Valentine’s Day creates a surge of sudden sentimentalists, few of whom can offer an explanation for their uncharacteristic behaviors. Most are mindlessly following an American custom established in 1847. That’s the year that a Massachusetts woman named Esther Howland—who coincidentally owned a greeting card company—developed the first U.S. commercial valentine.
While searching such esteemed websites as Howstuffworks.com, I made a disturbing discovery. Ms. Howland, Mother of the Valentine’s Day greeting card, apparently knew little about the laws of attraction. According to an American Heritage article, Esther Howland was born in 1828 and died a spinster in 1904. Somehow, despite her clever card creations, she never married!
I don’t know about you, but this newly unearthed information leaves me feeling ripped off. Why, it’s the equivalent of learning that your favorite advice columnist has been married eight times or that the author of that parenting book you’ve been reading has no children.
Yes, I blame Esther for misrepresenting her expertise and for promoting a trend that appeals mainly to women. Valentines are the second most popular seasonal cards purchased. And according to the Greeting Card Association, women account for 85 percent of those sales.
So what does this say about men? Are they just less inclined to express their feelings on pink parchment or too busy thinking about red peek-a-boo lingerie to bother with affectionate verse? (My money is on the naughty nighties.)
Ms. Rowland has led legions of hopeful women to believe that fancy papers and loops of lace (on sappy cards rather than sexy garter belts) will attract a man’s affections. But it requires more than that to arouse male attention. These days, if you want a guy to take your advances seriously, you better give him your house key, a roadmap and the promise of cable access and free pizza.
Here’s another little known fact . . . okay, maybe not a fact, but definitely a plausible theory: Esther may not have acted alone. Our very own government could have been involved in this commercial conspiracy. Yep. I didn’t have to stretch much to connect those dots (though I’ve been known to reach pretty far to make a point).
The same year that Ms. Howland began diddling with doilies and hatching out frilly hearts, Congress authorized the issuance of postage stamps. So you can see the collusion inherent in this timeline.
Some might argue that valentines were already in vogue long before Ms. Howland built her fortune on mushy missives. However, these earlier gregarious greetings were typically handcrafted by the sender and delivered in person, a method now considered gauche. That’s a bit ironic, when you think about it. You never should hand-deliver a card, but it’s perfectly okay to send a text message?
Like so many others, my spouse and I reluctantly acknowledge February 14. Each year, we thoughtfully buy each other a Valentine that’s either funny or outrageous.
To be truthful, we’re sentimental all year long. We’re both inclined to express affection any time the mood strikes (such as when the satellite server goes down or we’re in the throws of a power outage). So Valentine’s Day is nothing spectacular at our house. Perhaps the longer you’re married the less you make of dates like this.
Maybe Ester had that figured out.
Read more humor like this at www.TotallySkewed.com.