Apart from our wedding day, no day is expected to be as perfect as Valentine's. The man was a saint, after all, risking his life to marry Christian couples in the face of the mighty Roman Empire.
For centuries, lovers have exchanged gifts, confectionery and handwritten notes to celebrate their affection. So, instead of simply purchasing a card with a teddy bear on it, some chocolate brazils and scheduling a candlelit meal, why is it I feel obligated to don tacky red lingerie, an uncooperative suspender belt and bend over the dining table, licking my lips and declaring that I am the dessert?
With two kids and a muffin top under my belt, I thought my days as a wanton nymphet were over. I suppose I can at least be grateful my husband's recent conversion to a macrobiotic diet rules out the mutually humiliating ritual of painting each other's genitals with chocolate spread.
Instead of being force-fed oysters, which I was rather looking forward to, the four-course love feast he is planning, I'm told, will involve an unseasoned avocado, steamed vegetables and spelt. I think they might look a little out of place amongst the fake rose petals, heart-shaped napkins and red plastic champagne flutes mom added to my cart at the supermarket, along with a stern warning to "keep the passion alive."
To accompany the occasion, my husband suggested I might like to wear a dress. This in itself seems a reasonable request. However, when dining at home by ourselves, I find the idea quite ridiculous. Back when we were first dating, it made sense. I spent my days submerged in narcissistic self-indulgence and would think nothing of enjoying a four-hour prep before appearing on his doorstep like Aphrodite from the sea. Now, however, there is a window. Anyone with children will understand this timeframe. It's the extremely brief interlude between putting the kids to bed and collapsing with exhaustion. If I do any more than simply peel off my cookie-encrusted tracksuit bottoms and pull a creased-not-quite-fitting-anymore dress over my head, there is a good chance he could be asleep or drunk by the time I present myself, wobbling on a pair of scarlet, feathered mules.
If I make it down in time, and haven't lacerated myself with a speedy Brazilian shave, and if Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," interspersed with tandem toddler recitals via the monitor isn't enough to offset the wine soaking through our spelt-rammed stomachs, we might actually get down to it. Maybe even on the dining room table, if we can work around the travel cots and kiddie car seats. The act itself will be hurried, not through passion but through fear of interruption -- by demands for pacifier retrieval, an urgent business call or, as occurred on one occasion, a canine nose probing an orifice, in search of chocolate spread.
The truth is, like most couples with young children, we're exhausted. We're lucky if we have time to remember to love each other, let alone write a note expressing it. However, this Valentine's Day, along with the rest of the world, we will endeavor to rekindle the flame of love. Though chances are, it will be on a Peppa Pig candle.