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On love, money and Valentine's Day

  • 13 February 2019


After 18 years of nuptial bliss (and dross), it's difficult to think of different gifts or ideas for Valentine's Day. What's your take on it all? The cards and gifts? The meals and moves?

While I enjoy dining sans kids, I'm no besotted swain looking to win over a paramour. Cupid shot me in the arse a fair while back. I like the act of giving gifts — in some ways it's a way of expressing a symbolic debt — but, for me, Valentine's Day is a chance to say thanks to my partner for still being there, and for helping raise our kids and build a life. It's not so much a grand romantic gesture, then, as an annual placeholder for the heart.

To be fair, Australian males are not necessarily recognised the world over as the most ardent or demonstrative of lovers. And to be candid, Valentine's Day is built on some fairly shaky historical ground.

There are at least three Valentines (all martyrs, ironically) who are recognised as saints by the Catholic Church. One Valentinus was said to have ignored a Claudian edict for soldiers to be single, by marrying young lovers on the sly. The historicity of that account may be on a par with the various Saint Nicholases paving the way for Santa Claus to barge his way down our chimneys each Christmas.

A more likely suggestion is that the early church popped St Valentine's feast day on to appropriate the 'Lupercalia' fertility rites (15 February), when the pagans would get down and dirty to honour their agricultural deities.

Rather than honouring a prelate offering bridal trysts, or hoping for a good harvest, I'm inclined to spare a thought for the Greek philosophers and poets who set up shop well before Romulus and Remus; I like to muse over their various efforts to pin down love.

The word philía, which we use left, right and centre as a descriptive suffix, means a deep affection; an abiding friendship between equals. In these respect-driving, Me Too times, this is a much more realistic description in relationships; it's especially true in most long-term relationships when ardour is on a slow burn rather than a blaze. The laughter and conversations I share with my significant other are just as valued as our caresses and embraces.  


"The long-standing bet for us, on those rare occasions my wife and I escape for a bite together, is to see