Why I find Valentine's Day toxic

February is miserable enough as it is. The nights are long, the wind is cold, and it’s ages until Christmas. Then, to top it all off, we’re meant to get romantic. That’s all we need.

Valentine’s Day has always filled me with dread, even when I wasn’t single. Something about having to funnel all your affection into what is otherwise another ordinary day seems to ruin the passion rather than inspire it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love love, but cheap prosecco, £5 teddy bears and Milk Trays just don’t impress me. I’m not high maintenance (I promise) – I’d just rather have nothing at all than the cliché tat from the entrance of Tesco.

The only thing worse than the gifts themselves is the reluctance with which men buy them. Some of them rock up on the evening of the 13th, stand in front of the saccharine stand and sigh, before snatching up a crumpled card, a highly-flammable teddy and some wilting roses. You even sometimes hear two strangers share a dismissive remark: ‘That time of the year again, isn’t it mate?’ ‘Yeah, can’t bloody wait until it’s over.’ ‘Gotta keep the missus happy somehow.’. All followed by that knowing hypermasculine chuckle. As they leave, you can see them think, ‘Ah, romance done for another year, thank god’.

Don’t get me wrong, I know not all men are like this, and I’m sure some are completely sincere when it comes to Valentine’s. When the topic comes up, however, the general male response seems to be an eye-roll and a snarky comment. They might love their partner, but almost all of them hate the day designed to celebrate it.

Why do they carry on acknowledging it, then? The answer is simple, really. If they didn’t, all hell would break loose.

I’m not exempt here – if my hypothetical boyfriend decided to sack off Valentine’s for the year, I’d be pissed, even though I resent the whole thing. Collectively, women’s romantic expectations seem to be inflating, no matter how anti-consumerist we claim to be the rest of the year.

There’s so much hype around it now that we can’t help anticipating its arrival, even if we’d really rather not. Romance has turned into an almost solely female affliction, and it affects us more than I care to admit.

For us single gals, unless you have the superhuman power of total indifference, the day is inevitably depressing. No matter how many times you remind yourself how much hassle relationships are and how perpetually disappointing men are as a species, you always end the night eating ice cream, wishing there was an arm around you.

It doesn’t take long to get over that feeling, though. As soon as the bubblegum pink and lurid red has been banished from the shelves (but not before some knock-off chocolate has been purchased), those feelings of relationship FOMO tend to die down.

It’s not the same story if you’re in a relationship already. If your relationship is super stable, and you’ve established how to create romance authentically, then Valentine’s is a joy – I’m not a total love-Scrooge. But if you have any doubts about the state of affairs with your partner, the love-fest can be pretty sickening, and not just because it’s so cheesy.

Let’s say your relationship is on its last legs. You still love each other, but you’re not in love, but it’s too early to give up just yet. So, Valentine’s becomes a symbol of trying to salvage the unsalvageable – an even more significant test of romance than ever. And you both know exactly what’s going on.

As you face each other at dinner, the steak is just a bit too tough and the wine a bit too sour. The love songs humming in the background sound like they’re mocking you. But it’s Valentine’s Day, so, of course, you both have to feign perfection.

In many ways, this is much worse than being single. Instead of feeling a bit lonely, you have a deep pit in your stomach where you know you’re doing wrong by both yourself and your partner by keeping up the illusion, but the crushing weight of expectation means you have no choice. This pressure alone can break relationships.

It’s all well and good to cringe at the nauseating cards and pointless gestures until they’re the only things holding two people together.