Sunday night. I am frantically switching between different make up brushes, trying to put on my face. I slap on three layers of mascara (because one layer is obviously not enough for Valentine’s Day), and try to erase the smudge. I slip on the red dress, which I still suspect may leave me with pneumonia, and run over to the kitchen to have my looks assessed by a girl study group. I hear a knock on the door. There he is! I think. I open the door to see my date standing in his latest dashing suit piece. In a cheap romance novel, I’d be catching my breath and thinking about the mesmerizing fragrance of his cologne. In real life, I threw him a glance of panic and told him to step in. “I’m almost ready. I just need to get my bag,” I said, rushing off somewhere away from him.
The next thing I know my flatmate has convinced us to take yet another prom style picture. “Do I look thin enough? Do I need to do the skinny arm?” I ask her. (She told me once that I don’t know how to engage in the “skinny arm” practice and ruin my pretty shoulders in all photographs.) I push my tongue against my teeth, trying to form another smile, and as I do, I think of the morning.
I look at my watch to find out that we’re running late for our reservation and quickly push us out the door. I feel nervous as we’re walking into town. He complains that the air is freezing. I turn to him and tell him to look at my legs, covered in nothing but a thin layer of 15DEN tights. After a couple of minutes my eyes begin watering from the icy breeze, and I start worrying about my three layers of mascara dripping down my face before I even enter the restaurant. I stop him by the first lamppost and point at my face. “Does this still look OK?” I ask. He tells me I’m beautiful. I tell him I’m serious, are there any embarrassing smudges on my face? He looks more carefully this time and tells me not to worry.The Dinner
We walk in and wait to be shown to our table. Little do we know that a fiasco is awaiting us. We both pick up our four course special menus and try to read them. I am saying “try” because the menus were almost illegible. I ask my boyfriend if he thinks it’s a special font or a printing error. “Looks like their printers ran out of ink,” he replies. The waitress comes and goes about five times, while we try to actually understand what is written on the menu. Eventually we order a bottle of wine and decide to share a special.
The portions of the starters and the intermediate are embarrassingly small, so we keep pouring the wine to fill ourselves up. Either because I’m very tired or very nervous, the table gets buried deep in an awkward silence. We are fortunately (or unfortunately) a very talkative couple, so this silence unsettles both of us. “Let’s exchange cards and gifts!” he suggests. So we exchange cards, and then we exchange gifts. I watch him unpack a bottle of whiskey and a case of whiskey bullets. He seems to be delighted over the moon. Then I see him take out a small black box and slide it in front of me. I open the box to find a silver ring. We smile and kiss and everything, but something feels very wrong. That’s it? I think to myself. That must have looked very sweet to everyone… I think.
The table once again gets buried in silence. Trying to fill in the space, we engage in a banal conversation about consumerism and prostitution. The main meal finally arrives, but alas, by that point I am half-drunk and can’t stop myself from being upset with capitalism. A bit later the waitress comes up and asks if everything is OK with our meal. He says that it’s wonderful. I give her my sweetest girl smile and tell her that the meat was hard to chew at times. She blushes and says she’ll tell the chef.
Moments later, I find myself utterly hating the dessert the waitress suggested and downing the rest of the wine. When the bill arrives my boyfriend’s eyes widen to dimensions I have never seen them reach before. “Wait a minute, this is wrong,” he says. I scan the receipt to see that they have decided to charge us twice the amount they should have charged us. He calls the waitress to talk to her, she panics and the next thing I know is that we’re arguing with the manager. He points out to an extra charge on the mains, which we never saw because we could barely read the menus. We nod at first, but then notice that they still would be overcharging us, so my date spends another five minutes trying to explain that there is still something wrong with the bill. We finally get a new bill with the correct amounts on it and get out of there as soon as we can.…and Back Again
We walk out. He tries to give me a kiss, but I sway the other way. “What’s wrong with you tonight?” he asks. And at that moment I know that we will not be engaging in any other pseudo-romance. We reach the house in silence. He changes into his pj’s, and I go to the bathroom to take off my mask of make up. As I do so, I feel stupid. I don’t understand why I spent so much time putting all of it on, or why I bought that red dress. I take my spot in the bed, and we cuddle and watch our favorite TV show.
In conclusion, I don’t think I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day ever again. This whole romantic dinner out concept seems to be a huge scam. (Place A is not the only place in St Andrews that serves miniscule four course meals.) I spent a long amount of time thinking about why I went on a full journey of consumption for this day. My final explanation was that I just wanted to differentiate Valentine’s Day. Because I am blessed enough to have a relationship filled with small gestures of sweetness everyday, the only way I thought I could differentiate it was by a display of extravagant consumption. It surely looked great, but it was missing its soul… or rather it was missing us. Trying to capture the essence of Valentine’s is hard because it does not really have an essence of its own.
The next day I asked him if we could talk. Despite being busy, he came over to mine at the end of the day. We sat on the floor and stared at each other. I felt like I wanted to ask a lot of questions, but I already knew all the answers, so instead I just said I’m sorry. He hugged me and said he didn’t really care; and to me that hug felt better than the whole entire dinner and better than a thousand silver rings.
“Hey, at least we have the pictures. It’s all about the pictures,” he winked at me.
“No,” I smiled back, “the pictures don’t matter.”
All images courtesy of Pixabay.