It’s Valentine’s Day AND my wedding anniversary this week. This means I have to prove my love for my wife twice. And both in the space of a few days. This isn’t going to be easy.
‘Don’t worry about buying gifts,’ she tells me, ‘we’re off to Spain in a few days, we can celebrate together then.’ She doesn’t, of course, mean a word of this. She once told me that she wasn’t into birthdays. That didn’t end well for me.
I’m sat at work, scouring the internet for gift ideas. ‘If love is blind,’ I think to myself, as I roam aimlessly from website to website, ‘how come lingerie is so popular?’ Valentine’s Day really does bring out the cliché in people. I’m trying to come up with something that is simultaneously original yet not so costly that it gets me punched out by my bank manager.
Choosing a card is the easy bit, though I’m stuck between one that says, ‘You’re my favourite pain in the ass’ and another that puts things far more simply: ‘You’ll do’. Then I remember that I’m going to need two cards, so I buy them both.
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Nine years ago, we took our honeymoon in a small town on the southern Spanish coast. Every year since, we’ve returned there to celebrate our anniversary. So far, we’ve had ‘Anniversary Part 2’, ‘Anniversary 3D’, ‘Anniversary: The Revenge’, ‘Anniversary: And This Time It’s Personal,’ and a number of others in between. This year, we even returned in December and had ‘Anniversary: The Christmas Special’, with a guest appearance by a waiter who looked very much like Vladimir Putin but probably wasn’t.
We tell friends that our yearly trips are designed as twelve-monthly marriage summits – a little like the annual Davos’ World Economic Forum, but with fewer elites and only one item on the agenda: a full audit of our marriage to date. We tell people that, at the end of each series of meetings, we sign off on an agreement regarding whether or not we should pursue our relationship further or merely call it a day and move on. It’s surprising how many people take us at our word:
‘How was the trip? … You guys still OK?’
‘Yeah, following a completed appraisal, we have decided to give it another
year and re-evaluate from that point onwards.’
‘Oh, … OK. Well, I’m glad you’re both good for now.’
In reality, we’ve usually just chilled on the beach and shared some nice food and drink at local restaurants, all shoe-horned between sunshine strolls and siestas. In the words of Tanita Tikaram, it has become a ‘good tradition’.
* * * * * * * *
I’m running out of days. I’ve not got much time left in which to choose the correct gifts. Should they be things that she wants or things that she needs? Would she prefer a physical object or an experience? Or both? And what is the accepted ‘spend-to-love’ ratio? These things aren’t taught in schools. Teachers were happy to relate to me how frogs have sex, but few were prepared to impart any real world wisdom. This is what our taxes are wasted on.
I receive a text from Nat later in the day, telling me that she will have to work late on our anniversary, as she has to present at some kind of safety audit meeting. This lowers my options even further. I scratch off ‘Go out for meal’ from my list of maybes.
* * * * * * * *
On the morning of our anniversary, Nat wakes me up by sitting on me, which results in ‘Umph!’ being the first word I get to utter on our special day.
‘Ha-ppyyyyy Anniversaryyyy’, she sings, tapping me repeatedly on the forehead with the card she is holding. She is clearly more of a morning person than me. And possibly more of a sadist.
‘Happy Anniversary,’ I croak back at her, without feeling it necessary to open my eyes.
‘Nine years!’ she sings at me. ‘Nine years! You’ve put up with me for Nine. Whole. Years.
‘Yes,’ I say, ‘I have.’ I try to turn over.
‘Open your card,’ she tells me, tapping it on my forehead a few more times before pushing it into my hand and closing my fingers around it.
I open the card and am obliged to read it, which requires having to open my eyes. It hurts but I do as I’m told. ‘Thank you,’ I say, and reach out to touch her face.
‘And your present,’ she says, ‘Open your present.’ She slips a small package into my hand.
With my other hand, I reach into the bedside draw and pull out my card and gift for her. ‘Happy Anniversary back at ya,’ I say.
I slowly sit up and we both open our gifts together.
Turns out that my spend-to-love ratio is spot on. How do I know this? Because we’ve both bought each other exactly the same thing: perfume by Issy Miyake. We both like this stuff.
‘Thank you,’ she says, hugging me.’
‘And thank you,’ I say, hugging her back.
We formally shake hands before jumping into action and racing each other to the shower. She wins, so I return to bed with a coffee.
‘Pressure off,’ I say to myself. ‘At least partly.’ I’m now fifty percent out of the water for another year. Only Valentine’s Day to go. Wish me luck.
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