• Henry Michael

Writer's Block 7 - Valentine's Day

As Elvis Costello once sang, what do you get when you fall in love? A rash, usually, if it happens in Newport. But as Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s hard not to wonder - is there a girl out there for me? What is she like? And more importantly, how much does she charge? I did once fall in what I thought was love before, but it the end it just turned out to be rohypnol, and when I awoke my wallet was missing. Does love transcend all boundaries? And if so, should I bother shaving? Life and romance can often seem disappointingly random, and I’ve begun to fear that I’ll never meet a girl with the right mix of looks, personality, and generally low life expectations.

Then again, there is something quite special about Valentine’s Day. Men take women to unsettlingly-expensive restaurants, the sort of place where the menu has adverbs, and a French man called Maurice comes out halfway through the meal to incoherently explain where the shallots are from. The bills at these places are usually settled in cash or jewellery, so unless you want to end up like Woolworths, it’s probably worth cutting a few delicate economic corners. As a rough guide, you can usually eat around 30-40 free bread rolls before being asked to leave; and quickly memorizing the details of the cheapest wine will make it easier to subtly ask for it later, brushing off all suspicion of being a miser with phrases like “ah, 2018, a good year” and “I love wines from Bolton”. Don’t be afraid to down a good half a bottle before declaring that it’s corked, and feel free to repeat this process several times throughout the evening until your words merge and you begin to slip quietly under the table onto the floor. This may all seem like a lot of effort, but really, an upmarket venue is key; and probably a main reason why most of my dates to Hooters seem to end in disaster.

But while it’s undeniably exciting, romance as an adult does seem a bit more stressful than when we were kids. They were more innocent times - when relationships revolved around shiny Pokémon cards, “kiss chase” helped further alienate the girl with polio, and an unfortunate skip in the Sex Education DVD left me terrified that getting an erection would cause me to give birth. Of course, Valentine’s Day was slightly more superficial back then - a girl called Amber was the most popular in our class, with so many cards that there was a fifteen-minute waiting time to sneak them into her locker, while I never found out who my one secret admirer was, or why she always timed her cards to coincide with mum visiting. I also remember fondly my first kiss behind the back of the bicycle sheds, and though it was undeniably awkward, I still count it up there as one of my favourite memories of our P.E teacher.

All in all, I guess the spirit of Valentine’s Day depends on who you’re with. For couples it can be a fantastic opportunity to celebrate a loving relationship, but for single people, it does seem to do little more than make otherwise routine solo activities feel suddenly quite depressing, like eating a yogurt, or squeezing the last bits of toothpaste out of an empty tube. But that’s life – and if Brokeback Mountain has taught us anything, it’s that the pursuit of love is rarely straightforward. That, and naming a gay character “Enus” can lead to confusion.

Letters to the Editor – This week: Relationships and heartbreak

Dear Henry,

My girlfriend left me for a guy she met in an internet chatroom. Does this sort of thing happen often?

More than you might think. The internet can cause a lot of problems; a misspelling on eBay once saw me spend 300 dollars on Thai brie, while my cousin Dan was photographed dogging by the Google Street View car, and now spends his days frantically ferrying around his neighbours in an attempt to stop them browsing for directions. It's easy to feel embarrassed, but the truth is, infidelity happens all the time. My friend’s fiance cheated on him with his twin brother - accidentally at first, but then on purpose - while my ex revealed that she had been methodically sleeping with everyone south of the A48, and only stayed with me for so long because my house was one of the few places she could get signal on T-mobile.

I tend to go for big, tough men. They make me feel safe and protected, but they invariably end up cheating on me or leaving without reason. Why is this?

Not to stereotype, but macho men are often quite unpredictable. My uncle left his wife without saying why, and he was one of the most manly men I knew – running his own wrestling lessons for sailors, and spending all his free days camping in the woods with his personal trainer Marco. At the end of the day, these men often act out of selfish impulses, which is why they fail to treat women with respect or commitment. Personally, the only thing I hate more than this kind of chauvinism is ironing my own shirts - and I’ve always maintained that bigotry is unacceptable, ever since my dad was fired from his job for making derogatory remarks about Andy Gray.

I won the chance to go on Take Me Out, but I’ve since got back with my ex. She’d kill me if I went on another date, but it’s too late to back out now - how can I make sure I don’t get picked?

Interesting one this. Personally, I’d opt for coming down the lift in a wheelchair, then standing up and shouting “turns out I’m fine,” before goose-stepping your way around the centre stage. This should ward off most of the girls, especially if you then announce that your hobbies include warhammer, wanking and crying – usually in that order. Be sure to specifically offend Lucy as well, seeing as she tends to leave her light on for anyone short of Idi Amin; and if one girl does slip through, then I’d say your safest bet is to wait until you’re meant to hold hands and walk off together, then just push her down the stairs and laugh. They’ll probably pull the whole episode.