My dearest Valentine,
Lacking enthusiasm in this period of forced romantic nonsense I nonetheless feel compelled by a cynical, overbearing greetings card industry to espouse some measure of my appreciation for you on this specific day and not rely in any way upon my general attitude towards you that I am confident conveys my feelings adequately. Heaven forbid that we allow our feelings for each other to direct our actions on any other day of the year. Let us instead concentrate all of our emotional overflow into this one day and express it through the medium of chocolate and overpriced bouquets of flowers.
But let us not overlook the powerful role that cards play in this frippery. What better to express my feelings for you than a piece of folded paper designed and mostly written by someone else? Best of all is the shared shopping experience - joining the desperate huddle of similarly hollow-eyed men seeking the one card that mostly closely approximates the sentiment we wish to convey. What would be most suitable - to trivialize our relationship with humour or make some crude sexual allusion? But wait, there is another choice - overbearing soppiness, usually manifested by a picture of a teddy bear or some related symbol of feminine sentimentality. It is fortunate, I reflect as I view the ranks of predominantly pink cards, that the surest way to the heart of all women is a cuddly bear or a puppy with big eyes or a kitten, possibly in some kind of basket. This universal commonality certainly does save some time.
Suitably overcharged, I exit the shop and begin the next terrifying part of the process - what to write in it. My limited vocabulary directs a comfort zone around simply signing with an over-sized 'x', but perhaps more is required during this 24 hour period of enhanced romance? Wiping sweat from my face and inspired by a glimpsed billboard I add the phrase 'with all my love', but this too seems insufficient. Is some kind of genuine expression of love required, one that exposes the soul of my feeling towards you, one that opens the very heart of our relationship and humbles us both into a shared moment of emotional intimacy to exceed the combined efforts of our years of relationship? Hands now shaking uncontrollably with the perceived pressure, I clumsily try to scrawl something more sincere but succeed only in smearing the previous additions, effectively ruining the card entirely.
Numbed and mentally exhausted, I re-join the desperate huddle of unprepared men in the card shop, now scuttling politely around each other to snatch the last on offer. The selection now virtually exhausted, I claim one from the 'humour' category and beat my way out. Without a better option, I manage to write the textual equivalent of an awkward mumble about how special you are to me, before returning home for the moment I have been dreading - the exchange of said cards that will inevitably expose the dramatic difference in emotional maturity between us.
Your card to me is tasteful, elegant and beautifully written, conjuring images of sunsets and fireworks, of dreams fulfilled and emotional wholeness achieved since we met. Mine is clumsy and teenaged, the haste of its purchase betrayed by the receipt carelessly left in the accompanying paper bag. You smile and thank me, your love now showing as you convincingly disguise any feelings of disappointment at the clear gulf between our emotional expressions and mercifully moving the proceedings forward. Humbled and distraught I collapse finally into what remains of our evening, glad to move on from the whole experience.
Still. There's always next year, eh?