Rosie Johnson Illustrates
Freelance illustrator

Notes from the studio (it’s a shed)

Hush the Mush. The best gift you can give this Valentine's Day...

The clashing pink and red season is upon us. Valentine's Day means different things to different people. It is, in turn, nonsense/ sweet/ harmless/ cynical/ wonderful/ upsetting. However you view it, you can't ignore it entirely. 

The pressure to be romantic is ridiculous. 

Photo credit- Unknown origin

Photo credit- Unknown origin

Romance, at its core, is about celebrating the person you're with as a person in their own right. The sentiment often bandied about is 'you complete me.' It's sweet. I get it. I'm not really as curmudgeonly as I'm making out. But, if I'm honest, I'm far more into the idea of two people who want rather than need each other.

So, with that in mind, I like to see what's out there that's not too obvious; that might be focussed on the actual people involved rather than the abstract concept of V-Day. Something that might take more thought than the forecourt flowers.

I'm finding myself increasingly riled by the 'Gift Ideas for Her' that are popping up all over the place as this day approaches. 

If you're buying into this whole thing and you genuinely want to get something for someone you love, a key question is,

"Are these items really the things s/he loves or are they just the things s/he does?" 

The 'Gifts for Him' tend to be based on hobbies: football, golf, music, film- they're still massively gender stereotypical but at least they're usually things he might enjoy doing by choice. 

According to a swift search of that there inter-web, women love prosecco, tea-towels and whimsical jewellery with their children's fingerprints on. 

Let's tackle those: 

1. Prosecco. Yum... This was a bad example. No, hang on, it's still valid. Has prosecco become the latest, lazy, girl thing? ALL WOMEN LOVE IT. ALL of them. Sorted, there's a deal on in the cash and carry. Done. 

Is prosecco classed as a pastime now? I've seen prosecco candles, for goodness' sake. Because the only possible way a woman can relax after her God- awful day of drudgery is a deep bubbly-candle lit bubble bath. Soaking away her troubles, breathing in the heady aroma of a pre-kebab Hen Night.


2. Tea-towels- because women LOVE drying up. It's our favourite and our best. Now, I like a tea towel. It's a useful, functional item and it's nice to have an attractive one. But the use of one has not made it onto my bucket list. Shame really, because it's nice to have things to tick off.


3. Whimsical jewellery. As a gift from the children for Mother's Day? Fitting. 

It only really grates when it's the birthday/ Christmas/ Valentine's offer too. Some women are mothers. I'm one of them. I'm unlikely to let it slip my mind. I'm more than fleetingly fond of my sprogs but to deem motherhood a hobby would be to block book the therapy sessions for the next decade. I love them. I love doing stuff with them and for them but they're exhausting. Hand on heart, if asked what I'd choose to be doing at 6.30 on a Saturday morning, the answer is NEVER going to be mending Lego models, picking bits of cereal out of my hair or watching Paw Patrol. Being a parent defines a person to an extent, but it's the polar opposite of a self-centred treat.

The gift of time to get into the flow of something you love, which makes you feel entirely you and keeps you in the moment (I'm starting to take back what I said about prosecco) now THAT's a gift.

Where are the presents reflecting the things we'd choose to do? TV and film, sport, books, creative arts, comedy? 

Make it personal. Because, that's kind of the point isn't it?

Make it personal. Because, that's kind of the point isn't it?

I think what I'm saying is, whatever you choose for your significant other, think of something that's about them as a person, not a role. What they'd choose to do, not what they end up doing all the time. No-one wants a loo brush, no matter how many diamanté stickers its boasting.

Thoughtfulness really is the point. If flowers and chocolates genuinely are the thing then hooray, but hush the mush if they're not. You are not contractually obliged to book a table, buy the crappy rose or munch your way through rolls and rolls of Love Hearts in the hope you'll find something more heart-felt than "Text Me."

Don't be governed by search filters or recommendations from the button marked  other sheep also bought...  You know the object of your affections best, go with that.

And, if in doubt, a snog and a cuppa.