The Hallmark Lonely Hearts Club


Amy Wall argues that Valentine’s Day is a needless attempt to pressurise loved-up couples and singletons alike

So the chocolates have been eaten, the flowers have been thrown out, the embarrassing stuffed animals with ‘I love you’ embroided across them have been chucked into the wardrobes, and once more the world settles back into its normal routine. People have stopped asking, “Are you seeing anyone?” and rather than being decked out in various shades of red and pink, the shop windows have turned to a myriad selection of greens, awaiting the next big celebration.

Valentine’s Day… Some will be sad to see it go, but the other (single) half of the Irish population will breathe a heavy sigh of relief that it’s done and over with, and we can all get back to business without having couples shoved in our faces every five minutes.

Sure, Valentine’s Day is great: if you’re in a couple, you get showered with gifts and some special quality time with your other half; and for some of us, being single offers a night of great craic – you can get dolled up, and go out and scope the market of fellow Single Pringles to see just what’s on offer.

But for some people, February is a hard month. It is estimated that eight out of ten long-term relationships that don’t make it to marriage split up during the month of February. The weather is cold, the evenings are still dark, and it is during this time of year – when everyone is celebrating the grand idea of love – that many people realise just how lonely they are. It is no surprise, then, that during this time of year, levels of depression and anxiety show a distinct rise.

Since the middle of January, we have been assaulted by images of Valentine’s Day, which is all well and good, but this can have a damaging effect on people who already feel isolated during this time of year. The media is saturated with images of happy couples furnishing articles regarding relationships. While love in itself is, of course, a fantastic thing, it seems that during the weeks approaching Valentine’s Day, if you are single, you don’t exist.

Reading my own horoscope for fun, pre-Valentine’s day, not one reference was made to all my fellow single Sagittarians out there. ‘Not in a couple? Not interested,’ seems to be the mantra of this holiday, which is quite sad. It is easy to see how many people can feel alone during this time of year.

Couples don’t have it so easy when it comes to Valentine’s Day either. February, aside from being a graveyard for long-term romances, is also the month in which many people get their loved one the greatest surprise of all for Valentine’s Day: a divorce. While Valentine’s Day seems to inadvertently exclude those of us living a single life, it also puts mass amounts of pressure on people who are coupled up.

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day revolves around the giving of gifts to your loved one to show them just how much you care. During the years of the Celtic Tiger, these gifts began to get more and more extravagant. The measure of love seemed to be calculated by the amount spent on the gift. Given our current economic climate, many people are put under pressure to afford that special piece of jewellery for their girlfriend, or that latest video game console for their boyfriend. What if you don’t get your sweetheart exactly what they want? You’re probably headed for a fight in which you may get accused of not caring enough, and you may find yourself spending your own Valentine’s night alone anyway.

People find themselves under intense amounts of pressure, and in some cases, people even run themselves into debt that they can’t afford to repay – a night in a swanky hotel? A romantic meal? A piece of bespoke jewellery? These things add up. The Beatles once sang that ‘All You Need is Love’ – but in modern day Ireland, unless that love comes wrapped in a small blue box from Tiffany’s, we’re just not interested.

So what can be done? How do we celebrate love and the idea of Valentine’s Day without firstly running ourselves into intense debt, and secondly, without excluding the countless numbers of people who feel so alone and isolated during the month? The answer is simple.

To all couples: recognise that love is the only gift you need to give your other half. Don’t waste money on material things that will most likely go down in value once your sweetheart opens the box. Surely the greatest gift of all is the ability to tell them: “I love you… yes, even if you leave the toilet seat up.” Cheesy? Maybe. But enough to show them you care? Yes.

And for all those singles out there? Get dressed up, go out and have the time of your life. Sure you may not have that special somebody yet, but nothing helps you get that out of your system like a night on the tiles.