I'm going to let you into a secret. I love St Valentine's day. I know this isn't the customary position for one who is as single as I am, but I find something rather lovely in the sight of men strolling down the street clutching large bouquets of roses to present to the lady in their life. Feminists everywhere would be horrified, but being quite a traditionalist when it comes to courtship, I side with Helena from a Midsummer Night's Dream, 'We cannot fight for love as men may do, we should be woo'd and were not made to woo.' As such, men in possession of posies speaks to me of everything being right in the world, the natural order of romance being observed, and delighted wives and girlfriends being treated as they should be.
I do sometimes wonder, though, is this the only day of the year which these men bring flowers and appreciation to their women? Once the wooing is complete, do they continue to pursue the heart of their lady, or are the flowers that are brandished on February 14th the one perfunctory display of affection for the year? Considered in this light, Valentine's perhaps becomes the enemy of couples rather than singletons. If one romantic day a year is successfully observed then can one get off scot-free for the other 364, without so much as a whiff of a rose?
I spent some of Valentine's day this year with a good friend. We discussed the idea of love a lot: our friends who are in love with each other, past loves of our own, the reason why neither of us is in love with anyone at present. We came to the conclusion that he should tell the male race to stop being badly behaved, whilst I would inform my fair sex to be less complicated.
This, however, is a terrible conclusion. One which must be halted in its tracks before it spreads its poison further abroad. It allows both sexes to demonise the other and expect the worst from them, regardless of whether that is warranted or not. It is precisely this type of thinking which ruins my quiet joy on Valentines day, and causes me to cynically question whether these men have bought their bouquets in order to express to their girlfriends that they really love them, or as a disguised apology for being such a terrible boyfriend the rest of the time.
Working with children has taught me that if ever there was a false dichotomy between human nature and human behaviour, it is that of categorising other people. Human nature is such that no person is bad in their entirety, yet instinctively we box and label people as being either a 'goody' or a 'baddy' and treat them as such. Recently, the Year 4 girls have been at constant sixes and sevens with each other. Only the other week, an argument took place outside the door to my room, in which one impassioned little girl could be heard shouting, 'You'd rather be friends with HER, the NAUGHTIEST GIRL IN THE SCHOOL, than ME?'
I didn't even have to look outside to see who she was referring to, as I have the very same child labelled as the naughtiest girl in the school too. Since then I've had to stop and check myself to ensure that, despite her bad behaviour, I don't see this girl as being without good in her. Often I'm at risk of missing her redeeming qualities that, at times, shine far brighter than the label I've given her.
I'm no proponent of Eastern Mysticism but I think there's something to be said for the philosophy that in everything bad there must also be something of good. Perhaps it's time we stop categorising people, whether they're members of the opposite sex or badly behaved children, and instead make it our mission to seek out the good in everyone, however well disguised it may be. If we cease to label people and spend the time getting to know them instead, we may find a far richer and better world out there than we could have ever dared hope for.