The valentine’s Day flipside: Breaking Up Bad

This week, routine grocery shopping will be viciously disturbed by buckets of crimson roses, placed to deliberately trip you up at the checkout. Beside your pint of milk you’ll find lashings of sickly pink chocolate boxes. Suddenly, the humble loaf of Hovis is flanked by Hallmark card sentinels professing an alarming amount of affection. For god’s sake, you think.


It’s February 14th, a day of romantic celebration and preferably requited love. 


If to celebrate life is to celebrate death; then to celebrate love is to celebrate loss. No, this is not going to turn into a philosophical riddle. It’s Monday, and we’re all too grumpy for that. This will be far peppier.


My worst break-up consisted of being escorted out of a pub during a birthday party and abruptly let down by the side of the road. I couldn’t go home as we were sharing a hotel, so we had to sleep together whilst no longer together. As I’d had no warning, I had no time to make it glamorous. I couldn’t buy cigarettes in preparation to chain-smoke on a balcony whilst listening to The Velvet Underground. I just cried – the ugly way – giving myself chapped lips and a migraine.

The sort of glam break-up selfie I should have been taking

Yet historically, romances faced far gorier ends than this. Charles II was conveniently diagnosed with an addiction to women… I guess it gave him some excuse for at least 8 known mistresses and 13 illegitimate children. For the Tudor ‘it’ couple, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, a broken neck over a broken heart was the preferred method of ‘ending things’.


A bounty of modern-day indecent ordeals exists too, e.g. Lady Annabel, who had a plethora of offspring with her lover, famous banker James Goldsmith. Later their son, Ben Goldsmith, had to endure the embarrassment of having his wife, Kate Rothschild, caught in a sticky affair with New Orleans rapper, Jay Electronica. A most disagreeable tabloid headline for a bunch of haughty banking heirs.


During the covid-era, deeds went down at Downing Street, with cover-ups worse than low budget concealer. Though obviously, not everyone who experiences a break-up is rich and makes the newspapers. The allure of love – ephemeral, unnameable, inexplicable – dogs us all. It is so great that almost every human alive gambles their heart to play the game… at least a little.

(L) Kate Rothschild marrying Ben Goldsmith (R) Kate Goldsmith after her fall from grace, with rapper Jay Electronica

One of the most testing environments in which to find a relationship, let alone maintain one, is London. Cities have never been conducive to connection… a curious quirk. But here is our solution, and it plays into our desire to turn life upside down to keep going. To treat it with a laugh, even when it hurts; say no to safety, even when it’s hard.


So, what about taking some vows?! ‘Til death do us part’ should ensure avoidance of break-ups… forever! If you have someone, just propose to them immediately. Don’t worry about the ring, there’s plenty of time for that. Apply for a marriage license first, that takes at least a month.

If you’re currently unattached, propose to a friend, or a neighbour, or a colleague. Propose to your local barista, or dog-walker, or your ex. Propose to the first person you see in the morning, just don’t propose to a family member (unless far enough removed?!)


Ok, so you don’t want to get arrested, fair enough. What about a match-making service? Unpopular in the West, sure; still popular in the East. There are many who argue science and psychology are more reliable tools for long-term success than feelings and sexual chemistry.


You see, we claim we are jaded or traumatised by our past break-ups. But we meet people all the time and pick them apart because they don’t have enough tattoos or maybe aren’t very pc. We date non-stop but rarely think about committing in a serious way. We watch couples on screen and cry; but can’t build strong connections ourselves because we’re addicted to dating apps. Valentine’s Day is a capitalist, consumerist carnival… but what if our relationship habits are too?


Break-ups are painful, but maybe the modern world is hurting us as well. While you must never stay with someone bad, it might be worth looking at the people around and seeing if they’re really worth leaving behind. After all, it takes nothing to run away with a silly idea of something better around the corner; but a promise to stay shows courage.

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