From the archives of www.newyorksubalien.com, a Valentine's Day remembered....
As you can imagine, they don’t do things in halves over in Planet Big Apple – and that certainly applies to Valentine’s Day which no one could say is celebrated over here in a “half-hearted” fashion (sorry).
As soon as they cleared the all-embracing holiday decorations out of the shops, the shelves in our local drug store filled up with little red boxes of candy, enormous rose-carrying, all-embracing stuffed gorillas (I have no idea why – I obviously haven’t evolved enough) and red hearts or variations thereof appeared in every shop window. Even my local shoe-repair store has popped some red heart-covered wellies in the window for sale - or would that mean you want to give her the boot.
And I know that as soon as the candles are blown out and the last champagne, truffle and mungo bean-flavoured chocolate is eaten, everything will go green for St Patrick’s Day. Actually I’ve seen one liquor store that has decided to skip the Valentine’s Day stage altogether and has gone straight to the St Paddy’s Day paraphernalia. Obviously more money in Irish whiskey sales than bottles of cheap pink sparkling wine. Or in the hope that singles will buy Irish whiskey to drink with their mates on St Valentine’s Day – they could call it St Palentine’s Day.
The advanced concept that there’s no reason why St Valentine’s Day should just be enjoyed by lovers is certainly one that has already reached our new home planet. We’re back to that all-embracing, all-inclusive thing again. So of course you should send Valentine’s Day cards to your friends, your work colleagues, your teachers and other members of your family. Walk into a card shop at this time of the year and good luck on finding a birthday card. Rather the walls are full of such permutations as “From grandchildren to grandparents”, “ From woman to woman”, “From your dog”, “From tenant to super” (OK, I made the last one up).
There’s the “From wife with religious message” card which seems to me an interesting combination and my favourite - “Celebrating our first holiday together”. No expectations there. Hope there’s an enormous rose-carrying, all-embracing stuffed gorilla waiting for the sender of that one.
What I particularly love is when the most un-Valentiney products get given the V-Day treatment (yes, they even call it V-Day here). I’m not talking about the obvious special discounts ahead of the big day although who could resist the Valentine’s Day nursing uniform and scrubs sale with their heartbeat and Tweety Valentine prints. No, it’s offers like the “Happy Valentine’s Day” laser removal special for him and her with the great slogan “The couple that lasers together, stays together”. Now there’s a gift that should go along with the “Celebrating our first holiday together” card.
On the other end of the experience scale, we’re once again feeling our alien genes. This being the first year Male Mini-me is in an American school, I am currently having to go through the same discreet negotiations with my girlfriends as when I was trying to find out about holiday gifts to doormen. Along with the individual, sender-specific cards on display in the stores, there are also multi-packs of 15 cards for schoolkids to send out to their classmates. However given that Male Mini-me has reached the dizzy heights of Middle School, Mini-Mum (a very definite High-Schooler) has pronounced it uncool to go down the card route. I suppose the fact that the cards were all Disney princesses and SpongeBob should have given me a clue.
Her suggested compromise is to produce Valentine’s Day chocolate rice krispie buns – ie in heart-covered cases and with red sprinkles. These have always been a successful contribution to any class, even in Paris where Male Mini-me's classmates used to ask him for the recipe. I wrote it down for him – it started off “First, find a mother who can’t bake”. Note for all other Mamasubas out there – the same buns in shamrock cases and green sprinkles make great St Patrick’s Day buns – or turf cakes as I call them.
And what about my own Valentine’s Day? Well, it will be hard to beat last year – our first with snow on the ground and in an apartment with a little back garden. As it was Sunday, I was lying in bed with my coffee and champagne, truffle and mungo bean-flavoured chocolates when Male Mini-me called me to look outside. There they were, the two men in my life, grinning away – and a great big heart drawn in the snow with red paint.
They'll always be my valientines.