>OP ED: I hate greeting cards…

>It is Sweetest Day, one of what I refer to as the “card, candy and carnations” holidays. It is not a real holiday, by any means, but just another day invented by the public relations departments of the major greeting card companies, candy manufacturers and florists to boost sales.

I do not have any problem with finding excuses to eat candy, other than I personally don’t need one. I am not overly enthused with short lived flowers as a gift, but they do add both visual and aromatic charm – and my wife loves them. So, I give them a pass.

But, I say “down with greeting cards.”

I wimpishly, albeit begrudgingly, succumb to greeting card purchases least I be recognized as the curmudgeon I am. However, I would not mind putting Hallmark et al out of business. Okay, not out of business, but a handsome slash in sales would be just fine with me. Greeting cards, which have a useful life of about 45 seconds, represent our reliance on institutionalized sentimentality. Think how much more meaningful a message of thanks or love would be if written in long hand, or if the “card” was created by the sender.

I came to this view when I discovered that almost all the “cards’ I saved and cherished were hand made by my kids. Their gifts were often scrawled coupons for chores, from car washes to house cleaning – coupons too cute and sweet to be redeemed.

To be honest, I probably would not be so grumpy about greeting cards if they didn’t cost so damned much. Your basic piece of printed cardboard runs two bucks. Add some sparkle and snippet of ribbon and you start looking at $4 a pop, or more. Many a holiday, I walked out of the drug store almost $20 poorer for the sake of ghost written sentiment. I always feel ripped off. One should not feel crappy when doing something nice.

Perhaps this price thing is due to the fact that 85 percent of the greeting cards are purchased by women. The remainder, most of my share, are purchased FOR women. Before all you feminist get your flannel panties in a bunch, face the facts. Woman pay more – and cost more. Just check out the prices of men’s cologne against women’s. Take a cotton shirt and a cotton blouse to the cleaners, and check out the cleaning price for each. If I removed the women from my card buying list, I would have dropped my purchases by ninety-five percent.

Fortunately, my wife, Jill, is one of those more practical types. She does not suffer emotional trauma over a cardless holiday. She values the home made efforts as much as I do.

One St. Valentine’s Day, we shamelessly headed to the drug store. I selected my card for her. She selected her card for me. We then exchanged cards, read them, kissed and returned them to the rack. I was wonderful.

One time, another couple saw what we did. Looking at the $10 worth of cards in their hands, they happily followed our example – leaving the store literally richer for the experience.

Eureka! My wife and I had unwittingly created a new custom, “read and release.” The nice thing about “read and release” is that there is nothing the card company can do to stop you. Unlike magazines, that can be sealed in shrink wrap to thwart in-store readers, the cards have to remain readable.

The “read and release” approach also saves the environment. Think of all the cards that will not be sold. As sales droop, productions diminish. Fewer trees cut down, and less waste to fill the dumps, or to be incinerated. Wow! The more I think of it, my “read and release” program should be up for some green recognition award.

With “read and release,” you can offer up dozens of cards you think appropriate – sentimental ones, funny ones, big ones, little ones, plain ones, fancy ones. Next time you have a birthday or holiday, take your card recipient to your local drug store, pick out that special card for them to read, enjoy the moment and replace it on the rack — and use the money to buy candy.

Happy holidays!!

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