On Twitter, my friends ask me to write about what it means for Christians to think they are leaders and over coffee my friends ask me to write about all the kinds of things Christians should never say on the radio but what I really want to talk about is romance and nobody ever asks me to write about that!
Sometime later this week it is Valentine’s Day. I don’t actually know what day Valentine’s is because I think in decimals and yet the week stubbornly insists on being septenary. I don’t worry too much about what to get Wife-unit when it comes to Valentine’s Day. As an expert on many things (how to burn milk, how to wear a hat so that I look like am hiding smuggled counterfeit cigarettes under them, the novels of Douglas Coupland), I know that it is always wise to trust experts. My go-to expert on what women want used to be Mel Gibson but it turns out that I am fairly sure that conspiracy theory-laden, paranoiac, anti-Semitism is a fairly niche interest with the ladies and now my trusted go-to experts are supermarkets. They have fancy algorithms and extensive market research and a sterling profit motive and from my hapless wandering around supermarkets I have discerned that the modern woman wants stuffed toys, chocolates in love-heart shaped boxes and One Direction themed stationery.
Sometimes I push the boat out and do something special for the foolish woman who has to live with me. I might try and remind her of how splendid I think she is. They are showing Amelie and Brief Encounter in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar so I might surprise her with an outdoors picnic. Or perhaps I’ll surprise her at work, take her across the road to the Science Museum where they’re doing something about the neuroscience of love. Of course all of those ideas are things that Wife-unit just read out to me and we have no intention of going to any of them. After all, Dublin in mid-February is no place to have a picnic, nevermind nocturnally. And while the Science Museum serves nice coffee, I probably don’t need to be told that love happens in my brain cos my brain already knows that.
Perhaps we can go to the little church off Aungier Street that claims to have a relic of the real and actual Valentine. What could be sexier, after all, than going to a sacred space maintained by nuns to observe a bad statue that hides a vial of blood that claims to be from the body of one of potentially three men who were martyred a few centuries after Jesus?
The answer that I can confidently assert after 31 years of wooing ladies is nothing.
Complaints about Valentine’s Day are so commonplace that I wouldn’t be surprised if card companies published a line that read “Valentine’s Day is a scheme created by Hallmark to dupe us out of money but here is a token to suggest you mean something to me.” I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day with my wife but I do take the opportunity on February 14th to do something stupid for her, in the hope that she will mistake it for charming.
The Book of Proverbs, which is in the Bible, says that he who finds a good wife finds what is good. Gratitude for the good things we can enjoy is pretty much the most basic and primary step a human being can take towards being well and healthy and happy. So as someone who has never celebrated Valentine’s Day, let me counsel the most unfashionable and sincere of advice: use the excuse to express your gratitude. We may be right when we suspect that we are being duped if we fall for the pink-hued commercialism of Valentine’s Day as retail-initiative. But let us not be blinded. The most authentic thing we can do is use whatever thimble of creativity at our disposal to express the sheer gushing delight that other people bring out in us. If you don’t have a spouse or a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a significant other or a partner or whatever else it is we are meant to call people we kiss, then use the excuse to be creative in telling someone you would quite like to kiss them or better again, use the day to tell your friends you have no intention of kissing that they are more important to you than you can ever know.
As I get older and approach baldness and middle-age and all the crankiness that surrounds it, I am more struck than ever with the fact that the Gospel makes sense of our desire. It redirects it and restructures it and renews it. But the longing we have for God does not lessen the longing we have for others. It does not render romance or passion or the erotic mute. It brings them into right proportion.
Your Correspondent, Calls a lawyer everytime someone watches a YouTube video of animals doing it