Don’t be my Valentine, then

The as yet unnamed panda nibbled on some carrots, tired of the celebrations and fell asleep. AFP/MOHD RASFAN

The as yet unnamed panda nibbled on some carrots, tired of the celebrations and fell asleep. AFP/MOHD RASFAN

Those characterisations in the Woolies Valentine’s campaign are what real love is about. It’s not all fluffy kittens, red roses and beautiful sunsets.

If only we could monetise outrage – especially that which regularly erupts on social media – South Africa would be one of the wealthiest nations on the planet.

Twitter and Facebook burned red hot last week over the supposedly demeaning, sexist, unromantic Valentine’s Day marketing campaign launched by Woolworths.

The topic didn’t even trend on Twitter, meaning there were probably only a hundred or so people who felt their very existence threatened by the Woolies attempt at a different look at love.

Yet, perhaps the shop chain was social-media gun shy – understandable after it was pilloried for “stealing” commercial ideas from small businesses – so they caved in under the “pressure” and pulled the campaign.

So, what was the fuss all about? A copywriter, thinking properly “out of the box” – as opposed to paying lip service to that concept, which ad agencies and marketers often do – based her (or his) ideas around the theme #Love Always Wins.

The person you love can irritate you (that’s life) in myriad ways. But that’s not enough to pull the plug on a relationship. He “touches your hair, he doesn’t know the title to ‘your song’, he makes plans without telling you, he uses the wrong emojis in text messages and believes he’s entitled to the remote control”.

She, on the other hand “orders a salad and then steals your chips, she takes forever to get ready, she snuggles you to the edge of the bed, she uses your razor to shave her legs, she says she’s ‘fine’ when you know she’s not”.

And that, in those characterisations, is what real love is about. It’s not all fluffy kittens, red roses and beautiful sunsets. It can be – but it’s also about realism.

It’s about seeing those irritations and looking past them … and allowing the chemistry to continue to do its work.

True love – the stuff that lasts way longer than even the longest memories of a Twitter row – is also hard work. It’s about compromise and commitment.

Not very sexy. But they are the glue which keeps the blocks of desire, lust – whatever you call it – together. I once had a girlfriend who smoked defiantly in my presence, and even stubbed out her fags in my car ashtray … where I stored my cash notes.

I saw a few of them burned to a crisp. That riled me. Bearing the genes of a nit-picking Fitzpatrick, I couldn’t resist pointing out to her that, in clumsily applying her make-up, she rather had “tooth stick” and “finger polish”.

That was pretty irritating to her.

Did we love each other any less for those traits? No. Did they break us up? No … something else a lot more serious did.

I will not tell you about the little things my wife does which annoy me (OK – just one: when she needs something done, she doesn’t nag – she asks sweetly “please won’t you…?”

Why can’t you just order me to do it?). I reckon that I annoy her frequently (it is my remote, I seldom listen, I am infected with epidemic-scale laziness, I interrupt to make snarky comments during “chick flicks”, I can be overly critical and I hate Leonard Cohen) … but she’s stuck it out.

I don’t go for the Valentine’s Day rubbish anyway. Before you label me unromantic, I celebrate the day we became “an item” – August 26.

Every now and then, I quote her the words from a ’70s Orleans song – “We’re still having fun and you’re still the one…” There – now go and get outraged.

Brendan Seery.

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