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All Valentine’s Day Cards Are Not Created Equal (A Primer For The Last-Minute Card Buyer)

Chances are, your local card store doesn't look quite like this right now.
(flickr/mod as hell)

Valentine’s Day is just two days away. If you like to buy greeting cards for your significant other, but you have not already purchased one – this blog is for you.

This year will mark my twelfth year of wedded bliss. It’s been a truly grand experience, one which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I have learned a few things along the way, and a few of those lessons have been, shall we say, hard-earned and not exactly painless. Here, I will share some of that wisdom.

Bear in mind, Valentine’s Day cards have been on the shelves for quite some time now, so it is a bit late in the game to be buying one. By the time you get to the store tomorrow (or on Tuesday, or perhaps even tonight), you will likely be faced with slim pickings. Most of the really ‘good’ cards will have already been taken, leaving you with a selection of lesser-quality specimens from which to choose. Now, you might be tempted to engage in grab-and-go tactics, but be advised that this is not at all the time for such a thing. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Because you have waited this long to buy that card, the penance for your procrastination will be to spend that much more time and consideration in finding an ideal card for your loved one.

First things first: Do yourself a favor, and commit the following statement to memory before you run off to the card store: “The right Valentine’s Day card can reap magical and wonderful results, but the wrong card will bring torturous and unspeakable agony upon you.

Having said that, what constitutes right and wrong when it comes to Valentine’s Day cards? Well, the answer will vary from couple to couple, but here are a few basic guidelines to follow:

1. Don’t buy a dog-eared, mangled, stained, or otherwise damaged card.
Sure, it might be the most appropriate card in the world, and it may be the only one like it left in the store, but if it looks like 350 people have already opened and closed it before you, it’s just not going to be in good enough shape to present to the most important person in your life – even if the sentiment contained within is perfect and pristine. And, if that many people have viewed the card, you can bet that at least a handful of those folks have probably also coughed, sneezed, or hacked on it. Put it back, step away from the rack, and keep looking.

2. Think very long and very hard before buying a funny Valentine’s Day card.
This is an area where only you can know for sure whether that card with the belch joke in it will be appreciated by your snookums to the same degree that it would be enjoyed by your frat brothers or drinking buddies. Remember – love can be fun, for sure – but some of us are expecting a nod to the more romantic and solemn side of the experience on Valentine’s Day. Busting up those expectations with a juvenile V-Day card can bring an otherwise promising evening to a grinding halt before it even starts. Suggestion: When in doubt, hold on to the funny card, but find another one that is more lovey-dovey and less flippant, and give your honey both of them (the joke card gets opened second, of course).

3. Try to keep track of the Valentine’s Day cards you have given in the last few years, and avoid repeating them.
Yes, this is a tall order. Yes, I know that you probably won’t be able to do it. And, yes, with all the cards out there that you could be buying, you are still playing on the winning side of the percentages. However, if you give her the same Valentine’s Day card that you gave her last year two years ago anytime in the last five years, you might not recall it – but she will. Man oh man, will she remember it. (By the same token, try your best to avoid giving your partner a card that he or she has already given you in recent years.)

Valentine's Day card with glaring typo
What, exactly, is this card trying to say? (Photo by Frank Thomas)

4. Read the card before you buy it.
This means the whole card … front, inside, back, top to bottom. Thoroughly. Care-ful-ly. Again, the temptation will be there to break out your finest Evelyn Wood techniques, but this is not the time or place for that. Witness the card in the photograph at left (which, incidentally, was found and shown to me by my wife). Initially, this looked to me like a perfectly normal and heartfelt Valentine’s Day card, written to be exchanged between two people who are very much in love. In fact, it is a really nice card, right up until the very last line. Your sweetheart is ultimately going to read the card that you buy in its entirety, which means that you have to read it all first, at least as closely, before you present it. It’s far less excruciating when you can catch a typo or other inappropriate expression before your card recipient does. Trust me on this one.

5. Beware of thinly-veiled and backhanded negative sentiments.
This is related to item #4 above. Here’s where things can get a bit tricky. There are a lot of greeting cards out there that feature expressions like, “Maybe I don’t tell you how I feel as often as I should”, or “Our love life might not be on fire like it used to be”, etc. You’ve seen these cards. In fact, you may have even considered buying one because you thought it was sincerely worded, or more relevant to your own personal relationship situation. Please – for your own safety, drop that card like a hot potato, and get as far away from it as possible. It is a trap that can result in no possible good whatsoever. Valentine’s Day is not the time to point out (in writing, no less) the romantic shortcomings of your relationship, even if those printed statements happen to be completely accurate. What’s really unfortunate is that a lot of guys who have awesome and rollicking relationships buy these kinds of cards because they incorrectly surmise that they are somehow more romantic than the more flowery or sentimental cards. Oh, the glaring errors of the misguided V-Day novice. Hoo boy, thinking about this one still makes my upper abdomen hurt just a little bit.

You have now been armed with all of the knowledge you will need to pick out that ideal, last-minute Valentine’s Day card. Here’s wishing you the best of luck in your card shopping adventure – and, one final bit of advice: You can never go wrong with velvet, Cupids, and glitter. Happy Valentine’s Day all!

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