and desire – lust, longing and the need to be loved. And it’s out now.