Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Massacre

As another Valentine's Night draws to a close, I can be pleased with the knowledge that I did not add to the vomit-inducing hearts and flowers fluff in the features pages. Instead, I asked a few well-known Irish faces for their anecdotes about dating disasters and unfunny Valentines.
Nothing like a shot of schadenfruende to make the heart grow fonder...

From yesterday's Weekend magazine in the Irish Independent:

VALENTINE’S DAY is a tough time to be heartbroken, single – or even to be in a relationship. The hearts-and-flowers expectations of the date can make the most practical person feel hard done by if they’re not being whisked off to Paris in a hot air balloon.
To make us all feel better, some well-known faces have been telling Weekend about their past dating disasters and worst Valentine’s Days. The path of true love rarely runs smooth….

VIP publisher MICHAEL O’DOHERTY remembers a terrible blind date who ended up blind drunk.
“About 10 years ago, a family member set me up on a blind date with a girl he worked with. She was sold to me as a doctor (promising...), tall and blonde (another box ticked...), and was funny, charming and without any obvious hang-ups (OK, I'm sold). We arranged to meet in a bar for one, before going to dinner.
She turned up 45 minutes late and, while pretty, was wearing Doc Martens and combats. She asked for a pint of Guinness and, 15 minutes later, another one. When I reminded her about dinner, she suggested one for the road.
An hour and a half, and four pints later, she suggested we skip dinner, and go to a concert in the Sugar Club. Once there, she raced to the bar, ordered two cocktails, sat down with me for 30 seconds, and then announced “I need to dance”. She ran (alone) to the dance floor, and started dancing with the first guy she saw.
Then I did something I'm not proud of - I walked out without even saying goodbye. I never saw her again, nor did I ever go on a blind date again. I'm guessing she married a publican.”

Novelist NIAMH GREENE on her romantic break from hell.
“My husband , then boyfriend, took me to County Cork as a Valentine’s surprise years ago. We were both poor students at the time and he had saved for ages to pay for it so it was a very special occasion.
Things didn’t start well when we were given the smallest, grottiest room in the place – it felt no bigger than the broom cupboard and the bedclothes looked suspiciously rumpled. There was one grimy window (with iron bars in case we felt inclined to try to escape).
Dinner was included in the stay - as was half a bottle of house white - but the dining room was strangely empty. We were practically the only people there. I began to realise why when the meal was slapped in front of us by a scowling waitress who clearly felt very underwhelmed by her job.
We tried to enjoy it, despite her fierce attitude and the terrible food (prawn cocktail, chicken or ham, trifle). But then I found a long black hair resting under my grey looking ham and I lost my appetite somewhat.
I didn’t say anything though; I was far too scared what the waitress might do to me.
We persevered and tried to feel romantic, but the last straw was when she plonked herself across from us, emptied her tip jar and proceeded to count out the coins one by one, muttering about tight-fisted diners all the while. We finally admitted defeat when she began stacking chairs onto the tables around us. It was still only nine o’clock.
Even though it was such a disaster, we were hysterical with laughter about it afterwards, even when we discovered the bath had a scummy soap ring round it and a previous guest had left countless used tissues in the bedside locker. The experience proved what I already knew – there was no-one else in the world I’d rather be with, through thick or thin. Twenty odd years later I still feel exactly the same way.”

Broadcaster and All-Ireland Talent Show judge JOHN CREEDON knows what it is to suffer for love – his first date combined public humiliation, walking 16 miles in the dark and getting bitten by a dog.
“My very first date was a complete Valentine’s Day disaster. I was a young fella, 16 or 17, down in west Cork and I really, really fancied this girl I met at a disco in the town. Well, it was a bit of a makeshift disco but they did have those UV lights that were new at the time. So I asked her to meet me again the following night, which was Valentine’s, at the same place.
I was so excited, looking forward to my hot date. I had my groovy pair of monkey boots on – they were the precursors to Doc Martens – and I thought I was the coolest thing ever. The sole had come away from the upper, so before I went out I found some Bostik glue in my aunt’s kitchen and lathered that all over it. I was all set.
I waited and waited outside the ‘disco’ until I thought I had been stood up. She finally approached me and said: ‘John, how are you?’ I hadn’t recognised her at all – I thought she had freckles and really white teeth from what I’d seen the night before. Obviously I wasn’t used to that ultra-violet effect!
So that didn’t impress her and when we got inside, it went pear-shaped altogether. I started dancing around until not only she was looking at me but half the dancefloor. The Bostik was luminous under the UV light and I had a giant glowing foot. I looked like my leg was radioactive.
To top it off, my cousin was due to give me a lift back from the disco in Castletownbere to my aunt and uncle’s in Adrigole but I missed him. I had to walk 16 miles home on a freezing February night. And then I got bitten by a dog on the walk home. I got back at 7.30am and I’ve never been so glad to see my bed.”

Weather and Lotto presenter NUALA CAREY was once offered a romantic weekend away – but ended up on a hen night instead.
“My birthday falls around Christmas so it’s bad news for guys – it can be hard enough thinking up one present, never mind two. So this one Christmas, the guy I had been with for a good while covered all bases with a message in my Christmas card that he would treat us to a weekend away in the new year.
That was fine, but things hadn’t been going terribly well. As time ticked on, I felt the relationship was doomed and I think he probably did to. So in the end, I said straight out to him, ‘Look, I don’t think I can fit in a weekend away at the moment, so just give me the money instead and I’ll treat myself.’
He gave me e200 so he got a bit of bargain really – that wouldn’t have covered a weekend in Paris! In fact, I think I went away on someone’s hen weekend with it in the end. I know it sounds terrible, but I think it worked out better than us going away and being miserable together.
Sometimes it’s not about the big gestures. If we stopped for petrol and a guy went in to pay and came out of the garage shop with a bar of my favourite chocolate, I’d be just as touched and impressed.”

COLM LIDDY knows something about marriage - his book, I Love You, But… 40 Fights Between Husbands and Wives, has just been published as a Penguin paperback – but says romance is hard to make room for when you’re married with kids…
“Here’s how Valentine’s Day goes for my wife and I: We kick off with an attempt at breakfast in bed. Within minutes, we have several other little bodies – our smallest is two – jumping in with us, so it’s all about putting extra milk in the tea to avoid second-degree scalding.
My wife would be very of the school of ‘Now, don’t be getting me anything,’ but wait until the bouquets of flowers start arriving for everyone else in work… Ignore what she says and get a gift.
After work, where you’ve obviously sent her the contents of an Interflora van, you might want to make preparations for going out for a romantic dinner. If you haven’t got a babysitter already arranged, forget about it. If you have, the wife will want to tidy the house before she gets ready to go out in case the babysitter might see the place looking untidy.
Once the babysitter arrives, they are on the clock and you still have to get ready after all the tidying. Then there’s the drive to make the dinner reservation on time, and the wife getting stressed because you’re driving too fast and you tell her men have superior eye to hand co-ordination and anyway 99 per cent of accidents happen to other people.
After you’ve had a dinner served by waiters who didn’t want to be rostered for this night and driven home quickly again to let the babysitter off, you’re about to hit the sack, exhausted. Until the three-year-old needs to go to the toilet because the babysitter didn’t make her go before she went to bed. Yes, that’s a fairly typical Valentine’s.”

Young novelist RUTH GILLIGAN found that you need a good sense of humour to cope with the dating scene in America, where she is currently in college.
“I was on my first date with this guy and it hadn’t been great, so I was happy when we finished dinner. But when we came out of the restaurant, we couldn’t remember where the car was parked. I had had a couple of glasses of wine, so I definitely wasn’t sure and he was really embarrassed.
After a good half hour walking up and down the neighbouring streets, he decided to ring the car pound and sure enough – it had been towed. To make matters worse, he had only brought cash for the meal and didn’t even have a credit card on him, so I had to pay to get the car released.
I could see the funny side of it, but sadly, Americans don’t have quite the same sense of humour at times and he took himself very seriously. We left the restaurant at ten and it took the guts of two hours to locate the car and get it back. By the time midnight came, I had most certainly turned into a pumpkin.”

PADDY POWER of the bookmakers Paddy Power saved up for the grand romantic gesture but it was lost on his Valentine’s date.
“I was only in college and saved up for a couple of months to buy my girlfriend a Russian wedding ring. It was 45 quid at the time which was really expensive for me. I was so excited, it was my first time buying a piece of jewellery for a girl.
So we went out for dinner on Valentine’s night and it was all going well until the subject of jewellery came up. She mentioned that she thought giving someone a ring could be really presumptuous – and all the while, there I was with this ring burning a hole in my pocket.
I had also organised that the chef would come out and give Jane – that was her name – a rose. The guy came out alright, handed her the rose and said, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day… Lisa’. At that stage, there was nothing for it but to give her the ring. She was so embarrassed that she almost ran away and I went home and told my mum what had happened.
Still, Jane did later become my wife – although she had to wait about ten years before I offered her a ring again.”

Model RUTH O’NEILL was dreading Valentine’s Day after breaking up with her first boyfriend – until her dad became her knight in shining armour.
“There’s only one Valentine’s that sticks out in my mind. I was 18 and I had just broken up with my first real boyfriend in middle of studying for my Leaving Cert mocks. I was completely devastated – life was just awful and Valentine’s Day was going to be awful, as far as I was concerned. I couldn’t eat in the week running up to it, I felt so heartbroken.
Then on the day itself, I went with my dad who wanted to look around a car salesyard. Very romantic. And then my dad just turned around and bought me a Mini-Cooper car. I jumped on top of him, I was so excited. Now this was the height of the boom – around 2006 – so don’t think this would happen every year. But my dad has always been one to buy my sister and I heart-shaped boxes of chocs every year. He was my knight in shining armour that year – although he rode in a black Mini, not a white horse!”
-As told to SUSAN DALY

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