Costly Love

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Let's be frank, it was an American lady who started your February the fourteenth rot.

Back in 1848, Miss Esther Howland, was probably, in her time, a kind and generous woman with a heart of gold. But she was the first person to introduce to the United States the European custom of sending a Valentines Day card, and in the process ruined what had been, up to that point, a perfectly healthy, primitive, lusty celebration.

Back at the dawn of time, well during the Roman Empire, boys and girls would put their names in separate jars. At the appointed hour, the names would be drawn and each couple would be expected to, er, get acquainted.

Sounds reasonable to me. After all, when in Rome....

But here in England, the Victorians were a sentimental straight laced lot and started stamping on all the fun .... and began the habit of sending each other cards. Cards, for heavens sake.

The Romans were right. Any healthy young person merely wants to get their hands on their favourite member of the opposite sex and a card doesn't really satisfy.

But add to the card, flowers. Red roses. Inflationary red roses at that -- at least.twice the price for delivery today, sir.

And it doesn't stop there.

My inbox is full of suggestions that if I really love her, I'll give her a bear and a bottle of champagne for twenty five dollars, or a silver plated locket for fifty, a solid gold fig leaf for a hundred and twenty, a romantic weekend in Paris for six hundred, or a shopping weekend in New York for two thousand -- plus the shopping, presumably.

Some opportunist has even suggested that I send my daughter, who is at University and presumably has a boyfriend to do the giving, some expensive nonsense.

My favourite restaurant has a Valentines Day special tonight for eighty dollars a head, but adds, in the small print, a minimum spend of a hundred dollars.

None of this is in the tradition of the lusty St Valentine.

So let's get back to basics -- cut out the flowers and the champagne and the locket and the shopping, until the price is right, and, er, get reacquainted tonight.
by Simon Bates by Simon Bates