x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Of pink teddy bears and secret Cupids

Love is in the air once more, and Valentine’s Day arrived yesterday with the usual cocktail of roses and cards being exchanged and a plethora of broken teenage hearts.

Love is in the air once more, and Valentine's Day arrived yesterday with the usual cocktail of roses and cards being exchanged and a plethora of broken teenage hearts. Long conversations have already been held trying to pacify friends who are convinced that if they don't get asked out by their crush this Valentine's Day, the rest of their lives will hold no meaning.

My Valentine for this year, rather sadly, is Cinnamon, the neighbourhood cat. A gaggle of us girls went shopping the other day trying to pick the perfect gifts for our Valentines, and while there were a couple of older girls who spent hours at perfume shops sniffing a million scents for a special someone, the rest of us simply bought something for Mum, Dad or a best friend. We finally had to stagger out of the perfume shops overcome with sneezing fits and all smelling disturbingly masculine, and quickly retreated to the relative safety of a Hershey's outlet.

When we compared gifts later, I suppose my rubber mouse looked a tad out of place among the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and pendants and mushy cards, but I did tie a pink bow on it for tradition's sake. Which I had to remove before I gave the present to its recipient, along with the rest of the packaging, in case Cinnamon ate it.

Lisa was still without a Valentine and wasn't allowed to go on a date until she turned 18, but all in the spirit of harmless fun, decided to see if she could find someone who would look good with her. Every time she spotted a potential Valentine, she would discreetly pinch or kick the rest of us until we followed her instructions and started "acting immaturely". This consisted of everyone adopting gormless expressions and bad posture, or pulling faces - everyone except Lisa - which was supposed to make her look like a shining beacon of perfection among a sea of flawed beings in the eyes of the guy in question.

In the end, when a sales assistant politely but firmly asked, "How may I help you?", we were forced to drag Lisa off to the ladies', where we imprisoned her in a cubicle by wheeling a nearby janitor's trolley in front of the door and taking flight. We'd forgotten that the cubicle doors opened inwards, though, so it didn't take her long to free herself. This is the first time I truly appreciated the wisdom of whoever was behind the whole "Hell hath no fury" thing.

Dana, a friend in the UK I was chatting to the other day on Facebook, had been considering all of our suggestions for what she should purchase for Liam, the chap she's going out with. She finally decided on a four-foot-tall pink teddy bear. "He told me he'd like a new football or headphones or something," she shrugged, "but this is so much nicer; he'll be so surprised." She's got that right, surprised is probably one of the things he'll be.

I think we're all romantics at heart, try as we might to pretend we're above such trivial inconveniences in life. My old school's charity committee would do a roaring business every Valentine's Day selling rather battered, excessively beribboned roses, with tags on them that proclaimed in curly handwriting "From your secret Valentine". All for a quid.

"Secret Cupids" would deliver the rose to the chosen person, often in the middle of lessons, so everyone could go "aww", the teacher would silently simper and the receiver would blush furiously, revelling in the attention. Anonymity was guaranteed, they said, but as the "secret Cupids" were members of the student council, news usually spread and it wasn't hard to trace every rose-sender in the year. The crux of the matter was that the more roses you accumulated, the more popular you were. Which meant that there were plenty of people who thought nothing of spending a fiver and getting five roses delivered to themselves - from "their secret Valentines", of course.

Then there was the year when the committee decided to take a leaf from the book of Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter, and have secret Cupids who'd deliver messages in the form of love songs. Needless to say, this didn't work too well. The Cupids kept losing control and would start giggling uncontrollably in the middle of a love song, and more often than not didn't know half the words. The receivers of the messages would start dancing around shrieking. An irate teacher finally put an end to the whole affair and the idea, unique though it was, was scrapped.

This year, Valentine's Day was celebrated in the same spirit, with all the malls bursting with plush animals clutching crimson hearts. My choice of a Valentine - the cat - is probably not a very apt one, but I don't think I could have put up with not being part of the festivities. Here's to everything pink and fluffy!

The writer is a 15-year-old student in Dubai