Thursday, February 14, 2008

The greeting card

I wrote the only Valentine’s story I know back in January of last year. I suppose that I should just direct you to that blog, but that seems like the lazy way out. I thought that I’d give you the benefit of my views on the subject of, not only Valentines, but all greeting cards. Some of it was stolen from that guy who plays “Doug” on the show “King of Queens”. He has a monologue which perfectly captures the division between men and women on the subject of the greeting card and the place they hold in the heart for each gender.


At one time, I suppose, the idea of the greeting card made sense. About the time of the Pony Express, I can see folks getting excited over sending cards out with some hope of them being received in a timely fashion. In the UK, at least according to the old stories my wife reads, they had about six mail deliveries a day and, in those circumstances, cards would be like phone calls.


But Alexander Graham Bell (as played by Don Ameche) really changed the need for cards when he invented the telephone. Instead of going to the store, buying a cards and sitting down and writing on , finding a stamp , addressing and mailing them, you could pick up a phone and tell someone , instantaneously, and in your own voice, that you were thinking of them, and why you were thinking of them. I will stipulate that for many years, cards served a purpose for those who could not afford long distance phone calls. But long distance calls are just about free now (at least on nights and weekends and among your fave five)and no one even has to use the phone anymore. You can e-mail or text. The impact of a card at a fraction of the cost in time and effort.


So why do they survive ? One word. Women. For reasons that I do not fully understand, the female sex elevates the greeting card to the status of holy scripture. And woe to the male who does not understand this worship. You can shop for days, spend a million dollars, buy her  something that she has always wanted, but never dared asked for; but before she opens the present, she will look at you with a hurt expression and grievously utter “No card ?” The moment will be ruined.


I have thought long and hard about this. I don’t think that we can blame this on Hallmark. They seem to be just filling a need. I do admit that they have managed to increase the number of times that a card is expected, but they are not responsible for the female obsession with the card itself. That comes from deep within. I think that it may come from a fear they had as children, that they would not get a Valentine, or at least not the Valentine they wanted (and from whom they wanted). I have seriously considered demanding that Valentine’s Day celebration in schools be stopped. It is the most hurtful day imaginable for many children. A day of almost public humiliation. But the guys can shake it off. I never got many Valentines in school, but that has not warped me into a greeting card junkie in my old age. A call or an e-mail is enjoyed much more because  1. I can instantly reply and 2. I do not have to feel guilty for not buying the sender one.


I cannot tell you how many greeting cards I have signed in my car, or on the pathway coming up to my front door. No one can ever read my sincere personal note penned on the card, because it was written without  back support, and, at times, at a trot. Even when I remember to get the card, it is seldom judged worthy. That is because the car wash place does not specialize in sentimental cards, and you have to be willing to spend more than two minutes to pick out a card that screams sincerity, at $4.00 a pop. “Do you like the card ?” “Yeah, it’s fine, did you get it at the car wash place ?” “Well how about the diamond necklace ?”  “It’s nice, when did you buy the card ? did you read what it said inside ?” 


My great hope, and I know that it is too late for me, is that the current generation of environmentalists will ban the card as a logical way to save trees, maybe  even that rain forest that they are all so hepped up about. What is the carbon footprint of Hallmark ? It must be gigantic, bigger than most third world countries. How can the women of the 21st century expect to receive  a greeting card that in and of itself is probably responsible for global warming. It is time that this nonsense stopped, for the good of the earth. Happy Valentine’s Day (no trees were murdered to type this greeting).


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