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When my best friend, flatmate and, well, essentially my wife and I lived together at university and were both single, we decided to treat ourselves to a really amazing Valentine’s Day meal from M&S. I gave her a card I made, which I pretended was from Ray Winstone*.
Fast-forward ten years, and we’re living together again, and this is the first time since then that we’ve both been single on Valentine’s Day.
Being single on V-Day (or VD as I like to call it) has never really bothered me, because clearly it’s the most ridiculous, fictional non-holiday in the history of the planet, and I’d much rather save all my angst for the massive bunion I’m currently cultivating on my right foot. I almost always pretend it’s not happening (Valentine’s Day, no-one can pretend that bunion’s not happening).
BUT, my favourite restaurant, The Lido Café (it’s overlooking Brockwell Lido, so if you’re feeling whimsical you can pretend you’re on holiday, not in the middle of South London), has an amazing set Valentine’s Menu.
Now, I could skulk around at home, eating a takeaway pizza and thinking about the lovely scallops in hazelnut butter that I’m not able to consume, because I’m not in a relationship. OR, I could put on a nice dress, grab the wife, and celebrate the least romantic day of the year with a shared cheeseboard.
I rang up to book about a month ago, and they were already full for the 8pm sitting – clearly Valentine’s hysteria has already hit South East London.
I got us in a bit later, and did start to feel a twinge of guilt when they asked us to pre-order our food. Clearly they’re going to be rammed, which means we’re using a table a real life, actual couple could have.
What if we’re taking up a table that could be used by a couple on the rocks, who were going to use a Valentine’s meal to fix their relationship, but he didn’t book on time, and now they’re silently eating burgers in the Prince Regent next door and she’s simmering with resentment whilst texting her sister under the table to ask if she can stay in the spare room for a few months?
Or what if a couple on their first night out after having a baby rang up to book just after me, and missed the last table? What if she’d been planning to put some make up on and get dressed up for the first time in eight weeks? Instead she’ll spend Thursday night sulkily eating chow mein and resentfully replacing the pads in her nursing bra.
OR What if it’s a couple of 18-year-olds in the first flushes of young love and heavy petting? What if he’d saved up for weeks from his Saturday job to take her out for a spectacular meal which would almost definitely help him to lose his virginity, and I scuppered it?
Then I remembered that I was being ridiculous for several reasons:
1. If they did an amazing set menu for £27.95 a head every day of the week, then I’d eat out then. But they don’t, they do it on COUPLES' DAY, so really I have no choice.
2. Nowhere on the menu or during the booking process did they specify that I had to be in an actual couple. It’s just been heavily implied.
3. If a couple really are on their last legs, some really nice organic guinea fowl isn’t going to save things. Unless you happen to be in a relationship with Henry VIII.
4. The very fact that I feel the need to justify going for a meal with my friend on Valentine’s Day is ridiculous in the extreme.
And even though I know all of these things, and I’m generally a bit bolshy about this sort of thing, I still feel a little bit guilty, and a bit like I’m not meant to be there.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going - in fact I’m going to get far more dressed up than I’d ever bother to normally and might even go for a posh cocktail first. We’ve also ordered the Cotes de Boeuf for two to share, making this THE MOST ROMANTIC MEAL IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
And I know I’m going to have a fantastic time – odds on a far better time than I’d have if I was on a date. So what’s my freaking problem? Anyone?
Tell Rebecca what her freaking problem is @rebecca_hol.
*She’s got a bit of a thing for Ray. To be fair, who hasn’t?