Valentine’s Day Musings

Big smile for the camera

And so as Valentine’s Day hits us once again, like a chocolate covered truck smacking a wall and we contemplate going out with the other half for dinner, picking something off the restricted menu and amusing ourselves by giggling at the horribly awkward first and second date couples who’ve run out of conversation so are now getting drunk to fill the painful silences, I was thinking about relationships.

My teenage years did absolutely nothing to prepare me for long term relationships and love. I spent my early teenage years reading books. A LOT of books and the problem with that is that you come away with a ridiculous and unrealistic notion of what love is. In books love is found after some sort of long courtship, fraught with difficulties which the couple eventually overcomes and which leads them to happiness. It is not found after 8 vodka and cokes in a sweaty bar in the city centre. Nor is it found in the burger place you’re working in part time to earn some extra cash or at the taxi rank at 3am while clutching a kebab and a lit Marlboro Light. All true stories in case you were wondering. Not all mine I should add.

The male in books is not like the man you will meet in real life. In the books he is dedicated, gorgeous, heroic, altruistic and occasionally tongue tied in your presence. Juliet never had to give Romeo a bollocking for using the C word during the match, which can clearly be heard through the wall by next door’s small children. Mr Darcy never to my memory got plastered and threw up out of a taxi. I bet Robin Hood replaced the loo roll when he’d done and never just left the cardboard inner sat on the bathroom floor for Marian to deal with.

The other problem with learning about love through books is that they rarely, if ever, teach you what to do once you’ve found it. Most end with the couple getting together and setting off together for a life of unending bliss where the sun will always be shining, he will always take his turn to empty the dishwasher and he will never ever forget your anniversary or get your birthday wrong. They don’t teach you strategies for setting up a task rota and teaching your man that hoovering the carpets and putting the dirty pots in the dishwasher doesn’t constitute cleaning the entire house or for tackling the tricky issue of letting him know that the ‘bog-cleaning sprite’ is a myth. They don’t teach you that setting up house together when the pair of you have been used to doing things your own way since you were 16 can be a complete nightmare, that learning to compromise and take someone else’s point of view into account when deciding things can be decidedly painful and often very loud. No book I ever read offered a sensible suggestion as to how a couple should decide who is ‘couch commando’ in charge of the remote control. In books and films, once the love-struck couple have got together they spend all their time gazing lovingly at each other and wondering how they are going to survive the long hours at work until they can be back in each other’s arms. They do not spend half their day glaring at the computer and envisioning stabbing their other half in the arm with a form because he STILL hasn’t learned that when you take the bin bag out you have to put another one in and you didn’t notice and emptied a load of crap into the bin. Or smirking because he gets to stay in bed and take his time getting up while you have to be up and out at the crack of sparrows so you didn’t bother cleaning up the dog puke that you found on the hall carpet, you’ve left it for him to deal with when he gets up. 

Books don’t teach you how to deal with the arguments that will happen because you can no longer have your own way all the time and you’re far too used to it. Jane Eyre was never found in the living room in a rage about something insignificant, yelling like a deranged banshee and being entirely unreasonable.

But that’s real life, right there. The things he does that drive you insane, the things you do that make him want to strap you into an ejector seat and fire you three towns away. Books and films don’t do us any favours by leading us to expect 70 years of interrupted bliss and harmony, not only because it’s utter crap but also because if you think about it, how boring would that be? How would you appreciate the really good bits if you didn’t have have any lows to compare it with? Sure, Romeo and Juliet never had a row about whether ‘Location Location Location’ is boring or not but they also never hooted with laughter when the dog woke itself up by farting really loudly or when you went to work wearing odd shoes and didn’t realise until lunchtime. Mark Anthony may never have left grated cheese on the clean worktop but he also never went to the Co-Op and bought Cleopatra a Milky Way because she was pissed off about work. Literature’s great couples might never have fallen out because one of them forgot to buy the other an anniversary present but then they never learned to work together to find a compromise either. Because their love lives were perfect and that’s not real.

So whether your relationship is good or bad, whether you’re happy or not, I reckon we should all take time out on Valentine’s Day to think about love. Real love that is, the warts and all kind that we’ve all experienced, the one that means that sometimes you think your partner is fantastic, sometimes they drive you insane but at the end of the day you want to be with them even if they snore when they’re pissed. And let’s be realistic about this, Romeo might have been a charmer but he wasn’t over-burdened with a sense of humour was he? I bet he still rearranged his crown jewels when he thought no one was looking plus he was lusting after Juliet who was 13, which is more than a wee bit dodgy.  See? Your partner might drive you nuts sometimes but at least they aren’t a pervert. Surely that’s worth some flowers and a card?



7 Responses

  1. Actually, Romeo & Juliet is the perfect romance.

    They fall in love … then they kill themselves. The End.

    • Fair point. It saves them reaching the point where either she kills him for getting pee down the toilet pedestal again or he kills her for dragging him round 37 different shops then buying the dress from the first one I suppose.

  2. Great post Vicola! Very insightful. My ex used to leave big skidmarks in the toilet and bodge every job he undertook. I dumped him but now I am thinking I should have been a bit more tolerant. Ummmmm?!

  3. I’ve always thought the star struck true love sounds boring as hell and is probably unsustainable.

    I heard of a survey where they quizzed couples and were surprised (I wasn’t) that couples who don’t agree all the time have longer lasting relationships.

    My brother seems to be trying to present the “Disney couple” on FaceBook. He uses the term Darling wife and she uses darling husband.

    Gimme a barf bag please. It does give us another thing to laugh about though. I don’t know if they have sunk to wearing the same clothes yet but It’s the logical progression.

  4. In the books he is dedicated, gorgeous, heroic, altruistic and occasionally tongue tied in your presence
    That’s me, that is.

  5. Bloody fantastic post Vicola. Disney (or Justin Bieber) needs to make a film about skid marks, smelly socks, and what women actually look like without makeup or control top pantihose.

  6. Great post. I once asked the manservant how he would describe himself if he were to set up a profile. After he told me I cracked up laughing and said “God, I’d never have contacted you!”

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