“We owe to the middle ages the two worst inventions of humanity – romantic love and gunpowder” – wrote French author André Maurois. He was by no means the first to be cynical about love - Plato called it a mental disease. Poets, philosophers, playwrights and song writers from Plato to Adele have had a great deal to say about love, calling it “the sweetest thing”, a red rose; a balm; but also comparing it variously to a battlefield; a drug; a lunacy and a delusion. Keats called love his religion. “What will survive of us is love” is one of the best-known Philip Larkin quotes. As for Shakespeare, there is not enough space in this column for all the descriptions of love in his works. Nora Ephron, who wrote the greatest cinema romcom of all time, When Harry Met Sally, said: “(…) all romantic comedy springs from Taming of the Shrew or Pride and Prejudice”.

Add Byron, Yates, Auden, the Beatles, and many other artists, and it is clear why the idea that romantic love is our highest calling is still so potent, to many retailers’ delight – according to the analysts at Global Data, UK consumers are expected to spend around £1 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. Emails offering special deals on cut flowers, lingerie, chocolate and set menus from various brands and restaurants are currently clogging up my inbox.

Yet there is scarcely anything less romantic than communal romance and a dud of a gift, bought in a last-minute panic. A bunch of daffodils, a box of delicious truffles, a bottle of your favourite wine and a nice meal that someone else cooked and cleared up after: all are treats that should be woven into regular life, not saved up for once-a-year blowout. I can sense that a change is coming. Nearly a third of us live on our own – more people are single than ever before. Many are perfectly happy to be single, but perhaps it is time we re-discovered the original meaning of Valentine’s Day, which used to be a day for shy single people to express interest in potential paramours. That was not profitable, though, which is why we have ended up with a day dedicated to those already coupled-up. But love comes in many different forms - there are twenty-one dictionary definitions for the word love. There is a deep, steady love in a long-term relationship. There is friendship that can be more sustaining and mark a life even more deeply than romantic love. You can passionately love what you do: for George Bernard Shaw there was “no love sincerer than the love of food”, but you might be passionate about something else entirely.

I hope that soon Valentine’s Day will no longer be a pretext to cynically flog us more stuff. Until then, remember on this February 14, and every other day of the year, to celebrate love in all its forms.