Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Faint traces of the emotional disappointment or the hackneyed expressions of yesterday’s devotion are barely detectable amid the fanciful notions of a new day. Today, however, we have time to ponder just what Valentine’s Day means to each of us.
A day, perhaps, spent watching Oprah, grazing on clichéd, foil-covered chocolate hearts and sobbing, softly, about the fact that your only date offer was with the new, malodorous deckhand, who wears socks with his flip-flops and thinks the captain is cool.
A time reflect upon the very nature of love: the true joy and street cred gained by tapping the most exquisitely curved and hottest “thing” in the whole marina.
The cynical, however, may revile the very concept of Valentine’s Day as another conspiracy construed by the plutocrats and the bourgeoisie in order to exploit the masses.
No matter what your personal view of St. Valentine’s Day, it cannot pass without reminding us of the bond of love between two people and the struggle faced by unemployed couples in the yachting industry.
Now, I don’t anticipate that yachting couples are going to march together, in numbers similar to a very small, rural, Egyptian village, campaigning for an overthrow of the system. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few of them were more than a little peeved at their status in the yachting industry.
Stick any number of hard working, hard playing young adults into a small space and ration privileges, such as more than an hour off the boat or shopping for themselves, and it is almost inevitable that nature will eventually worm its way into their trousers. Not only is it normal, it’s natural, such is our pre-occupation with looks and what old people used to call “sex appeal.”
The fact is that when the heart-racing dalliance is over and the light-headed reverie has begun to give way to thoughts of varnishing or inventories, newly formed, “star-crossed” lovers become, simply, a couple. And, if you look up couple in the crew agents’ “Preferred Crew” handbook, you’ll find it a ways down the list. In fact, it’s below overweight, old, needs B1/B2 and even hairy. Female deck crew, smokers, tattooed and lacking in longevity are the only categories that fall below it.
There are many reasons why couples don’t find it easy to get to work together and these reasons can be roughly grouped into the rational and the irrational. The rational reasons for avoiding employing couples are based upon logic: space constraints or accommodation limitations, the innate risk of the couple splitting up and the annoying habit couples’ seem to have of sharing their tensions with the rest of the crew. Let’s not forget having to fire both in order to get rid of one.
There are religious considerations of course, where it is wholly unacceptable to encourage the union of an unmarried couple by employing them together. Some vessels get around this by allowing same sex couples, the existence of which is not acknowledged by certain religious sensibilities.
The irrational reasons for avoiding couples are many and start with the most important perspective in yachting: owner preference. After all, they write the cheques. But, unless they have an enforcement policy, what happens when a couple “unites” and the pitter-patter of flat feet upon crew corridors can be heard?
Other irrational reasons include already having too many couples on board. This sometimes can be translated into, “We really need some single birds or the deckies will go blind.”
Sadly, couples may be subject to the stereotypical notion that they are all bad. If so, Valentine’s Day is a chance for single crewmembers to open their minds to the concept, however un-cool, of coupling.
Whatever the reasons that couples have been doomed to their plight, I would, at this very special time of year, ask you to spare a thought in memory of the suffering of Saint Valentine…all in the name of love. For at least the rest of this week, allow couples to indulge in their lovey dovey-ness. Give them a break, even if your best mate has become coupled and, in a crew mess revolt, voted for Sex in the City instead of Once Were Warriors. Let couples talk, without mocking, of mortgages, wallpaper and how well they get on with each other’s parents. Embrace the long silences that occur between couples when resume pictures of the new stew are greeted with cheers from the singletons. Don’t be jealous when laundry favouritism is apparent or the chef makes special meals for two.
This is a time for accepting that couples are simply normal people who have just completely changed. And always remember…it can happen to you!