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Valentine’s is for everyone! New Anti Valentine’s trend catching on.

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Image courtesy of bouncelondon.com

Image courtesy of bouncelondon.com

It’s official, Valentine’s Day is no longer the sole domain of nauseating couples. No longer will the unattached cower at home with only the TV for company, but instead throw off the shackles of hundreds of years of single-stigma. They’re owning the day for themselves. And about time too, many will cry!

Look at it this way: according to recent ONS figures, there are currently about 10.2 singletons in the UK (after we subtract those pesky 4 million cohabitees), 4 million divorcees and 3.3 million widowed folks, none of whom are going to be particularly thrilled at the prospect of the pubs and restaurants being monopolised by a hand-holding, eye-gazing, footsie-playing minority who have managed to clamber off the sofa and put on ever-so-slightly-dated-clothes for their annual date-night en masse.

anti valBut hey, not to stereotype singletons or couples, sometimes we married folk hate Valentine’s Day too! I know, shocker! I hate being taken advantage of, having restaurant prices hiked up when I just want to scoff a burger, having my usual drink re-Christened from French Martini to Velvet Vanilla Valentine Fuzzy Bear. I can’t stand plush toys and I don’t want my food/drink to make me think of them. The husband and I tend to pick the day of the year when we’re having the most fun (which incidentally is seldom February 14th) and declare that V-Day.

Yet, in response to the inescapable rampage of Valentine’s Day pressure to be out, to be seen as one half of a couple and the presumed pity heaped on anyone who does not conform (be they couple or not), many establishments have decided to hedge their commercial bets and pander to the Anti-V-Day crowds instead of the usual suspects.

Image courtesy of The Candlelight Club.

Image courtesy of The Candlelight Club.

Last weekend, while I was in London I noticed no fewer than five Anti-Valentines events, the most high-profile of which was being held at Bounce restaurant by the popular Guilty Pleasures DJ night. But also the craft beer mecca The Draft House and the hush-hush speakeasy Candlelight Club were using this as their theme. While the format seemed to involve being single and generally celebrating the fact, the prices were still weirdly high and the drinks still had funny names.

So while the idea of reclaiming February 14th for the masses is appealing, if you really hate Valentine’s Day as all these events claim, you’ll hate its commercialisation and may resent that anti-Valentine’s events are fleecing singletons in the same way they have fleeced couples for years.

Anti-Valentine's nights such as this one at the Draft House in London are proving surprisingly popular in our lonely age.

Anti-Valentine’s nights such as this one at the Draft House in London are proving surprisingly popular in our lonely age.

That’s not to say that a small act of rebellion against this exclusive celebration is stupid. The way we feel about valentine’s day tends to change from year to year. I remember February 14th 2007. I was 24, ridiculously single and in San Francisco with my Dad (who kept ducking off to ring his girlfriend). The commercial onslaught had not yet reached the UK so I was overwhelmed by the scale of Valentine’s in the US. I was browsing in Tiffany’s (of all the days to do this…) and accidentally strolled into the ring section. Over-eager women were pulling along their boyfriends who wore a permanently shell-shocked expression (they’d obviously clocked the prices). It was pretty amusing as far as people-watching goes.

‘Why should they have all the fun?’ I asked myself and headed upstairs to the (much cheaper) other sections. There, I purchased my singleton ring, a lovely heart that reminded me to love myself whether anyone else echoed that sentiment or not! It has stayed on my left hand, only shifting to my thumb upon my wedding day a couple of years later. And there it shall stay, a Valentine’s reclamation for evermore.

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Venting the Birthday Curse

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birthday-clipart-4

My brother once tried to make me a birthday cake. I accidentally ruined it by putting the two domed sides on top of each other to try and get a flat top. The chocolate cake cracked in half and the cherry filling came oozing out. From then on it was christened the ‘Placenta Cake’.

A couple of days ago I turned 30. It’s a big one I know. And as predicted, I spent a good chunk of the day in tears because I knew it would be awful in advance. Don’t worry, not in a drama-queen way, I’m more of a cry-in-the-bathroom-then-wash-your-face-and-come-out-smiling sort of girl.

My brother ignored the day (though graciously turned up to get his free meal out), my party was cancelled due to the blizzards that have magically turned up on January 18th for a few years running now. My friends tend to disappear into the wilds of London, never to return for non-London parties. Oh yeah, and I got my period (inevitably). Yup, last year’s party was pretty bleak too.

Birthday parties aren't really my style anymore because I tend to end up feeling like this cat.

Birthday parties aren’t really my style anymore because I tend to end up feeling like this cat.

As we are both penniless recent graduates, my husband said my card would have to be my present (although he did make an attempt at one and bought me…cupcake cases so I could bake something for him like a good little wifey). He also decided that he would have to return to his native USA to find work, leaving me back in Britain for 6-9 months until my visa comes through.

I had booked myself a haircut (if no one else was going to make a fuss then I’d just have to spoil myself) as due to illness I haven’t had one in six months. The husband said we couldn’t afford it so I had to cancel. He then suggested we go to Supercuts but after walking aimlessly around shops he wanted to go to, Supercuts was closing by the time we arrived. I went home to cry and miss my mum. Basically the day was a shitshow and maybe a sign of the year to come.

But it wasn’t very surprising as, to date, the following things have happened on previous birthdays:

14th Straightforward case of forgotten birthday.

16th Mock exams followed by my mother telling the family she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

17th More exams

18th Exams yet again

19th Row with my now terminally ill mother

20th Then-boyfriend hit a dog that had slipped its lead and ended up on the dual carriageway.

21st My mum had just died, I had just been diagnosed with a long-term health condition and been dumped as a result.

22nd Appointment for a scan at the breast clinic – yay!

To be honest, from then-on I have spent the day hidden away if possible. Or on my own. It seems the best course of action. Which is weird because I love helping other people celebrate their birthdays. I really do! I love picking out presents for them (I keep a running list on my phone of possible presents). I love repeated choruses of ‘For he/she’s a jolly good fellow.’ I love making their favourite birthday cakes (such diverse creations as a bonfire cake made of Matchmakers, a red fondant fez hat, a must-be-followed-to-the-letter blend of chocolate sponge, marscapone cream, cherry sauce and chocolate ganache every year for my father (he forgot this one too), a chocolate marmalade cake – you name it I’ve done it, and enjoyed doing it. I love to see the reactions on people’s faces when they’re happy.

But not everyone is happy. It seems I am by no means alone in having a birthday curse.

This particular long-running forum discussion catalogues a myriad of birthday disasters, quiet birthdays spent alone after everyone forgot, birthday parties where no one showed up, birthdays spent planning surprise birthday parties for other, more memorable people. Also writing in are those who hate the attention their birthday brings from people who insist they have a big party every year (has the Queen been on this thread?), who are always being asked what present they want, who seem, frankly, ungrateful and don’t get the point of the birthday ‘curse’ or the forum thread.

The most startling aspect of this discussion is the conduct of mothers toward their offspring – forgetting birthdays, leaving after graduation to have dinner with their latest toyboy. One poor woman tells of her mother planning a favoured sibling’s funeral on her birthday so that it has remained a day of family solemnity for evermore. Yet her father’s birthday was closer and purposefully avoided for this very reason. The excuse always seems to be ‘sorry – I forgot what day your birthday was’. Which begs the question how, when it was simultaneously the most memorable, painful and joyous day of their lives, surely(!)?

Maybe the day following these anguished typings, things got better for these unfortunate wretches. Because birthday curses are only for birthdays.

As if by magic, the day after I turned 30, some delightful things occurred: my husband got an interview at a London investment bank (fingers crossed) who agreed to pay for travel and accommodation (free trip!!!) and a close friend very kindly booked us afternoon tea at The Ritz for my first proper big-girl birthday which I will always remain flawed at.

And I’m not feeling terrible about my 30s. Whereas the first few years of my 20s were wracked with uncertainty, hospital appointments and a sense of failure, I have tried to make up for lost time and have turned 30 with a very lovely husband, plethora of happy memories and a top degree which I hope to use to make myself proud.

I’m a very fortunate girl (I’ll always be a girl) indeed. Just not on January 18th.

So if you suffer from a birthday curse, happy crappy birthday to you – I hope the year ahead is better than that one rubbish day!

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Knitting: will you still love me tomorrow?

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So is knitting still cool? When asking yourself this question as a young woman, you are effectively asking ‘Does Zooey Deschanel do it’? If Zooey’s at it then it’s cool. Or maybe just ironic. If she’s not then your hobby is slightly too quaint and grannyish.

A girl of many talents: Crochet fan Zooey Descanel also plays the Ukelele. Image courtesy of Joe Cereghino.

Like Ugg boots, knitting is something that was once terminally unfashionable and consigned to the over 50s but has in the last five years risen like a phoenix from the denture fix, to be embraced by the young and the hip. This inevitably gives it the shelf-life of any trend. Uh-oh. What if this means that my beloved hobby is now on the road to naffness (rather like that word itself) and that by the end of this year I will never be able to mention it in public again except at my covert knitting symposiums with the widow Nesbitt?

Knitting makes me happy. I started to learn it as a child but didn’t really get into it until I took a part-time job at a yarn shop and mastered the basics so I’d know what all the grannies in the shop were going on about. There’s something about the hypnotic rhythm of the stitching, the pleasing clack of the needles and the productivity that warms the heart. It’s also a hobby that you can learn at your own pace, seeking help from your elders who have spent years patiently amassing their expertise.

Me not looking as cool as Zooey (it was a bad hair day OK?) knitting away.

Incidentally, in an episode of New Girl, Zooey’s character was shown to be hosting a ‘crochet night’. Alas, surely now knitting is yesterday’s news with crochet muscling in and production of decent knitting patterns nose-diving in favour of obscure crocheted Manga characters.

Which then begs another question: when did merely knitting no longer become good enough? When did my calming hours of knit, purl and the occasional yarn over (cheeky!) become a contest of who can be the most outrageous? Old style knitting groups had names like The Women’s Institute but new groups are called things like Stitchin’ Bitches, Crochet Hook-Up and Purl Necklace. We get it, you like double-entendres. But does a good old gossip and yarn sesh have to include notions of meat-market sexual hedonism to attract members? OK I concede that knitting has  many in-built puns (just looking back at my yarn over comment there) and we Brits as the creators of the Carry-On movies have natural long range pun-seeking capabilities.

The groups aren’t to blame but now there are hierarchies within the knitting community, with knitters at the bottom of the heap beneath those who crochet, the spinners and the increasingly attention-seeking ‘guerrilla knitters’.

Yes, who knew knitting could be an extreme sport? Well it is, and can be political, humourous, or just kind of annoying rather than pleasingly quirky. It is starting to boil down to marketing of products and column inches in the media. We’re kind of getting to the same point in the knitting trend as when rock descended into spandex and hairspray.  And that’s sad because when all this is over I’ll still want to knit a lacy shawl every now and then. I just don’t want to be told it’s ‘so two years ago daaaarling’.

When A Blog Is Born…

Oh dear goodness me, I’ve started this blog by paraphrasing Johnny Mathis.

Well I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. It’s my least favourite Christmas song (yes, even more than that atrocity committed by East 17).

– Why oh why are you going on about Christmas songs in the middle of the summer Lexie?

Er, well, myself, it may have something to do with the fact that it is 1.49 am and you should be asleep.

– Easier said than done.

Right. Well it appears I have given birth to a beautiful bouncing baby blog (don’t worry – it won’t actually be about babies – yet). Maybe tomorrow I’ll give birth to an actual logical thought.

– Well one can live in hope.

Oh do shut up, myself.