Virginia Wolf said a good man is hard to find – but a good valentine is even harder, at least when it comes to expressing pain, disappointment and heartbreak.
I’ve been on the hunt for several years now, perusing shelf after shelf of red-foiled, sappy cards starring personified rodents bearing heart shaped boxes of treats. They’re addressed to “my one and only,” or “better half,” but never “to the dysfunctional loafer who refuses to change the motion detector light bulbs or clean out the garage so I can park my hybrid.”
You might ask, why bother giving a card if the relationship is so strained? Guess it amounts to playing nice.
In my case, it also pleases the kids. I’m still married until “the change” and our family celebrates V-Day each year at Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco. The high tea involves exchanging adorable cards and gifts, while getting high on cocoa and petit fours. The girls, sweet and sentimental drama teens and tweens, keep a watchful eye on what is presented.
I do my best to remain cordial and express what is authentic – the real love and gratitude I feel for a devoted father and the nostalgia I feel towards someone I had selected as a life partner, as exemplified by an unforgettable, $100,000 blowout wedding at the Fairmont. Yes, I still and always will have appreciation for the guy who does trash night every Monday, sorting through a daunting jungle of recycling, composting and landfill-bound waste.
Aimed at showing that appreciation, I found myself again standing before the vast and troubling array of roses and cupids strumming lutes, combing through the horrible selection of overwrought poetry which no longer resonates. It’s hard enough to find a sophisticated greeting for Nana or a best friend. Try something apt for the one who ruined everything.
I visited at least five shops, including the trusty resources like Lucky, Walgreen’s, Hallmark stores, as well as little boutiques on my avenue, the vintage oriented GiGi’s and the festive Just Because. In pulling one for my bitter half, I must have gone through a few dozen before settling on two somewhat nebulous expressions of affection tinged with humor.
The first one, a deep blue background with swirls and tiny hearts, features a cupid holding what else – a heart – and smiling. It reads: “Valentine – No words could possibly describe how I feel when we’re together.” On the inside: “…at least, no words clean enough to be printed in a greeting card! Love You. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
The second card I stumbled upon at Just Because made me laugh hard out loud, just because.
This card featured two dogs on the cover in a pink and red background and no words. On the inside, it read: “True love means never having to say ‘who farted?’ Happy Valentines Day!” A bit crude, yes, but it also spoke to our years together more than the other lovey-dovey choices. And I like how it toyed with the original line from the classic romance hit of my day, Love Story.
The original line reads: “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”
I think they got it wrong, having been very much in love and very desirous of hearing the words, “I’m sorry.” Why sugarcoat it? Love leads to heartburn much of the time. Love means having to say I’m sorry for the things I said or did quite frequently, along with saying “You’ve changed and it’s time to move out.” Those who don’t say it, often think it.
I suppose if I could compose my own DIY Valentine, as suggested on many frugal sites, I would be remiss not to include the message that I wish he would get up in the morning and help out while I’m running myself ragged packing organic lunches, feeding the dog, making free range eggs for breakfast and doing a myriad of tasks.
But I might also add the words, I’m sorry. I’m sorry things didn’t work out despite couples therapy, ultimatums, terse emails, date nights, pro-con lists and energy wasted begging for change. And I’ll be sorry in the winters to come, when I find myself again shopping cards and finding none addressed “to my sexy ex” articulating how crazy a divorce can get – but that we will always have candy.
A new line of greeting cards for the broken-hearted? Just think of the marketing potential. A card for the heartless boss who dumped you the same week the bank foreclosed on your house; a card for the brother who robbed you of your inheritance, reducing you to a helpless heroine in a Jane Austen tale; a card for the dude who asked out your best friend after your break up. A bad marriage or divorce is only the tip of the iceberg. Hallmark, are you listening?
images: Corinaclaire; vintage halloween collector; Snickerpuss; Impawards