I’ve done the Paris mini-break, which used to be called a dirty weekend before Bridget Jones sanitised the whole concept of going away for the weekend to have a lot of sex.
And I failed utterly to summon down love. In fact Mini-break Man and I argued and didn’t speak on the Eurostar home. He stared at the Financial Times. I stared at the cabbage fields of northern France.
It began well enough. Mini-break Man took me to a lovely hotel with heavy silk curtains and chandeliers, just like in Gigi. Then catastrophe arrived in the form of a housekeeper’s uniform. My skirt was crumpled so I sent it to be ironed, because I was on a mini-break and on a mini-break you deserve the best, no? Then we made adequate love on the floor of the bedroom. A knock on the door interrupted us. I put on a bathrobe and opened it. It was the housekeeper with my skirt. She looked at me as if I was revolting, because I was having sex in the middle of the day.
“Enjoy yourself,” she spat. But I’m in the City of Love! I’m on a mini-break! I don’t understand! And I might not have been having sex. I might have been resting. Or my clothes might have been stolen by communists.
Anyway, we went out to recover and outside the Pompidou Centre, I laughed at a Parisian street performer, because he was wearing a comedy wig. But I didn’t laugh in the correct way because he physically attacked me with an ice cream and chased me and Mini-break Man towards the Seine, screaming in the way that only a thwarted actor can. Our mini-break imploded in a puddle of recrimination and mutual sulking, as we digested the painful truth that we were not having a fabulously romantic time. I was angry that Mini-break Man hadn’t thrown Ice-cream Man in the Seine. He was angry that I was behaving like a Jewish Princess Grade One, when normally I am only a Grade Three.
“Romance happens when someone shows you they love you when you’re sweaty”
I’ve realised I always behave badly on mini-breaks. They bring out the monster in me. I sulked in Venice because Another Lover (not Minibreak Man, we broke up after Paris) didn’t buy me a stupidly expensive handbag. Please don’t judge me too harshly. He could afford it. He’d just rather spend it on expensive dentistry. What was I thinking, wanting a stupidly expensive handbag anyway? It was the curse of the mini-break – overblown expectations and a need for huge gestures. You love me! Buy me a bag!
I even behave badly on dates. Comedy Boyfriend – my latest – won’t even take me on dates. He says I’m always playing with my phone, and I am, because, particularly after Paris and Venice, I don’t like romantic gestures. If you are asked to prove you love someone in a 48-hour period, you will surely fail. Humans don’t think like that; advertising does.
A real romantic gesture is never something Hollywood or Ad-land would consider romantic. It’s not a diamond as big as the Ritz or even a box of After Eights, although I do like them. Romance happens when someone shows you they love you when you’re sweaty, or weepy, or tired. When you are human, vulnerable and icky. When you’re on the loo, crying and not for human consumption.
Valentine’s Day, the annual obstacle course for couples. Everyone dreads it because it is naff – heartshaped balloons and mass have to be perfect for your adored love one. One moment you are farting in bed and shouting abuse at David Cameron on Newsnight, and the next moment you are holding hands and looking lovingly into his eyes like a woman who has overdosed on rom-coms. No wonder everyone cracks under the pressure and fights like angry cats. The typical romantic gesture is something people do to show they are romantic. And that is not the same thing as love.
Being driven to the hospital for an appointment at an STD clinic – now that’s romantic. OK, I’ve thought it through and it’s not. But being driven to the chiropodist is. “Drive me to the chiropodist, my love, because my feet hurt. (I do not want a stupidly expensive handbag)”. “Yes,” he says, “I love you.” We kiss over the swollen feet. Fade-out. End.
Main picture credit: Rex Features