‘Prepare to be bathed in woke': the Guy Who's guide to Valentine's Day | Adam Riches


Valentine’s Day. 14 February. Known the world over as the most romantic day of the year (apologies, Shrove Tuesday). But were you aware that it is also peak break-up time for couples? That’s according to some statistics I’ve knowingly twisted to suit my own agenda. Either way, it’s certainly a busy time for me, the Guy You Meet Right After You Come Out of a Long-Term Relationship.

Initially I’m just a friend … but that’s not what I’m after. I have a nice smile, an easy manner and no car. You’ll recognise me if you’re single, female and just trying to enjoy a quiet moment on your own. You’ll also recognise me if you’re male, single and just looking in a mirror. So prepare to be bathed in so much woke you’ll swear you’ve just been licked by Justin Trudeau.

When the Guardian first slid into my DMs to ask if I would be interested in freestyling a piece on “the perfect Valentine’s” I have to admit, I had no idea what the Guardian was.

The only paper I pretend to read in public is the Observer – physical edition. I’d much rather chug a chai alongside a publication that has taken a full week to locally source “the 5 best dessert wines to accompany climate change”, than one that can rattle it off in a day.

And also, what’s with this whole phrasing of “the perfect Valentine’s”? Let’s unpick that for a second, shall we? I surely can’t be alone in taking a deep-dive offence at that? Newsflash, the Guardian, it’s 2019. We’re not down with calendar shaming all the other Valentine’s our fallen generations have lived through, capiche? It’s high time you woke up!

But then an elderly friend of mine calmed me down. Old people can teach us so much. She helped me realise just how many people I could touch with my white-hot take. You see, being sensitive to others is as natural to me as feeding Quorn pieces to a kale. And before you object, I’m not being needlessly PC here. I’ve been woke ever since the day I was first breastfed by an almond. That day was yesterday.

A couple holding hands with a flower inbetween.

‘Mention that you play the acoustic guitar and one day dream of running a donkey sanctuary full of orangutans that will finally bring an end to the ivory trade.’ Photograph: Nacivet/Getty Images

Speaking as a man, it’s not natural for me to keep all my wisdom to myself. That’s just not how it works – and by “it” I mean my johnson. Perhaps I could offer tips on how to make that special someone you are planning on casually stifling feel like a million bitcoins? Help spread some great vibes?

Ugh, I can’t believe I used the word “help”. It feels so triggering, just like the words “Roger”, “Lloyd” and “Pack”.

Over the many Valentine’s I’ve spent patrolling various branches of the aptly named All Bar One, making moves so slow you’ll swear you’ve just been touched by a tectonic plate, I’ve learned that emotionally manipulated relationships are all about giving people space. And that is something I will constantly keep telling you as I encroach. So here are my nine easy hints on how to engage with your Valentine from across a booth lit by a fading electronic candle in a tumbler.

  • Be great company. Listen, don’t hear. It’s called conversation, not converbatim. And take time to balance your chin on your hand as you do. In a straight fight between listening and talking, listening would win every time. Not that I’m into fighting of course, unless it’s for equal pay in the workplace or how much I love Lena Dunham.

  • Frequently drop rebound bombs such as “what time is Bake Off?”, “snuggling for the win” and, “God, I miss the Paralympics.”

  • Use the word “glean”. A lot.

  • If in a group, casually entertain her friends to the point where they all lean behind your back and mouth to her: “He’s grrrreat.”

  • Gush about your love of street food and street theatre, which is like regular theatre just served in a bap.

  • Mention that you play the acoustic guitar and one day dream of running a donkey sanctuary full of orangutans that will finally bring an end to the ivory trade.

  • Plan a city break, but warn that you will always insist on going down the red channel at Customs. You’ve just gotta declare your feelings!

  • Show how in touch you are with all the many gender issues of the day by casually showing a screengrab of all your old Father Ted DVDs on eBay. Yes, Graham, my chimney is trans, DEAL WITH IT!

  • Playfully ask if they favour ready-to-eat over ripen-at-home? This will provide a fascinating avocado-based insight into how regularly they smash their own toast.

Most of all, good luck and good love. Remember, whatever the outcome, I’ll be circling regardless, ready to swoop. I’m your worst nightmare. An emotional predator who dresses from Gap. So beware. Be very, very, aware.

Adam Riches is The Guy Who … is on at Drink, Shop & Do, London N1 from 4 to 14 February


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