As we all prep for Valentine's Day, Heidi Rice, Julie Miller and Holly March discuss how to approach Valentine's Day.
Heidi Rice - Why Valentine's Day is a Bit Bey
I’m a romance author of 30+ books, I love to write about love, but—call me a killjoy—I’ve always thought Valentine’s Day was a bit naff, a bit crass, a bit—as my kids would say—bey. Isn’t it just an excuse to pressure people into buying crap they don’t need? To hike up the prices for a hotel or restaurant booking? To try and make single people suicidal? To take cheesiness to a level not seen since Jack and Dani got together on Love Island? Or chase all those Instagram likes with pictures of all the loot you got? And isn’t it also a cop out… Romantic gestures aren’t really what love is about, especially if you only make the effort to show the one you love how you feel about them once a year!
These are just a few of the reasons why me and my guy never used to celebrate Valentine’s Day… TBF me and my guy do have form with our uselessness when it comes to grand romantic gestures—we’ve been married nearly 25 years and have yet to remember to celebrate our wedding anniversary—it’s our 25th this year and I’ve only just realised it—plus I’ll have to dig out our marriage certificate to be completely sure when it is!!!
I had to up my game a bit with V-Day when I became a romance author and I kept getting asked to do blogs and radio interviews and even an interview on BBC Breakfast once upon a time about how to celebrate it—because apparently if you’re a Mills & Boon author you’re an expert… Um no, but not wanting to admit I had no fricking clue how to celebrate V-Day because I had zero experience, I started happily faking it… And I’m not gonna lie, I got into it a bit… Because there’s nothing wrong with having an over-priced meal out in the middle of the week if you can afford it or guilt-tripping your sons into buying you chocolates (that is a win-win, to be fair) especially if you hate to let an Instagram photo op go begging and you need something to put into all those blogs …
But I’m still not really on board with the concept for all of the above stated reasons. And one other: and this is it—bear with me here, it’s only cheesy at the beginning…
I know I love my guy to bits, and he knows it too. And I know he loves me…
Maybe we don’t love each other in the same mad, passionate, slightly insane way we did in our twenties, when, for example, we decided to have a baby after a ten-minute conversation, and then discovered approximately nine months later it was really, bloody hard work. But we don’t need a card or a special day to say how we feel about each other, because we say it without words all the time: When I agree to watch the whole of True Detective even though I can’t understand a bloody word Matthew McConaughey is saying, or he agrees to see The Favourite and ends up liking it more than I do and we end up debating it on the bus all the way home. Or when I book us a cycling holiday to Hadrian’s Wall, he screws up his work dates, I have to spend an hour on the phone to Virgin rebooking his ticket and then spend 8 hours in Carlisle on my own, and I don’t kill him for it (although I may never let him forget it). Or when I tell him our flight out of Nice is leaving at 6am instead of 6pm, we haul our three-year-old out of bed before dawn, drive through the dark and end up stuck in Nice airport for twelve hours with a cranky three-year-old and he doesn’t kill me for it (although he’s never let me forget it, either!).
When we laugh about something our sons said or did, or didn’t do. When we rant at the TV about Brexit together and it somehow makes it a bit less scary and depressing. When we look at pictures of ourselves when we were young and stuck on each other and stupidly, insanely in love and think wow what happened to those two people, how did we get here from there? And I realise that although I miss being a size eight and having no wrinkles or sags, I’m so glad I still have him in my life…
But here’s the other thing, I’m so glad to have our boys in my life too, and my mum and my siblings and my best mate and all the other people who make it worth living. And I still miss terribly the people who I’ve lost along the way.
Love’s a journey, just like life—it can be short or long, happy and sad, and you can go on that journey with friends and family, kids and pets as well as lovers. How can you possibly have a single day that can encompass all that? And why would you want to?!
I know it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario… But I’ll ‘fess up and say I’ll always think Valentine’s Day is a bit bey, and not just because it can be too expensive, or too cheesy, or too isolating, or too show-off-y, but because it’s never ever gonna be nearly enough to celebrate all the love I have in my heart for all the cool, fabulous, awe-inspiring, fun people I’ve had in my life who matter!
Julie Miller - The Gift of Time
To others who look at us, my husband and I would be the comic sidekicks in a romance novel. But we’re the hero and heroine in our own love story. We’ll be celebrating our thirty-second anniversary this year. Clearly, we’ve figured something out about how to keep the romance alive in our relationship. It’s not easy. We both have full-time jobs and do volunteer work. We’ve raised a son who is getting married this year (Wedding planning is a new experience for us!). We both have an aging parent who needs our time. We have a variety of pets, as well as friends and a bit of a social life. In other words, we’re very busy people. But still, we make the romance work. Nurturing our marriage is important to both of us—as it has been throughout every stage of our relationship. Whenever someone asks me what the secret to the length and strength of our marriage is, my answer is simple—we embrace the gift of time.
Grand gestures have their place—I’m not adverse to a bouquet of flowers, and my hubby loves a home-cooked meal. We both love to travel. Valentine and birthday cards with a mushy hand-written sentiment are always welcome. Spontaneous moments when the lighting is right and our song is playing can be romantic and fun.
But the reality of maintaining a long-term relationship is that you can’t wait for spontaneity. And if you neglect the romance for too long, a grand gesture won’t make much of a difference. Life happens. If he gets called into an emergency meeting, or I’m running behind on a deadline, neither one of us is going to be in the mood or have the energy to be spontaneous.
So, plan for romance. Some of you may rebel against the idea, and idealistically believe that romance will happen if it’s meant to be. Yes, those fate-driven moments can be special, but they won’t happen if you don’t make time to be together.
Choose regular times that will work for both of you. Guard that time and make the commitment to it. It’s a physical manifestation of guarding your relationship and making a commitment to it. Your life can be crazy and focused elsewhere the rest of the day/week/month, but this time is only for the two of you. Sometimes, we’ll only have an hour together—but that hour is all about us. More often there are small increments of time we share each day. When we’re on vacation together, it might be a whole week. However long you have, that time might include:
Time to laugh.
Time for physical contact.
Time to vent.
Time to listen.
Time to learn together.
Time to support.
Time to be parents.
Time to be lovers.
Time to be friends.
Time to share experiences.
If you can’t imagine what those planned gifts of time might look like, let me give you some specific examples.
With rare exceptions, my husband and I have dinner together. It might be takeout or at a restaurant. It might be in front of a favorite TV show, or at the table. We might have family or guests—but we’re together. We talk, laugh, relax, solve the world’s problems.
We kiss and hug whenever someone leaves or comes home. Every. Time.
We sit down at the end of the work day to decompress and chat about work or concerns or something interesting we’ve seen in the news or in a book.
We plan and work on home projects together. Planting a garden, painting a room, fixing dinner, doing dishes.
We go for Sunday drives. Sometimes, we check out the countryside or an historical venue. Sometimes, we cruise the town and try a new restaurant or business.
We schedule regular date nights once a month. We might go out to dinner or a play, or to a party with friends. We might stay home and watch a movie and eat nachos.
Often an activity leads to conversation that includes reminiscing, making plans, sharing laughs or something more interesting (wink-wink).
And yes, those spontaneous romantic moments that feed a relationship can still happen. But if you give each other the gift of time, you know you’ll have special moments together, and you both will feel the love.
Holly March - Valentine's Day as a Singleton
February is the month with the highest suicide rates.
Wow, nice start for a piece about Valentine’s, right? Christmas is over, and since the seasons are shifting thanks to climate change, February is often colder and more miserably rainy or sleety than midwinter.
And then slap bang in the middle is Valentine’s day. Aside from usually being the weekend that Wales and England meet in the Six Nations, it is focused wholly around romance. And here at The Pink Heart Society, we are all about romance.
However, we also don’t want the expectations and social pressures of the day messing with your heads. And it does.
I’m commitment-phobic, but I can help. I promise. I use my Asperger’s powers to observe from the sidelines. I’m your magical Autistey Godmother.
So let’s start with those who are single. You’re surrounded by teddy bears clutching hearts and cheap chocolate with gender-specific BS all over it. The whole world is singing man and woman; man buys presents and woman puts out. It’s not inclusive, it’s cheap, and it’s very, very pressuring.
And you tell yourself over and over that you don’t need a relationship to complete you but this damn day… And all the DVDs the supermarkets are offering for cheap are crap romcoms with toxic relationships and do not get me started on that. Not today.
There are two main approaches: ignore it entirely and get on with your writing; or hate it. If you’re going to do the latter, do it right. Don’t go and but a load of those icky, overly sweet chocolates. Buy yourself a steak, watch a movie with Gina Carano or Manu Bennett in it, buzz one out, and tomorrow is the 15th and fuck Valentine’s! Woo hoo! And while we’re at it, ace and aro people, do not let the pressures change what you want! It’s just a day.
Hating it can be fun in a sing-along to Evanescence kind of way, but don’t let that grrrrrr turn inward. This isn’t about you! It’s about social BS. Gathering other single friends to watch bad romcoms and swear at the TV is great. Try Mamma Mia! Patriarchy assholishness to boo at but great tunes!
As for ignoring it, go you! You got this already, you don’t need me. How’s your writing going? Are you watching anything good at the moment? I’m into Lucifer and some show I found on Netflix called the Protector with awful dubbing… what am I talking about?
See, it really doesn’t matter if you’re not in a relationship. It’s. Just. A. Day.
And if you are? If you’re worried about having to push your sexual boundaries or bank account… Stop! You are in a relationship. Talk to your partner. If you can’t talk to them, there is something wrong. Relationships are, oh gods what a cliché, about communication. So say “I can’t do a restaurant this year…” “I really don’t want to go down on you, it hurts my neck…” “How about we just snuggle and watch Dragonball Z Abridged on YouTube until eleven?”
New relationships particularly force the pressure. And yeah, it’s the only day a year cishet men can be compelled to be cutesy, but don’t push your luck. Always think in the terms of “do as you would be done by”. It’s a personal mantra, stolen from Waterbabies, and it stands true in any relationship. Would I want to be treated like this? Would I want to be urged to do something I’m uncomfortable with? Would I want to be forced to be romantic at a restaurant with a set menu and no decent tables left?
Take a page from the best of King Arthur’s knights: Gawain. All your partner really wants is to be heard, to be consulted, and to be appreciated. Having said this, if you want to wear your sexy underwear and surprise your other half with steak and sex, you fucking do it! If you want to use the chance to try out the position you read about in one of our amazing authors’ books, hey, it’s only one day a year.
Tomorrow’s the 15th. If you don’t like it that much, hey, it was a special occasion.
Just leave the cheap chocolates, yeah? Get some Lindt or something instead. Your blood sugar will thank you!
Do you have a unique approach to Valentines Day? Or are you all about the traditional? Let us know in the comments or join the #HealthyHolidays discussion on our Social Media where you'll find yourself in very good (and supportive!) company.
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