The pressure builds after the January sales. The pointless Breville steamer /furry jumper/and once worn shoes are stowed away and the February winds chafe as I brace myself for another Valentine’s Day. Luckily, I’m an optimist. The promise of an official renewal of romantic urges (and maybe a small chocolate) can usually entice me out of a warm bed to face another day. The local restaurants are usually booked up with couples staring at each other over a single rose and planning to renew their love before ‘Newsnight’ finishes - so I try and remember to get a meal for two (oysters’ n mash) in the fridge.
I always hope that each Valentines night will be the one to unleash an explosion of romantic affirmation in one fizzing climax. That’s a lot of pressure for one day, I grant you, but it’s important to maintain standards or at least have hope.
The worst Valentine’s Day I ever had was when I was 17. Which must be why I hold the festive occasion so dear. Nothing must ever compare to that awful day. First of all, I failed my driving test – and when I got back to open the post I discovered a handwritten ( and very long) letter from my boyfriend at Kent university explaining exactly why he had to chuck me. He was very thorough, and by the time I had got to the end I was not only heartbroken I was also in some strange state of karmic shock.
My mother was dismissive. ‘Oh for goodness sake Helen!’
she exclaimed ‘He was bald anyway’
this was true –he was prematurely wispy for a twenty year old – and then she added the fateful sentence ‘and anyway, there are plenty more fish in the sea.’
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This lack of rationality, prompted me into a newsagent to buy the biggest card I could find and pop it, personally through the letterbox of a boy called Christopher Sparrow. I knew he liked me and I was clutching at straws. Also he was he was going out with my friend at the time. Worse. I signed my name. The next day at school, I noticed a distinct chill in the senior common room as I went in to make my mug of Nescafe during morning break. Suzanna (the girlfriend of Christopher Sparrow) was holding the (huge) card and inviting the rest of the sixth from to comment on my ‘treachery’. Not only was I sent to Coventry, I was also sent a note signed by Christopher (written by Susannah) requesting that I should leave him be.
Oh the shame. But even now, I still tell my daughter that the best way to get over a chucking is to find someone else’s immediately. Interestingly she doesn’t listen which is why I wrote ‘Losing It’. It's for women who want more and settle for …well enough.
by Helen Lederer is published 12 February 2015 by Pan MacMillan. Read a FREE extract here!
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