WHY I’M RECLAIMING THE TRADITION OF GIFTING THIS VALENTINE’S DAY
During my University years in UCC, I practiced a yearly Valentine’s Day tradition of watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet on VHS in a personal booth in the Boole library. Watching Leonardo DiCaprio practically go through puberty on screen was an emotional process and I felt as if we came of age together. Leo had dominated most of the architecture of the bedroom of my youth – not an inch of wall was left untouched by Leo’s iconic image in Romeo and Juliet and the space in between the bed and wardrobe was occupied by a giant cardboard cut-out. On a side note, there was also a scandalous poster of David Boreanaz in a bubble bath (Angel was my most consistent weekly viewing pleasure) but we won’t dwell on that. Growing up on a diet of the classics, as encouraged by my Dad (a Jazz/Shakespeare/F. Scott Fitzgerald enthusiast), ever since I could write, I was spilling ink on that infamous topic of love; reading about it, experiencing it (the many unrequited crushes of youth) and searching for its true meaning. Was it as Romeo said ‘a smoke raised with the fume of sighs…a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes…a sea nourish’d with loving tears….a madness most discreet?’ or as Emily Dickinson so simply puts it; ‘ love is life—And life hath Immortality—’ or as George Bernard Shaw said; ‘a little foolishness and a lot of curiosity?’ My views on love are constantly evolving but hypothesising about the ephemeral, intangible concept of love is ever an obsession.
Ask any of your friends what they are doing for Valentine’s Day and they will tell you; ‘I’m not really into that sort of thing’ of ‘We’re not really that kind of couple.’ It seems that love has, all of a sudden, become somewhat of a dirty word. And Irish men are not exactly renowned for their romantic gestures. But is it really that bad to have one day a year that’s reserved for the celebration of love? Here’s my top five picks for gifting a friend/lover/potential lover or self-gifting in the true style of self love as so beautifully captured in Derek Walcott’s Love after Love.
- WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights should be a rite of passage for every teenager worldwide. The love between Cathy and Heathcliff is such an intense, unbridled, passionate love that it whets the appetite for the intensity of emotion and feeling all teenagers crave. The relationship is explosive – the enduring allure of Heathcliff is magnetic and is possibly one of the most complex love stories ever fictionalized. Although the story is one that can be read at any age, I will never forget my first experience of reading this as a young adult. The thrall of this unknown, elemental sexual chemistry was exciting, new territory yet simultaneously felt familiar as the pangs of first love were being experienced in my own life. Roads Publishing has re-issued the novel and indeed many of the classics with new cover art-work, making this the perfect Valentine’s day gift for any lover of literature.
Gabrielle Coco Chanel is loved the world over for revolutionising womens’ wardrobes. At at time when women were bound by corsets, Chanel introduced shirts and ties for women and the inimitable ‘little black dress.’ She was the original trailblazing female , having never married, she claimed that she ‘never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.’ While most of us can only dream of Chanel ready-to-wear and couture, Chanel lipstick or nail varnish is an affordable piece of luxury from the storied Gallic brand that built an empire. Go red for that classic Valentine’s look. The shade I’m wearing is coquelicot.
3. ROADS SCENTS
Many of my fondest memories are inextricably linked with the smells they evoke: Freshly baked scones in the childhood home; the smells of one’s lover from the sheets when he is gone; the salty smell of chips at the seaside; the talcum powder smell from my nieces and nephews as babies, drying them after a bath. The new collection of scents from Roads Luxury Group is like an olfactory of memories. Bitter End rustles up images of brisk Sunday walks among moss and heather, Neon brings me back to the headiness of my youth, the first dances and first dates, sweet and endless possibilities, This Weekend is a strong night-time scent, a night out with a mature lover, relishing fine wines and stimulating conversation. My favourites have to be Clockwork – a peppery androygnous smell, streamlined and assured and Harmattan – a scent reminiscent of Turkish bazaars, strolls in Marrakesh – an Eastern promise of explosions of colour and adventures around every corner. All the fragrances are available as separate perfumes but I highly recommend the selection box of ten vials of different perfumes, each one as unique as your mood.
4. ELIZABETH ARDEN
This is my favourite new highlighting product and there’s nothing that’s not profound about adding some sparkle to your complexion! Elizabeth Arden has really transformed from the toasty beige compact days to the most innovative skincare (Prevage) beauty label on the market. This highlighter/bronzer duo in ‘gold illumination’ is simply dazzling (pardon the pun).
I love antique jewellery. Every piece has a story behind it and it feels as if my Rhinestones necklace holds memories. Rhinestones on Andrew’s Street, Dublin has some of the most spectacular pieces of jewellery I have ever seen, rare gems and antique finds from decadent art deco rings to Victorian pearls and everything in between. This necklace was given to me by my sister for her wedding – I was the maid of honour – and it has a very special place in my heart. It was a winter wedding – the 29th December – and we wore red, a regal look as it snowed around us. She was married in UCC’s Honan Chapel – the floor of which I have never seen the like. When I wear this necklace it brings back floods of memories of my sister and best friend getting married.
If you’re not the sort to give romanitc gifts, make like Carol Ann Duffy and maybe give your loved one an onion. Or not.
VALENTINE By Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.