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I'll have a generic greeting card, please

October 26, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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I was killing some time in a greeting card store a couple of days ago when I heard a guy two aisles over explode: "Where do they keep the plain old birthday cards?"

I didn't say anything, but I felt his pain. Good luck finding a "plain old" anything card anymore. Somewhere along the line, the micromanagers have gotten hold of the greeting card industry, and they are clearly winning the war.

You will find "Happy Birthday Nephew" or "Happy Birthday Grandma."

And if you want a card that reads, "Happy birthday to an estranged former college roommate who has recently contracted Lyme disease" you will probably be in luck. But just a regular, generic happy birthday? Good luck.


And they must have put all their good greeting card writers onto these specialty projects, because the "plain old" cards just don't seem to represent the effort that they used to.

Not long ago, I went to find a "plain old" anniversary card. In a whole store full of cards, they had exactly two. And both had tired, apathetic messages that went along the lines of "You light up my life and all that."

You almost feel embarrassed to sign a card that clearly bored even the writer. It's like sending a card that says "Because I have to ..."

Maybe, in the modern world, not enough marriages reach the anniversary stage to make it cost effective. If you make it to 50 years, however, you are in business. They have lots of them, with their roses and glittering, cursive writing with way too many wispy swirls, like it was traced out of fairy vomit or something.

It's sort of an awkward comment on society on the part of the greeting card industry, in my view. Like they don't have any faith that the relationship is going to last. If you're celebrating your second anniversary they blow you off. "Yeah, yeah, let us know when you hit 25 and we'll talk."

Matter of fact -- and I am not kidding about this -- the store I was in had more cards under the category of "Troubled Relationship" than it had for a "plain old" anniversary.

I was fascinated, in spite of myself. One of these cards went along the lines of this: "I know our relationship has never played by the same rules as most couples. It's not some ideal, romantic situation where people love and laugh all the time. And I know we have more than our share of spats, but we do share some things that are just between us, so even though we're not perfect, let's stick together."

I write jokes for a living, but this leaves even me at a loss.

I mean, I could understand a "Let's stick together for the sake of the kids" message, but if you send someone a card that effectively advocates for the continuation of a dysfunctional relationship because the two of you share a favorite song lyric, I really don't know what to say.

"Yes, I stipulate that our marriage is pure swill and that we make each other miserable on a daily basis -- but on the other hand, I think of you every time I hear 'Dancing Queen' by Abba, so we've got that going for us."

And if greeting cards reflect our lives, who's to say it will stop with "Troubled Relationships." You'll be able to walk into a card shop and ask the clerk to direct you to the "I Really Didn't Mean To Pull The Gun" section. Already, sympathy cards have subsections that are disease specific, so a malicious wounding card can't be far off.

But for me, and for the fellow who just wanted a plain old birthday card, the modern world has become way too complex.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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