Nothing New Under The Sun

The Valentine’s Day run-up has begun, good and proper, cards and hearts and teddybears all over the place, my local gym telling me to book a massage for the one I love, and it was still (when I noticed that particular gem) still definitively early January (the latest gym offer I’ve noticed is a ‘couples’ discount. Thanks. You’re a couple. You already find one another attractive. I am single. I need all the help I can get. I should get a discount for being all bitter and single and so on, obviously…). I still think Valentine’s Day is cruel to singletons (I wonder if that’s pretty much the entire point of it, actually) and nothing special for couples – just an excuse to go out for a romantic picnic or a nice meal and you can make those excuses for yourself, there are reasons enough, and why should you feel you ought to celebrate your relationship on this one specific day just because a million card shops and the odd gym promotion tell you you should?

That said, I’m not wholly against it and I’ve heard some beautiful stories in my time – the boy who turned up at my friend’s door last year with a Tesco bag containing some strawberries and things, and took her out for a picnic, no finesse but highly cute, I think, and the last I heard, they’re still together. He took that chance, and won. Reunions, forgiveness – the stories that ignore the cliche and the commerciality and the people who use Valentine’s day as an excuse, a spur to action, to make them truly say how they feel, it’s not something I’m good at. Last year I sent a card, I played down my feelings quite a lot, and it didn’t arrive on the day so I disappointedly worked my way through half a bottle of whisky before I even left the house that night; I am told that night didn’t end well. A few days later I recieved a thoughtful and kind reply, not the kind of reply I was really hoping for, but I didn’t mind as much as I thought I would, and I’m still glad that I did it, that I spoke up and admitted how I felt. In some ways I felt a bit pathetic for still liking that person or for falling for them again but actually when it came to the crunch, admitting how I felt made me feel brave and not pathetic in the least, and I can’t say now that it ended badly.

Over the years I’ve talked a lot to friends and family about relationships and things – I’m interested in how people work and their stories, and this kind of thing has always fascinated me in real life far more than the films, Bridget Jones, Love Actually, no, those are fairytales and it’s the real life fairytales and the not-so-fairytale stories that I like. And finally I’ve realised something blindingly, hopelessly obvious. People tell you certain things as hard and fast truths about life: Everyone thinks they want to marry their first love (I remember this being said to many of my friends, I’ve even said it myself), unrequited love isn’t half as bad as being broken-up-with (don’t be so condescending), getting back together never ever works. And so on. But I have met schoolyard sweethearts still together decades on; of a friend of my mother’s who went through break-up after break-up with this one bloke, heartache and heartbreak and huge emotional ups and downs and third-degree emotional chaos until somehow, they made it through, calm and content and happy after all that, together; three year breaks to ‘find ourselves’ who did get back together and still are together; relationships rising like a pheonix from the ashes, stronger than ever, having hit what seemed like the absolute end of the line. My parents had met once or twice before they started dating in the May, and within six weeks they were engaged, before getting married that October, and they’re still together – and, I believe, happy – now.

My mother says my dad called her an ‘old boot’ at the speech he made at their wedding. What he really said: since there was a lot of surprise that they’d got together so quickly, and so he was trying to explain how they just knew, so he described their relationship as like putting on an old pair of boots – worn such that they’re perfectly and entirely comfortable, shaped around your feet – they just somehow knew that it would work, and it has. My mother says that when they went on their first date she thought, looking at his large irish skull, ‘giving birth to his babies is going to be painful’ – claiming that she already pretty much knew that was what was going to happen. As far as I’m concerned my parents seem like a modern-day fairytale; I don’t suppose the same will happen for me, because it’s so unlikely.

Two absolute commitmentphobes I know got together six months back and within two weeks of the start of their relationship, terrified, admitted that it felt as if God was telling them both that he had huge plans for them both which in part involved marriage, to one another. What I think about that – given that I trust them both as very rational people, and I too believe in the same God – I honestly don’t know. It took a friend of mine two or three years to finally get into the relationship he’d barely realised he always wanted (though I could see it and I doubt many couldn’t); now he’s seriously considering where he should do his Masters based on where she’s going to be. Other couples have seemed fairytale perfect and foundered at the altar. Others have seemed completely right for one another but never even got to give it a go, passing like ships in the night. Sometimes you don’t know the truth about someone until one day they admit they’ve been screwing your two best friends, and, worse, they’ve told all three of you that they love you, and they thought they meant it.

As my mother says, there’s nothing new under the sun; and the whole gamut of possibilities renders all the advice that anyone can give you more or less meaningless. I can’t tell you to forget her and move on, I can’t tell you to wait and see. You don’t know how many fish there are in my sea, you don’t know that it’ll all end in tears, I can’t possibly judge.

What I’m saying is, you can’t ever know what’ll happen next. There are no rules or reasons. You know nothing. So if you care, tell someone. If you’re sorry, if you’ve acted like an idiot, if you feel bad, if you spoke out of turn, if you’ve lost touch, if this silence has gone on too long. Whatever you’re feeling come out and say it. Now, tomorrow, on Valentine’s day, when you next see that person, when they get out of the shower, by text, by phone, by carrier pigeon, standing in the rain on their front doorstep, return ticket in your back pocket, just in case, battered box of chocs in your hopeful, hopeless, beta-male hand, just in case. Whether it’s the fuckbuddy you’re feeling more for these days, your grandmother because you never go and visit her, your best friend, your girlfriend, your mother.

Because, quite simply, what are emotions for (and this is where I start sounding like Doctor Who, but this is the amazing thought I’m trying to explain in this entry) if not to remind us that man is not an island? They are there to be shared, however difficult or painful or embarassing (goodness knows this is something I have to learn to get better at myself), because they’re what make us human, what make us sociable animals, and they should be shared with the relevant people. No use angsting over coffee with your girlfriends between lectures, no good whining at your mother because you’re worried about your housemate, no good recording your moods over LJ or Twitter or on someone else’s blog – do something with them, not because you want things to change, not because you want an answer – say it with no expectations, not Marry Me, or Accept Me, or Be My Babydaddy (though seriously, consider that last one, is it really a good idea?), just, look, this is how I feel, I care, perhaps that’s enough. Because what is the worst that could possibly happen? And how is it worse than if you say or do nothing? Honesty, I still believe, makes the world a far simpler place.

And yes, you can even tell me you love me (seriously, I must have got myself a crazy internet stalker by now? Looking at the blogs and comics I read, a stalker is a sort of must-have You’ve Made It accessory and I’m starting to be almost disappointed…) although, just to warn you, no – I won’t send you my underwear, or pictures of me in bunny ears or whatever, and I probably will laugh a lot. Here’s hoping. And Valentine’s for me this year has to be an improvement on last year, which involved copious amounts of whisky, tears, and one very irritated bouncer – this year I will be in church, and if I’m organised about it, I will be hosting some kind of party, too, with lots of cake and things, to raise money for something which I may or may not tell you about later, depending on how interesting I decide you’ll find it. But probably not (on the party score), because I’m not that organised.



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21 responses to “Nothing New Under The Sun

  1. Nice entry πŸ™‚ Weirdly, you’ve written down a few of the things I’ve been pondering recently. Stop stealing my thoughts, please! :-p

    This year I shall do the same thing I do every valentines day – ignore it.

  2. Flix

    Lol, ditto Dickie. But I guess it’s hardly surprising that many share similar views of Valentine’s Day or have a fairytale story or otherwise to tell…

    I love you, Jenny. In that totally platonic, completely electronic kind of way, you know the type? πŸ˜€

    This Valentine’s I shall note it in some way, of course, because I like Valentine’s day. I’m weird like that.

  3. I’ve not ever really been anti-Valentine’s day and yes, I’ve been single over the majority of those that have occured in my lifetime. I think I’m just an old romantic and quite like the idea of people making that extra effort for someone. Sure, you could argue why do you need a certain day to make the effort on – but couldn’t you say the same about Mothering Sunday, Father’s Day, a birthday?

    No, I wasn’t a Disney kid :-p

  4. I don’t like Valentine’s Day. I always used to think that despite my protestations about commercialism and forcing people to make grand sweeping statements just because, I was really just bitter and single and should get over it.

    I was with someone for the first time this last February, I’m with the same someone now, and I’ve realised that, actually, no, I’m just not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.

    Last year J and I spent the evening with some other (single) friends watching Coupling DVDs. I told him I didn’t want a present, and consequently I didn’t get one which was honestly fine, and the only reason I got him something was that I’d happened to see the perfect book about four days beforehand – but that was because I wanted to buy it for him, not because I felt obliged to. This year my mother is going to be visiting, which will be wonderful and one of the best presents anyone could give me πŸ™‚

  5. C R M

    I don’t know about Valentine’s day.

    I’ve always treasured adolescent dreams about it, despite knowing that actually the most beautiful moments happen spontaneously and if that coincides with Valentine’s then hurrah for coincidence. Last year for me was awful, absolutely awful.

    This year, I have posted a fairly modest pair of cufflinks across the Atlantic, and now wish I’d sent them by carrier pigeon.

    But I agree with “teacherface”: it’s good to have a day on which you can make the extra effort. On which you are reminded to turn around to someone and tell them what you feel. Admittedly, I do that to him anyway, in a seemingly never-ending and slighlty sometimes unnerving flood of irrepressible emotion. (He set the precedent of saying what he felt for me, therefore it’s his fault if I’ve taken that to heart…) But it’s like someone’s birthday; it’s just one way of celebrating your relationship, or your affection for someone, on a day specifically dedicated to doing so. I’m looking forward to it this year.

    Particularly because last year’s was one deep pit of manipulative, emotionally sordid mess-up from start to finish.

    Also, incidentally, pretend there are carrier pigeons: J – I love you. Du bist ein [awesome] schwester. Komm herein [soon]. (see, I switch into German when I feel like I’m being too public.) Pfft. Love and such. and hugs.


  6. Valentine’s day is hard work and a bit more stress. You’re either single and feel excluded or with someone and feel like you *ought* to be doing something special, while also being guilt tripped by all the people waving copies of Bridget Jones under your nose and moping. (I’d say there’s always one; there’s always quite a few more than one.) Consequently I get very gung-ho and start saying bugger it whenever people mention it to me. Anyway, The Annversary is coming up at the beginning of March, so to save on train tickets etc we’re taking an average and I’m going to see him at the end of Feb. Nothing if not romantic. Bugger it.

  7. Adam

    “So if you care, tell someone.” THAT is, I think – what Valentine’s should be about… In the same way February 29th is the one time that it’s traditional for women to propose to men – Valentine’s should be about telling that Someone that you feel that Something…

    Unfortunately, “say it with no expectations” hasn’t really worked out that well for me in the past… I’ve done it twice, the first time the girl in question broke down in tears, and we didn’t speak for 18months – and the second girl flat-out rejected me, then quizzed me on how it felt…

    I’m a softy – I love those tiny gestures… Things like the guy in your story, turning up with just some stuff in a carrier bag, wanting to spend time with the person he cares for. Many a time have i wished I’d had the guts to see the person I wanted to on valentines… Turn up with chocolates or wine or whatever, in my “hopeful, hopeless, beta-male hand”

    Actually, bearing in mind the person I’d like to see this Valentine’s… Were the 200 Miles or 5 hours of train less of an issue – I’d arrive on their doorstep – with in my hand…

  8. Adam

    “So if you care, tell someone.” THAT is, I think – what Valentine’s should be about… In the same way February 29th is the one time that it’s traditional for women to propose to men – Valentine’s should be about telling that Someone that you feel that Something…

    Unfortunately, “say it with no expectations” hadn’t really worked out that well for me in the past… I’ve done it twice, the first time the girl in question broke down in tears, and we didn’t speak for 18months – and the second girl flat-out rejected me, then quizzed me on how it felt…

    I’m a softy – I love those tiny gestures… Things like the guy in your story, turning up with just some stuff in a carrier bag, wanting to spend time with the person he cares for. Many a time have i wished I’d had the guts to see the person I wanted to on valentines… Turn up with chocolates or wine or whatever, in my “hopeful, hopeless, beta-male hand”

    Actually, bearing in mind the person I’d like to see this Valentine’s… Were the 200 Miles or 5 hours of train less of an issue – I’d arrive on their doorstep – with probably this in my hand:

  9. Jenny

    CRM: what was so awful about last Valentine’s Day? I just can’t remember exactly whenabouts it was in terms of what was going on for you at the time…! I don’t agree that all the most beautiful moments are spontaneous – after all, my various Valentine’s stories that I have collected only happened because it was V Day which spurred whoever-the-story-is-about to act and show how they felt. It was the excuse or the shove they needed and I think that’s what is good about Valentine’s Day. If you’re already together then it’s probably all very well (I certainly don’t object to dressing up and going out for dinner and having a nice time in the name of the celebration of all things romantic if that’s the settled situation you happen to be in), but as I’ve said at length above, it’s the uncertainties and honesties that Valentine’s ought to be about, maybe. P.S. sorry about the lack of transatlantic carrier pigeons in your life and sorry that you’ll not be together on Valentine’s Day, not that that’s something for which I can really apologise!!

    Lucy, what is it about Valentine’s Day that you don’t like (kudos on Coupling, btw, I love that show)? Is it the ‘commercialism and forcing people to make grand sweeping statements’ aspect, or is it something else entirely? Hope you have an equally low key day this year :).

    Fi, I love your ‘taking the average’ response. Like you say, nothing if not romantic…!! Sorry if all us mopey Bridgety singles are making you feel guilty – you absolutely shouldn’t, and I’d like to take the opportunity to say that seeing you and his Nibs together makes me genuinely very happy – and that goes for any obviously comfortable, happy couple. I just genuinely love seeing other people being happy, doesn’t everyone? So congratulations to you, and have a lovely end-of-Feb general celebration thing!!

    TF: you know, I think I agree with you, after all (surprise). Because you make an excellent point – why should you make the extra effort just because it’s Mothering Sunday? Perhaps Valentine’s Day is there (like Mothering Sunday) to make sure we don’t start taking things for granted as much as anything.

    This year I will probably send cards to friends and such, possibly. We’ll see. I will start the day at my grandmother’s and come home in the afternoon and go to church and things will be lovely. It’ll be fine.

    Finally, Adam. Thank you, I’m so glad you agree with me and take my point so wholeheartedly. And no, it’s not going to get me naked :P. I’m sorry if it’s me that quizzed you, it sounds like me to the core. I hope that your various tears/rejection/quiz scenarios won’t stop you from doing the same in the future. I like little gestures too and certainly wouldn’t say no to chocolates or wine no matter who they were from :P. Just remember I prefer red wine!! None of the above should be taken as any kind of hint, incidentally: nudity is not on the menu.

    All I have to add to all of this is that I love you all too, thank you. And, more seriously, if you need it, I hope y’all have the bravery (and here’s all the best of luck) to let Someone know what you feel, whether you say so on Valentine’s day or very deliberately not on Valentine’s day, and here’s hoping that works out for you.

  10. Adam

    Jenny, you have no need to apologise for quizzing me on how it feels to actually speak up and tell someone what you feel… It was a long time ago – I only bring it up because it’s amusing and was relevant to the point I was making…

    And no, it won’t dissuade from making an arse of myself in future…

  11. C R M

    …ooh, fascinating bits of personal history.

    jen, that thar Valentine’s day was the tail end of a party at Whyman’s and a few awful, awful moments.

    Best forgotten.


  12. Jenny

    OH YES that party. Sorry *hugs*. xxx

  13. Adam

    @ CRM – honestly, it’s not actually *that* fascinating…

  14. Valentine’s day is a massive load of bollocks, in the same way that almost every so-called “holiday” on the calendar is a massive load of bollocks, the object of which is to part the guillable from their money. There’s a few aspects of each which can usually be salvaged, though:

    Christmas & New Year: a crazy, boozy present-filled celebration that gets us together with our friends and family at the exact time you need a goddamn party, in the darkest, coldest time of the year. This is why Christmas is totally in the wrong place in the southern hemisphere.

    Halloween: Awesome excuse to have an annual fancy dress party.

    Easter: Chocolate in novelty shapes. There is no bad here.

    Shrove Tuesday / Pancake Day: Actually kind of an anti-holiday, because goddamn it there should be pancakes ALL YEAR ROUND.

    Speaking of feeling emotions, I almost know what you mean. Even the terrible pain of rejection can remind you that you are, after all, still human. Honestly though, I can’t really think of anybody who I would express feelings for this year. There’s about one person I always sort of liked and never said anything to, who I haven’t seen in well over a year, and people I’ve seen around who I don’t really know and the sum total of my interest would be that they look pretty. Anybody else I could think of has either rejected me already, or are already pretty settled.

    Ah well. Maybe I should post a plea for people to love me on my own blog? πŸ˜›

  15. ” I can’t really think of anybody who I would express feelings for this year”

    Oh Andy, say it aint so? ;-(


  16. Jenny

    See, the great thing about being a Christian is that Christmas and Easter = a) partytimes, boozy times, midwinter cheer-up and b) warm and fuzzy and meaningful (Christmas) deep thinking times (Easter) so therefore twice as good.

    Halloween… I have a lot of friends who are all OH MY DAYS WITCHCRAFT and hold massive prayer meetings ‘on this dark, dark night’. No, it’s an excuse for a party and lots of fake blood. THank you. None of us believes in witches either. Halloween is no worse than any other kind of student party event for massive quantities of leg/boob on display and random promiscuity, so personally I say either keep well out of it or have fun with it but don’t go thinking it’s about witchcraft. It’s just another excuse to dress up.

    There should definitely be more pancakes.

    I think emotions are, well, not always, but quite often worth the risk. I’d far rather come out and say ‘I like you’ and get rejected once and for all than spend ages going, well, what if. If there is an ‘if’ to what about. I know what you mean about how there are some people I’ve sort of always background-liked. Sadly there’s this one guy who I haven’t seen in a couple of years and I always thought we would make, like, the perfect couple, but as far as I’m aware he’s still with his gf and I missed all the chances I ever got on that score (and to be honest good thing too – nice as it might have been my life would have been wholly different and I can’t imagine that). Maybe one day we’ll meet again and have lots of very clever small babies.

    No need: I love you πŸ˜› and I’ll come out and say it right here. PS I owe you an email, and I’m sorry to not have sent it yet…


  17. C R M

    J, you shouldn’t trivialise another, equally ancient religion. Hallowe’en/Samhain is a pagan festival that goes back thousands and thousands of years. It’s the traditional new year, rather than January because pagan/celtic traditions celebrated the start of the new year with the death of the Summer God Lugh. The festival of Hallowe’en was adopted by the Catholic Church in order to assimilate pagans into their religion: hence why 31st October is traditionally All Souls Night (I believe) and therefore 1st November is All Saints Day. Hence “All Hallows Eve”, hence “Hallows Even” hence “Hallowe’en”.

    And I’m not just talking out of my thirteen year-old wannabe wiccan self – european pagan traditions dating back to before the arrival of Christianity in the west dictate these festivals. So yes, there is a lot of ‘witchcraft’ about it, but ‘witchcraft’ is not worshipping the devil. It never has been. Yes, it might be about celebrating the death and rebirth of the sun god (ohh, did you know he’s reborn in mid-December…) who is traditionally represented as a horned god, and is therefore now equated with medieval ideas of satan, but satan is NOT The Horned God. Therefore witchcraft is not devil worship. It’s more closely akin to a celebration of the changing seasons and a more open awareness and respect for nature and the planet, and as such is, I think, a deeply beautiful, peaceful, non-sinister religion.

    So on the one hand your “oh my days WITCHCRAFT” people are right: Samhain/Hallowe’en IS about Witchcraft. However, why can’t they live in peace and accept the existence of other religions/religious traditions without fearing them? Does it really matter that people are unwittingly celebrating a festival that predates the Christian tradition? It’s not like they’re doing anything that will cause them to suffer eternal damnation.

  18. Jenny

    Right, Clare: if you’d read my comment more carefully you would have seen that what I was saying was not that witchcraft is in any way associated with the devil or with devil-worship. I was also not in any way trivialising wicca or other pagan traditions. I was pointing out that for most non-religious people Halloween is all about hte fake blood, black lace and white facepaint, and is not about the Devil (which my church friends freak out about) much as for most people it is also not about Samhain.

    What I was saying that Halloween for most people is about having fun and dressing up in the same way that for non-religious people, Easter is about chocolate and Christmas is about getting drunk with the people you love.

    So you’re picking a fight with wholly the wrong person here because I completely agree with you. If you notice, the thing to which I object about Halloween is the fact that for many peopl it’s just another reason to get your tits out. And I am entirely aware that for some people Halloween is a serious religious day, and that’s fair enough.

  19. Psh, Christianity, Paganism. It’s like one schizophrenic trying to convince another than the voices he hears coming out of the taps are better than the voices the other one hears out of the plug sockets… :-p

    Anyway, pancakes woo! I should really learn how to make em this year πŸ˜€

  20. Ah, the oblique slightly not too pathetic plea for love; it always works πŸ˜›

  21. Jenny

    haha yeah i really wrote this whole entry because i’m all bitter and single and really really hoped that someone would read this and think, yeah, you know what, i’m going to go and propose to that girl because she’s pathetic and needs loving.

    Nope – just saying. Still it got lots of bloggy love. And I did get a Valentine’s card – from my wife πŸ™‚

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