I cannot write about how Valentine happens anywhere apart from Lagos. University of Lagos, to be precise. In the female hostels, girls will exchange stories of the romantic getaways their boyfriends planned for them the previous year, knowingly daring said boyfriends to outdo themselves for the next Valentine. Smart girls will drop hints of what they want for the special day. Smarter ones will bluntly say what they want. Woe betides the man who gets the message and refuses to act on it!
Then the day will arrive and girls will try hard to feign indifference—all of them failing horribly at it. The day matters. The gifts they will receive matters. It isn’t unusual for one to hear excited squeals or soft awwws as the gifts start arriving. A girl will put her box of expensive chocolate right where everyone will see it so they can pick up their invisible party pack of envy as they pass by it. Another will fling yet another teddy bear mock-carelessly to her high pile of cuddly things, all of them carrying red hearts, “I love you” inscribed on each. Of course, there is always the one with at least five cakes from her different lovers who somehow think they are the only lover. The luckiest of them, the winner of the night, is the one whose lover gets her a new car or is flying her out to Dubai for the night. The air is thick with competition; the clouds are heavy with it like rain. The men who dare get their woman things as insignificant as “an ordinary new dress” were the unsung heroes for the night. They didn’t do enough. Listen, no girl will come to your room to hear about how your unromantic boyfriend sent a small cake with cheap perfume to you for Valentine. That won’t put your name on the lips of Moremi girls.
It never matters that cheap perfume and “an ordinary dress” is what said lover can afford. After all, he has the entire year to save up and prepare for Valentine’s Day! Can’t he see that exaggerated shows of affection are reserved for this red day? I’m almost completely sure that at least one girl will compare her lover’s gift to some Nkechi’s boyfriend’s gifts. Of course, the men folk will take their grievances to social media. They will post tweet after tweet about how their girlfriends bought them cheap gifts and expected the world in return. It makes you wonder why these men don’t say it to their girlfriends instead of the rest of the world.
Valentine this way is the norm. It is hard to imagine it any way else. Singles will laugh or envy on the sidelines, dreading or looking forward to the next Valentine when the cycle will repeat itself. Mostly, everyone wanted to be the girl whose Valentine gift was most talked about in Moremi Hall. But, of course, no one will openly admit it. The only time it doesn’t sound petty is on paper—or a computer screen.