Happy Valentine’s Day: Outsourced Sentiment vs. DIY

-by Melissa Moore France-love-163851_1280

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

This card somewhat expresses what I’d like to say to you.

It’s in the neighborhood of what I’d write to you. I know there are three or four words I’d never use, but I only had to look one of them up on my phone. If I sketch in four or five emoticons, it will be near perfect.

With St. Valentine’s Day nearing, many feel obligated to make some effort toward being romantic or to at least acknowledge their significant other on this special day. Most of us start by shopping the vast array of Valentine cards with pre-written sentiments. I like the design of this one, but the verse is just too cheesy. This one’s sentiment is not too awful, but what’s with the picture of a puppy (or kitten or monkey or frog etc.)?

Esther Howland Valentine card circa 1870’s.

The practice of paying for someone to make a stab at expressing our thoughts and emotions began in the early 1800s. Several publishers of lithographs and wood engravings were making manufactured cards in New York and by mid-century, Esther Howland, known for popularizing the tradition and the sending of decorative lace Valentine’s Day cards, had set up her business in Worcester, Massachusetts. The greeting card business was born and continued to boom through the twentieth century. Hallmark reports selling about 140 million Valentine’s Day cards each year.

With the rise of the Internet, ecard businesses were born. Now sharing a not-original to the sender sentiment can be done without getting out of our chair or our pajamas. Sappy and/or cartoon virtual cards circulate endlessly throughout Facebook. There are apps like Romantimatic that will automatically send pre-written words of love to our significant other throughout the day and night according to the schedule we set up. Critics call it “digital ventriloquism” while fans call it a “tool” (kind of like a calendar) for those striving to be better at remembering to think more often about the one they love. Huh? On the up side, Romantimatic does allow us to write our own messages to be added to the automated shuffle.

If we want to go bigger this Valentine’s Day, we can upgrade from a pre-written card to a pre-written letter. The online service Passion Up advertises, “Our free love letters are all filled with thoughts of love and heartfelt longing and emotion, with romantic overtures!” If we really want to splurge, we can hire a love letter ghost writer. Many offer their services online. The avenues to outsource our sentiments are many, if we really want to go that direction.

I have a hanging file folder into which I drop cards or letters (very few letters) that I just cannot throw away. The cards I find worthy of saving–and even re-reading–are the blank ones that someone wrote their own words in or the pre-written ones that the sender added their own message to. None of the senders are poets or people known for their eloquent writing. I’ve kept them because they are personal and the senders expressed their thoughts and hearts in their own words. Therefore, they are one-of-a-kind, and they preserve an event or a specific season when our lives intersected. These communications cost the senders a piece of themselves so they have value.

I propose getting out of the usual Valentine’s Day rut. This year, I’m going to express my feelings myself in a handwritten card or letter. There…I’ve made my intention public. This out-of-the box endeavor is going to cost some intentional thought, time, and self-exposure–even within my long-term marriage. I’m going to start working on it right now:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

This is really me writing to you.

<3 ( ‘}{‘ ) <3 XXXOOOXXXOOO