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David Bouchier: A Democratic Valentine

Liz West

How many Valentines did you get so far? Statistically, by first delivery on Wednesday morning, you should receive at least three, because over a billion Valentine cards are mailed every year, which means three or four for every man, woman, and child in the nation. But, of course, it doesn’t work out like that. The young and the beautiful get far more than their fair share, and others get none at all. When it comes to Valentines we are definitely not all created equal.

It’s nice to get Valentine cards of course, even when they come by e-mail, but not so pleasant to confront the sentimental images on the outside, and the appalling verses on the inside.

The desire to communicate in bad verse seems unique to Valentine's Day. The rest of the year, lovers and sweethearts manage very well with prose. The everyday communications of intimate life, such as "Where did you hide the remote control?" and "How could you let the dog eat my toothbrush?" don't offer much scope for even the most talented poet. The poor hacks who must write verses for greetings cards must stretch the language to its vaguest and most sentimental extremes. The resulting verses are strangely without passion, like something produced by a computer rhyming program.

I never thought that love could be
This endless, deep and true
Until this day I gave my heart
And all my love to you.

If the U.S. Post Office regulations against mail fraud were strictly enforced, cards like this would be impounded, and the senders arrested.

Or how about this, for a message without a message?

When love is deep
Sometimes we feel
There is no need for words.

So why waste money on a card and a stamp just to say that you have nothing to say?

The card companies seem to share our embarrassment about these cloying messages. They offer a whole alternative line of joke cards for Valentine's Day. These have no poetry, and no romance. They celebrate the name day of St. Valentine with cartoons, crude language, bodily function humor, and cruel jokes about old age, impotence and boredom.

But no matter how silly the message, a Valentine is a Valentine, and a great boost to the ego, and everybody should get at least one, the way kids do in school because the teacher fixed it that way.

It’s the responsibility of the Post Office to make sure that Valentines are distributed equally among the whole population, even if it means popping a few million anonymous cards into our mailboxes. This way, slim and stylish divorced women would get far fewer cards, but fat and ugly married men would get far more, which is only fair. We could all imagine that we have secret admirers, and sit eagerly by the phone waiting for them to call.

But there’s another thing to worry about, our imaginary friends may never call, and that would be sad. Nobody should have to sit by the phone, waiting for a secret admirer to call. So call.

Copyright: David Bouchier

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost 20 years. He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996.