Nurina, Luke, Nathan and Simon talk us through their worst Valentine's Day experience.
Nurina Iman Nizam
About two years ago, I went on a Valentine’s date night at Ramen Bar with my current boyfriend. We loved this restaurant and were regulars, so thought it was a good idea to head down there for our date night. We were seated at the front end of the restaurant, nearby their sushi fridge display, and ordered our food. The both of us were having a good ol’ time waiting for our food, ‘till my ex showed up along with his brother and mum. Since the restaurant was crowded, they decided to wait to be seated; right next to our table.
I tried my best to not make eye-contact for what felt like forever. I excused myself to the toilet hoping they’d be seated whilst I was gone. Knowing my luck, I came back to the table to see that they were still there waiting right by our table. My boyfriend noticed something was up, but he didn’t mention anything. About 20 dreadful minutes later, they upped and left cause there were no spots available.
We got back home, he asked me why it was awkward during dinner time and I told him that I saw my ex. To which he then got upset (understandably) and the night ended sourly. Arguably, the worst part of all is that I started associating the awkward night every time I went to eat at Ramen Bar. Took a while for my brain to ease out the whole association thing, overall it wasn’t fun.
I normally spend Valentine's Day alone, but I have one specific and unfortunate memory of an exception to this rule. Usually, I am firmly against watching a movie on the first date. It's rarely a good choice to start off because you don't really get to talk to the person. However, back in first year, I ignored my own advice and went on a first date to see a movie. To be fair, it was with someone I had known for years - we'd known each other since we were teenagers, so I figured it was ok to watch a film together since we'd known each other for so long. We got the bus into town, got some ice cream, and headed to see the movie.
The movie? BlacKkKlansman.
To clarify, BlacKkKlansman is an excellent film - it's based on the true story of one black detective and his mission to infiltrate and expose the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. It's shocking, informative, and deeply, deeply disturbing. It was one of the most acclaimed movies at time of release, and rightfully so. BlacKkKlansman is many things, but it is absolutely NOT romantic.
Without going into too much detail, there are some truly horrifying scenes in that movie - the kind that you think about for days afterwards. The ending uses actual, real-life footage of racist violence. It's at the end - seconds after watching some of the most shocking footage I've ever seen committed to film - that my date turns to me and asks:
"..so, are you a top or a bottom?"
Not the time. Not the place. Read the room.
One year in early February, my then-partner and I decided that the best Valentine’s plan was to hang out in the UCD clubhouse and mingle. We loved our little date nights to small restaurants on random weekdays when it was quiet, but competing with large gangs of heterosexuals for seating in restaurants seemed like it would suck.
That’s when an acquaintance of mine, a belligerent chap who I shall call “Ignatius”, although that’s cruel to John Kennedy O’Toole’s character, decided to join us. He told us that he was trying to flirt with a girl in the smoking area, and would like our help as “Gay men know a lot about women and dating”. I can’t remember what we told him to do, but it was probably something like “Be kind, and be yourself” even though that’s an oxymoron for Ignatius. He left to continue his flirting, and my partner and I got back to hanging out.
About 5 minutes later he returned, and informed us that “That cuck Fred* is now also flirting with Sarah*, but she will go home with me”. We tried to explain that he really shouldn’t view flirting as a competition for women and that Sarah can go home with anyone and no one if she wants. He took this to mean he should see flirting as a competition, and one that he was winning as Sarah was going to choose him.
Later we learned that Fred and Sarah were just old friends who were chatting, and that while Sarah did go home with Ignatius, the sex was “disappointing”.
*Not their real names
Nothing says stale romance more than a holiday associated with the Catholic church designed to display love for a partner. Call me a cynic, and believe you me many people do, but I have never gotten a romantic partner a gift for Valentine's Day. Flowers have always struck me as awkward and cumbersome and a box of chocolates is a well-overplayed cliche.
However, I’m not simply cynical. Valentine’s day is on a par with Christmas for unnecessary holiday jitters. This particular Valentine's day presents its own set of distinct challenges. For the past year, any potential romantic interest has been stifled either by lack of excitement or things simply moving too fast. I put this down to the inability to get to know someone on a friendly basis, after all, no one really knows for sure if tomorrow they won’t have to self isolate for a two week period or be locked down for a matter of months.
My aversion to Valentine's day predominantly stems from a belief that love should never feel forced. Displaying affection should be spontaneous, not confined to a specific day and its beleaguered tropes.
This Valentine’s day I have resigned to shed my angsty cynicism - or at least appear to have. I purchased flowers and had dinner by candlelight. It’s still embarrassingly early doors. I won’t be engaging in these activities in light of a newfound optimism but because of the enormous social pressure I feel to live up to expectations.