The Envelope Please: Naughty or Nice, One Size Valentine Doesn't Fit All
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Do you have a cute butt? Admire washboard abs? Are you an Obamaite, a secret sweetie, a geriatric Lothario? Would a chocolate-coated blue pill rev up the Valentine experience?
If so, there’s a card for you.
That shriek you hear is Jeri Edwards, shopping for cards at Walmart in Aberdeen.
“Oh my goodness, who’d buy that?”
Cards marked “sassy” and naughtier ones designated as “shockers” sell well, but not necessarily at Daphne’s Hallmark in Southern Pines, where manager Flower Owenby says the clientele leans conservative. Here, grandkids’ and great-grandkids’ Valentines outnumber the suggestive, also the Mahogany line, aimed at “My Heart and Soul Sister.” Gay couples make do with “for a special couple” or the gender-neutral “to my partner.”
No surprise, Owenby continues, that women buy cards ahead while men hog the racks on Feb. 14 for beauts like “Cold beer, hot wife: What more does a guy need?”
A smattering of religious Valentines balance the banal with “God bless our love forever.”
The industry has even tapped into the anti-Valentine movement, with cards criticizing the commercialism, if that makes sense.
Nevertheless, Mary Ann Page of Pinehurst, Valentine-card shopping at Harris Teeter, could not find a frog illustration for her husband/prince.
“Frogs are our thing,” Page says. “I’ll have to make one on the computer.”
However, she found cards suitable for her son and grandchildren who are experiencing difficulties.
“They need something cheery.”
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The Greeting Card Association confirms that only Christmas tops Valentine’s Day in card sales. E-cards — cute, but difficult to tie with a blue ribbon and tuck in the dresser drawer — have expanded the $7.5 billion industry without cutting card sales appreciably.
Other trends have emerged. Look for “Eclipse” vampire honeys, a Taylor Swift-endorsed line and a series featuring the cast of “Glee.” Elvis remains in this building with a musical card — “All Shook Up,” not “Love Me Tender.”
Anthropomorphized animals are huge for all holidays. A recent LOUIE Award (the industry’s Oscar) went to Yoga Cat, a kitty with leg extended to better clean his privates, set among a yoga class in similar positions. Valentine critters include squirrels sharing a romantic meal: “My nuts are yours” and a baboon with heart-shaped box: “I don’t care what he looks like as long as he brings chocolate.” Giraffes are posed necking. A lion pines for his “mane” squeeze.
Try sending “For a Friend of My Heart” to your cardiologist.
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Interesting, how expediency bends facts. History buffs want the card relating the legend of St. Valentine who, in the final stanza, “… departed to the Lord.”
His departure was a bit messy.
St. Valentine, the story goes, was a priest circa 250 A.D. When Roman emperor Claudius banned all engagements and marriages to beef up his armies, Valentine defiantly continued to perform nuptials. For this he was beaten to death and beheaded on Feb. 14, the Roman feast of Juno, goddess of women and marriage.
Valentine’s Day assignations appeared in medieval literature, again in 1600, when virginal Ophelia declared herself Hamlet’s Valentine with this coy verse:
“Then up he (Hamlet) rose and donn’d his clothes
And dupp’d the chamber door
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.”
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The oldest existing Valentine card dates to the 15th century. In 1847 American printer/artist Esther Howland produced the first commercial Valentines. Hallmark entered the market in 1913. After that, as Louis XV intoned on his deathbed, le deluge.
Currently, Hallmark floods the market with more than 2,000 selections.
This tsunami has swept over teachers, parents, in-laws (very gingerly), siblings, ex- and extemporaneous spouses (“To the mother of my children … ”) — even groups: “I’m so glad we’re family.”
A card can easily cost $4; shop carefully, because a dollar or two more will buy a 3-D Valentine poster with glasses. At Daphne’s Hallmark, the most expensive greeting is book-sized, comes in a box and sells for the price of a bouquet.
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How a holiday celebrating romantic love trickled down to children is undocumented. Meaghan Kelly, associate rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines weighs in: “In school, (Valentine’s Day) is open season for something to go wrong.”
Schools like Episcopal Day School avoid the popularity-contest pitfall by throwing a party where every child brings a Valentine for every classmate. Kelly and her husband don’t exchange gifts, mainly because of the commercialism, she says. “I’m not sure what fuels Valentine’s Day. Not much happens in February. I wonder if it isn’t just a good time to break things up and spend some money.”
But, Kelly adds, “Worse things could happen than sharing love with one another.”
For all the bawdy jokes, sexual overtones and topical references, hearts, flowers and syrupy poems survive. Husbands love their wives, children love their parents, dogs love their masters, sweethearts love each other and kids have fun practicing for the real thing.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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