OK, so my title’s a bit tongue in cheek. As a Which? employee, I’m a pretty big fan of consumer choice! But sometimes I think we could use a nudge in the right direction, to save us the agony of making difficult decisions.
I’m not exactly anti-Valentine’s Day. My attitude seems to correlate directly to the likelihood that some handsome gentleman will send me a bouquet of flowers, a card or because I’m really not that fussy, a text message.
But having spoken to friends about the V-day, the key question doesn’t seem to be ‘should I do something?’, but ‘what should I do?’ Do you take that special someone out for a romantic meal? Give them an expensive gift? Buy them flowers? Reject rampant commercialism and simply cut a heart shape into their morning toast?
And most of all – it seems you can’t discuss these things with our partner beforehand. It’s not like a birthday, where you can check someone’s Amazon wishlist and grab something you know they’ll find useful. It would suck all of the romance out of the situation, not to mention making you look unimaginative!
Making Valentine’s Day shopping easy
In Japan, they’ve solved this problem rather neatly. On Valentine’s Day itself, the girls all buy chocolate for all of their male friends. This ‘giri’ (literally meaning ‘obligation’) chocolate is distributed among the men, who return the favour exactly one month later. On 14 March, also known as ‘White Day’, the men distribute ‘obligation’ chocolate to all their female friends.
On either Valentine’s or White Day, you can buy extra special ‘honne’ (meaning ‘real’) chocolate for the one you truly love – but you never need to worry about what that special gift might be. It’s always going to be chocolate.
This seems like a pretty good system to me. It might need a bit of tweaking if the love of your life is on a diet, or lactose intolerant, but it removes the pressure of having to surprise your loved one with something personal, surprising, romantic, expensive or all of the above.
Taking the risk out of Valentine’s Day
And as a potential receiver of Valentine’s gifts (no hints intended), I would prefer to avoid the awkward social dance of someone who secretly wants presents, but doesn’t want to ask for them. If your partner has to buy chocolate for everyone anyway, he can make you feel special by giving you slightly different chocolate.
But what do I know? Listening to myself, this all sounds terribly unromantic – a paint-by-numbers version of romance that’s just not… romantic. I’m the sort of person who’d happily agree to a uniform policy at work if it meant I didn’t have to choose a different outfit each morning, so perhaps I can’t be trusted with more in-depth choices like Valentine’s gifts.
I appreciate that romantic surprises can be a real joy, but I’m just not sure the occasional joy is worth the panic and risk that I’ll buy the wrong thing. What do you think? Would social customs or rules around romance have you breathing a sigh of relief, or missing the surprises?