9 February 2024

The year our Valentine's Day went down the toilet

| Jen White
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The Valentine's Day "gift" that ended all Valentine's Days.

The Valentine’s Day “gift” that ended all Valentine’s Days. Photo: Shutterstock/Region Illawarra.

A few years after we were married, my husband and I decided that Valentine’s Day was a commercial crock and not a day worth wasting money on.

Funny how there’s a world of difference before and after marriage, isn’t it? Or should that be a different world?

Like other young loved-up (pre-marriage) couples, we exchanged cards and gifts for no reason, I occasionally received flowers and we dressed up to go out for dinner somewhere special.

In those days there were still “special” restaurants where it cost an arm and a leg, but it was worth every cent.

One particular restaurant in Parramatta was our “go-to” for special dinners. Waiters dressed in smart suits met you at the door, smiled like they actually were happy to see you and escorted you to your seat.

It was high-class dining, silver service at its best – a place that made you feel welcome, as if they knew it was a “special occasion” for a young country couple more accustomed to pub fare.

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It was the days when people thought little about smoking in a restaurant (shock horror) and no sooner was a cigarette taken out of a pack, a waiter magically appeared to light it.

In the corner a man (dressed in a suit of course) played a piano – beautiful dinner music at a level that allowed table conversation without shouting at each other, as well as tunes for a romantic dance, actually holding each other, in between courses.

There was none of this, “Do you want to book the 6 pm or 8 pm sitting?” palaver, where you’re rushed to decide on your food, rushed to eat it and rushed right out the door before the next lot rush in.

Far from it – entrees were savoured and diners given ample time to digest the fine food before the main meal was delivered with panache. It was a real night out in itself, not the precursor to a show or the movies.

They were the days when photographers and flower sellers quietly moved among the tables, usually later in the evening when customers were feeling happy and mellow and money was made to be spent. I’m sure I’ve still got one of those cutesy pics in a box somewhere, the one marked pre-child.

My point is, we didn’t need to wait until Valentine’s Day to enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner. We didn’t need an excuse to buy a card or overpriced roses just to prove to the world that we were in lurve.

In fact, the last couple of times we bought Valentine’s Day gifts we decided to make it a bit of a competition.

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The first year it had to be something starting with ‘v’. I went all out, made up a witty poem featuring ‘v’ words galore and attached it to a vessel containing Violet Crumbles, Vegemite and even a Vanity Fair magazine. It’s probably somewhere in that same pre-child memory box too.

I can’t even remember what the husband bought, but I know I won hands down.

However, he put a definitive full-stop to our Valentine gift-giving the next year, when he won the “Buy the worst Valentine’s Day present” competition.

The memory of whatever I bought pales into insignificance compared to his “gift” … a toilet plunger, complete with red ribbon.

It moved house with us a number of times and for years claimed its justifiable pride of place in the centre of the bookshelf, where visitors were bound to ask what the story was behind the toilet plunger “trophy”.

But of course, the inevitable happened and one day we had to call the plunger into action. No longer a trophy, just another dirty household tool consigned to live out its usefulness shoved into a dark cupboard out of sight.

I figure my darling husband still deserves to carry the title of chief shit-stirrer, even after three and a bit decades of marriage. Valentine’s Day – who needs it?!

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