It was valentines day the other day. This time last year, or a bit earlier, I was commissioned by an appalling magazine in Prague to write an article about it, including interviews with locals and expats. Now I didn’t have anything to say about it, didn’t care for it particularly and most importantly didn’t have a clue how to incorporate interviews into an article, having no journalism training. Still, I did it, e-mailed it in to the editor (a vacuous wannabe fashion-mag editor who openly admitted she couldn’t read English enough to judge what a good article was) and waited for the reply. There was none. I e-mailed her a few times again, still no reply. The magazine duly came out the next month with a raft of the most turgid commercially sponsored pro-valentines crap I’d ever read and not a sign of my bit. I suspect it was a little negative for their tastes, but at least I would have liked a reply , a simple ‘no thanks’ or something.
it isn’t like it’s going to get published anywhere now, not a great loss as it is pretty much piss-poor (though better than anything in that rag), out of date and a long forgotten nights work. Rest in peace, shitty valentines article:
A few hundred years ago Nicholas Valentine died. To celebrate his martyrdom greeting cards and chocolate manufacturers and all manner of restaurants go to implausable ends to make previously happily single people feel like shit. In the UK and its former colonies romantic couples have, for time immemorial, been spending money on plastic tat and having messy drunken arguments to celebrate. How is this charade progressing in what was once Eastern Europe? And is there anyone alive who actually likes Valentines day barring those who rake in money from it? I took to the bars of Žižkov to find out.
“Valentines day is all new since 1989,” said Šarka, a barmaid from Prague. “It’s like New Years Eve, everyone has to be in love all of a sudden and if you get no card, no kiss, you feel bad.”
Lisa, a film producer from Manchester, agrees: “It’s good if you’re with someone, if not then it kind of sucks. I don’t like all that romantic bullshit, but at least nobody seems to celebrate it here.”
It is certainly true that the signs of impending Valentines doom, wheeled out on New Years Day in England, are thin on the ground here. The only signs to be seen are Nescafe sponsored ones in cheesy pizza restaurants and the only cards a brief search found were the traditional Czech re-usable birthday cards with an adjustable age on the front.
Still, the beast is growing year on year. “It’s depressing,” says Miriam from Oslo, “In Norway six years ago we didn’t celebrate it. Now the stores and the media control it all. We are like little America, copying their ideas of Valentines Day and Halloween. Nicholas Valentine was a Russian saint, not an American.”
Her friend Amanda shares a sense of bewilderment at this unwelcome import. “It’s ridiculous, it makes me laugh. If I had a boyfriend on valentines day and he gave me something, I would be disgusted.”
So, Hallmark, more than mawkish sentiment is apparently needed to con the peoples of Europe into spending $5 on a piece of cardboard. The entire appeal, in fact, seems to be vague and incomprehensible to us Europeans. Maybe an American can explain.
“It’s a completely commercial holiday that sucks money out of men’s pockets to provide useless trinkets for girls,” suggests Eddy from Austin, Texas. “I do like it when my mom buys me candy, though.”
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