Scanning the results of a poll to find the world's most romantic lines, I was not entirely surprised to discover that my husband's opening comment to me - "Did you know Cary Grant was a necrophiliac?" - was not among them.
OPINION: Unlike flowers, bunnies, slutty lingerie and chocolate that tastes like it's made from rendered penguin fat, the subject of necrophilia has yet to be repackaged for the Valentines Day market. There is a strict list of things that are officially considered romantic, and any fun stuff that fails to make the cut - the companionable Sunday-morning bickering over whose turn it is to make breakfast; finding a moment amid the hell of domestic cleaning duties to share a guffaw at the super-freaky tweed ensembles Kate Middleton wears to racetracks; playing poker very quietly in an airing cupboard to avoid being found by your small children - is considered unromantic and therefore an inappropriate way to spend February 14.
Some people say romance is dead. If it isn't, I'd like to gun it down. There's nothing more impersonal or unoriginal than presenting someone you love with a bunch of red roses, which is another way of saying: Sorry, who are you again?
I can't say I'm that fussed on the winners of the poll on romantic lines, either. Commissioned in the UK by Warner to mark the Valentines Day DVD release of its romcom Going the Distance ("a physically nauseating date movie from hell", remarked a reviewer), the poll found that the most romantic line ever written in the English language was this pearler, from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights: "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same".
Huh? There's a disturbing whiff of the Vulcan Mind Meld in the notion of having souls made from the same ingredients. Besides, Wuthering Heights was largely ruined for me when former British prime minister Gordon Brown said he was a bit like Heathcliff (but hopefully not in the sense that he'd dug up the remains of his previous lovers).
The poll's No 2 line, appropriately, is this unbridled nonsense from Winnie the Pooh: "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you." Honestly, is there anyone left on the planet who could listen to twaddle of this magnitude without wanting to stab their loved one through the hand with a large gardening fork? It's high time deforestation spread to the Hundred Acre Wood.
The only entry in the poll's top 10 that strikes me as genuinely meaningful is this, from W H Auden. "He was my North, my South, my East and West/ My working week and my Sunday rest/ My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song/ I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong." Of course, the reason these lines work is because they're not about love at all. They're about lost love, which is an entirely different beast.
It's impossible not to take love for granted, because the thought of not having it is too frightening to contemplate. Only when someone dies, or leaves, does the thing you've lost show itself in all its terrible clarity.
In my own family, perhaps the ultimate act of love has been my husband's willingness to put up with the various marginally mocking things I've written about him over the years. A recent comment about his late adoption of the Capri pant struck some observers as particularly cruel. Why him? Because my 11-year-old quite rightly threatened to serve me with an injunction if I ever mentioned her again in a column. And because my husband knows, from the contents of our joint bank account, that it is not worth suing me for defamation.
Also, as anyone who writes an opinion column or blog will know, it is an unspeakable tyranny having to come up with something to say when the only real thought meandering through your head is "Please do not disturb", or possibly something to do with having to buy sausages. So thanks, Guy, for putting up with being my default subject.
I've been writing this column for most of the past 22 years, both for this newspaper and for the late lamented Evening Post. Readers, you've suffered enough. Happy Valentines Day, thanks for reading, and goodbye.
- The Dominion Post