THE 14TH FEBRUARY

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I love it when people say that they dislike Valentine’s Day. Except I don’t love it. I hate it. Particularly when the same people scrutinising its sentiment also celebrate Christmas, Easter, a Friday or even their uncle’s Bah Mitzvah in the only way they know how: with presents, alcohol and too much food.

So what’s the problem with celebrating love in much the same way?

They complain about shop windows, overpriced goods and the pressure to buy. But the same humans, come December 1st, turn into elves themselves, donning Christmas jumpers, drinking too much whiskey and tucking into overpriced Christmas cheese. And I’m pretty sure they ain’t celebrating Jesus’ birthday. They just enjoy the time of year. They like investing time in family – until Uncle Toby drinks too much wine and tells you about that time he and Aunt Sheila did the dirty in the back of your family car – and they get stuck in.

But they come to a halt on love day.

They grimace, they denounce their involvement and shy away from card buying and gift giving.

But why?

The ‘I show you every day’ sentiment doesn’t wash with me. That’s nice and all and I really appreciate being spooned to the point I think I might suffocate on a nightly basis, but why is it such a hardship for you to show me just that little bit more on one day of the year? Yes, card shops relish in this time of year. But they also exploit our warm hearts at many other times throughout the calendar months; so what’s new? You know as well as I do that we’re exploited by big retailers on pretty much a daily basis, but if you really want to roll with that excuse? Then use your hands and make a card, squeeze them extra tightly or cook them a nice meal. Nobody ever said you had to actually buy something.

I think that hating on Valentine’s Day is a little ‘on trend’ but the question I’m asking is: when did love go out of fashion? In a world that can be bleak and a little bit scary, why wouldn’t we take any opportunity we can to celebrate something positive and tell those who we love that we don’t know where we’d be without them and spoil those who most deserve it?

Basically, I don’t care if it’s not really your thing. In fact, let it glide past you for all I care. But don’t shout your mouth off about how much you hate it, because Valentine’s Day can be whatever you want it to be. Make a crappy card, treat them to a homemade red velvet, sit on the sofa with snacks and a good film or just don’t fart on their leg for the next 24hrs. Whatever love is to you, celebrate that in the best way you can.

The 14th February might not mean much to you, but to someone who needs a little loving (i.e. everybody at one point or other), it can mean a heck of a lot.

Have a good one love bunnies.

OUR LIPS AREN’T SEALED

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Love is one of those things that has the ability to knock you sideways, whilst also being able to seep in silently like a good scent. It can appear as if from out of nowhere, but it can also grow for years before you realise you’ve even been struck by it. Sometimes, you don’t even know you’ve had it until it’s gone. But that’s the thing with love, you never know what form it’s going to take, how to prepare for it or in what way it’s going to shape you. But it does shape you, in one way or another. Every. Single. Time.

And I think that’s something worth talking about.

So, seeing as Valentine’s Day is pretty much on our doorstep, I thought now would be a good time to do just that. Yes, it’s a ‘Hallmark holiday’ and a cheap excuse for retailers to up the price of prosecco and long stemmed roses, but it’s also a chance to celebrate love in a few of its many guises.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding a pair of lips or two to this post, just below where you’re reading now. Behind each set, you’ll find a tale about a type of love that somebody has experienced (for better or for worse). These stories have been told by people I know, people I don’t know, people I’ve met and some that I haven’t. And then, of course, some by me. From the dangerous and forbidden to lost and lesbian love, I have it covered. But please, if you feel compelled to write one of your own, send it over. I’ll be posting throughout the month, so there’s still plenty of time to spill the beans.

Although we might not like to admit it, we have all had our fair share of both heart-make and heart-break and I think it’s time we spoke honestly about these experiences in order to both celebrate and laugh in the face of love.

Come inside, our lips are far from sealed.

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THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE – A GUEST POST

0b65cdb9bd90edd60b3af64015f50fb7Nothing prepares you for the moment where life as you know it, changes forever.

In an instant, the days of “I” and “me” are gone and are replaced with both “we” and “us”.

From the moment you set eyes on them, it’s love: pure, unconditional, primitive love. There’s a rush of emotion like no other; a combination of panic, joy, dread, fear, and a happiness that is paired with an instinct to protect at all costs.

You worry at every stage. From making sure that they aren’t too hot or too cold, to their first steps and worrying if they’ll make friends at school, to whether their boyfriend will be kind to them or whether they’ll pass their exams. In fact, your worries are so extensive and uncontrollable that you start to worry about your own sanity.

Then the time comes for her to leave home when all rationale goes out of the window. Will she eat well? Will she be warm enough? Will she be safe or will she choke on her own vomit? The list is endless and leaving your child alone in a city 400miles from home gives you a pain like no other. As you drive off with a stuck smile and false wit about not drinking too much, your pride quickly fades and is replaced by a sense of loss. However nonsensical it all seems, there’s no controlling it, leaving you feeling helpless and exhausted in its wake. However over the top, and at whatever age, your little one leaving home feels a lot like a bereavement.

These irrational thoughts don’t just stop at daughters as one might suspect. Even sons who are reaching the ripe old age of 28 get in on the act. But instead of picturing leachy men in bars or skirts that are too short, my vivid imagination veered towards muggings, stabbings and fights with the bouncers of west London when he was out on a Saturday night.

Once he had surpassed his teenage years, I thought my worries would have died down, until I heard the dreaded words: “I’m going travelling”.

And off he went, to far off places that I have only ever dreamt of seeing, when the thoughts came flooding back in. The worries – the irrational ones, the ones that drive you crazy at 4am – return with a vengeance. But this time it’s different. This time it really is out of your control. Kidnappings, stolen organs, yellow fever and rabid dogs were never too far out of reach for my imagination. Throughout all of this inner turmoil, you smile and show photos to your work colleagues when they ask how he’s getting on, and the sane you knows that he’s having the best time as he makes new friends, treks across distant lands and tries the local cuisine because that’s what you do when you’re trying to “find yourself”. Plus, the chances of anything actually happening to him are as rare as rocking horse shit.

So when all the fighting is over, the unfinished homework is laid to rest, the wobbles of teenage years, endless broken hearts, illness, globe trotting and all week partying are a distant memory, the time comes for them to share their life with someone other than you.

And how do you cope? You do so by reflecting on how proud you are of them, how they’ve grown into the person you always wanted them to be, how your heart still leaps when you see them and how unashamedly you smile when you think of them.

So I ask you again, how do you cope? You do so by hoping that the person they have chosen loves them the way you do: purely, unconditionally and primitively, for the rest of their lives.

When you are sure of this, and only when you are absolutely sure, only then can you then begin to let go.

Written by my mum, a living legend. 

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The Valentine

I once spent Valentine’s Day in McDonald’s which, actually, has been one of my favourite love days to date. A Big Mac and a stroll through Exeter city centre and I’m all yours, apparently. And before you assume that I was only content with such a budget date because I was a student, I can tell you that I’d still much rather sit in McDonalds getting pea-shot-at by delinquents than paying double for a meal at Pizza Express, whilst rubbing shoulders with newly-weds and soppy couples called Roger and Tilly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no cupid-quasher and am an absolute sucker for huge, romantic gestures, but something I’d like to see happen is for real love to be expressed on the most doting of days rather than just accepting the crappy Hallmark definition.

Carrie Bradshaw once said that she was, “Looking for love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, all-consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love”. And on first watching that final episode of undoubtedly one of the best television series of all time, I thought that this was romance at its finest. But as time goes by, I’ve started to wonder whether or not this is in fact something that lots of us crave, all the while totally taking for granted real love.

For love to be ‘all consuming’, it verges on an addiction. And an unhealthy one at that. For it to be “inconvenient”, it normally involves sacrifice of sorts. So one of you might already be attached or you could be living far away from each other. These components make everything far more intense and cause you to label your feelings as a matter of urgency, perhaps thrusting us into the label of love when in reality it’s something very different?

As I’ve mentioned before (on roughly 4576 occasions), I have been in love once in my life. And although it has recently come to pass, it did teach me what real love is. It’s not that bizarre teenage love that consumes you for the duration of sixth form. Instead it’s quite literally offering someone your last Rolo. Or leaving a great party early when they’ve had too much to drink or buying a train ticket to see them even when you’ve almost maxed out your overdraft.

I’ve come to realise that real romantic love should be as infinite and comparable to that which you have for your best friend (minus the canoodling of course). For instance, I would never in a million years contemplate swapping any of my best girl friends for any other women. And real romantic love should feel the same. If you look back at every Valentine’s Day since you were aware of its arguably pathetic existence, I can assure you that there will have been one new love interest per year. But I bet your bestie has remained well after you’ve closed the door behind all of them. That’s real love.

Basically, when you experience true love, the grass is always greener on your side of the fence.

My parents have been married for twenty five years and when I ask how she has managed to remain faithful, she proudly replies, “because he’s enough”. And as unromantic as that “enough” might sound to you, it’s probably the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. It’s the contentment and utter acceptance of who each other are that I find so inspired. And that’s why I think they’ve lasted a whole quarter of a century.

Life is only full of ups and downs if you let yourself get taken along for the ride, and with the right person, even the most challenging of circumstances can be plain sailing.

So if you’re looking for someone to spend your life with, then you won’t want what Carrie calls ‘real love’. Instead, you’ll want friendship, with that certain je ne sais quoi thrown in.

Not just a shit card on Valentine’s Day.

Happy 14th February everyone.