All these years later, I still have, in almost perfect condition, my first Valentine's Day card, received it in my first year in secondary school at the ripe old age of twelve, from First Kiss. I met him the previous summer on the 'swimming bus'. There was a teenaged middle-man involved - my neighbour and First Kiss's cousin, dodging between the rows of seats, excitedly passing on information like a spy.
'He likes ya. Do you like him?'
There I am, slightly stunned and feeling totally out of my depth, but also very giddy with excitement, that a boy, any boy, this boy, would look at me that way. I was speechless and responded with a series of shy nods of scarlet cheeks.
The middle-man negotiated that I sat beside First Kiss. At some stage, he earned his pseudonym and kissed me. It was as harmless as a peck that you might administer on a newborn baby cousin, but it was electric all the same.
Meanwhile, one of the chaperones on the bus complained about the song wafting out of the bus radio, 'You're My Favourite Waste of Time', by mullet haired Owen Paul. He wore tight jeans, boot runners and a white off cut t-shirt. I thought he was 100% gorgeous. The chaperone ranted and raved about what she would do if her husband called her a 'waste of time', an angle I hadn't considered til then. Maybe you'd call it my first introduction to feminism.
The promising start with First Kiss didn't go very far. He lived two towns away from me and attended boarding school. It was 'in the olden days', pre mobile phone. His out-of-the-blue Valentine's Day card months later made my cheeks burned when my mother handed it to me. It was lovely, after all these years, that First Kiss sent me a birthday wishes this year. He seems to have made a full recovery from our short lived encounter. It's probably fair to say that verrucas from the swimming pool would have lasted longer than our romance.
Until fairly recently, I wasn't holding out much hope of a Valentine's Day card this year. I was preparing to mothball my Love Boots when Mr Private came along. Given the chaotic time that I have had of late, there is a certain irony in the fact that I am seeing a therapist - I kid you not. I tell him that I'll looking for a companion, not a counsellor. He smiles at me and reassures me in his gentle lilting tones that I couldn't afford him anyway.
There's the delicate matter of Valentine's Day. It's all VERY SOON for laying all our aspirational cards on the table, with the actual cards that we chose. Mindful of my lectures from friends telling me to slow down and not wanting to sound too keen/desperate, I opt for humour, a card with a photograph of a husband and wife taken in 1930's Ireland, looking less than happy, entitled 'Happy Couple'. Having embraced feminism (while to this day defending Owen Paul's 1986 tune), I also present him with a bunch of flowers.
There is no such faffing around with Mr Private's card to me though. It declares, in red glitter, 'For my girlfriend'. All that's missing is sound effects.
'Is that what I am then', I ask, 'your GIRLFRIEND ?'.
He's saying nothing, but he's smiling again. I think he wants to keep me.