Saturday, February 13, 2010

No love for Valentine's Day? You're not alone

Chung Lyn-Yi,
05:55 AM Feb 13, 2010

Some couples do seem to get it right but I prefer to spend it in the company of girlfriends

For years, I have regarded Valentine's Day as something that is "much to his horror, mush to her delight".

I know a little appreciation for a significant other goes a long way. And I respect the need for one sweet day to spoil and be spoiled.

But I otherwise have no romantic notions about the affair, which I have learn, can go easily from V-Day to D-Day. Sometimes, there are painful presents involved that make you reassess your entire relationship.

One friend described to me, mournfully, a laser-cut wood carving of her name, given by her boyfriend. It was too plain to be a plaque, too prominent to be a paperweight.

"It's like he thought you didn't know your own name, and needed a reminder," her mother said, not helping.

My friend did not know what to do with this store-bought wooden expression of love. But it probably lasted longer than she and her boyfriend did, before it too, was dumped.

To this day, it ranks right up there on the top of our Worst Gift List. And it is second only to the Titanic soundtrack, played in erhu.

I had stumbled upon this rare instrumental CD in a neighbourhood shop years ago. (On a serious note, you have not experienced torture, until you have heard My Heart Will Go On teased out in the wailing strains of the Chinese fiddle.)

Much as I love a good gag gift as well, there are some things that make you go "Hmmm". For example, I recently read that soft toys of giant microbes are massively popular gifts in the States.

An innovative online retailer has gamely stocked up on heart-shaped boxes in the run-up to this weekend.

And it all sounds rather cute until you realise that it is not the Love Bug but viruses such as Herpes, HIV and H1N1 that are flying off the shelves.

I guess the chance to say "I gave my darling a sexually-transmitted disease for Valentine's Day" is too hard to pass up for some. Only for those who love a sick sense of humour.

Then there is the issue of bloomingly expensive bouquets. These are beautiful to have and to hold. But, they can plant seeds of doubt in your mind, on whether your potential husband knows the value of money.

I know some people who try valiantly to make the most of these overpriced flowers. They either dry out the stalks, or Google how to make potpourri. But as my friend observed: "Dusty rose often looks better as a colour, than as a dead flower in your living room."

To top it all off, there might be Valentine's Day restaurant promotions that leave a bitter aftertaste for the evening.

I remember feeling horribly hungry after one such set dinner at a modest Italian eatery. The teeny tiny portions did not match the huge price that was in itself, hard to stomach.

And I was too shocked by the coincidentally hiked-up prices of the a la carte dishes to order more.

I must stress that some couples do seem to get it right. They enjoy thoughtful gift exchanges without overstating the importance of the day.

And they have fun-filled celebrations that do not cross that line between cosy and casual, and costly and contrived.


But for all the other reasons above, I prefer marking Valentine's Day the non-traditional way - in the company of girlfriends rather than men. We will huddle up with a good DVD and random bits of comfort food like potato chips, cheese and sashimi.

I expect a night of laughs over the "ghosts of boyfriends and Valentines' past" and presents which are pretty, yet practical. And I can think of no better people to celebrate a day of love and affection with, than the girls who are in many ways, the supporting cast through all of life's drama.


There might be nosy relatives who look unconvinced by our single-mindedly indulgent plans this Valentine's cum Chinese New Year. But this will not dampen our spirits.

In any case, we can just tell them: No catty remarks in the Year of the Tiger.
Chung Lyn-Yi,
The writer is a senior producer at Channel NewsAsia.

PHOTO: Sentosa's Light of Spring from 13 to 21 Feburary 2010 (Free Event)