It's the expense that counts


I despise cards. Not playing cards, which in the right company are essential. I mean the ones with canned sentiment, the ones we are expected to buy for birthdays and graduations and deaths of pets, and for events marketed by card companies, like Sweetest Day and Grandparent's Day. I despise the whole commercial enterprise of card-giving, and most of all the notion that two human beings who know each other can't think of anything meaningful to say at the most important moments in their lives, and therefore must resort to choosing between maudlin declarations churned out by the minute from the basements of hack writers waiting for that big screenplay break.

I'm thinking about cards because it's Mother's Day, and I didn't buy a card for my wife. I would have given my mother the same treatment, but my wife is in charge of all Mother's Day activities other than her own, and so my mother is getting a card. My wife disagrees with my assessment of the American card fetish. She believes card-giving is a valuable exercise, if only because it is an expected means of showing affection. Someone with my emotional truncation -- she doesn't say this, because she is too kind, but nobody could blame her for thinking it -- ought to welcome the opportunity to buy a card in lieu of sharing his feelings.

Coming from the Ernest Hemingway and Flannery O'Connor school of expression, however, I believe that my mother and my wife and anyone else who knows me ought to understand that when I ask them to pass the salt, I am really saying that I love them dearly.

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I know it's not what I value in the gift, but what the recipient values. I read The Five Love Languages, after all, which means I'm acquainted with the four love languages of women. But I just can't bring myself to buy a card. My oldest son made a card for his mother -- maybe I could go that route. The problem is, he's only eight, but he already has more artistic skill. Plus, she might put whatever I draw on the refrigerator, and I just don't need that humiliation.

And that's the problem, I'm so self-centered that I keep coming back to how her gift affects me. I should just buy a card, because otherwise, anything I give her is like a cake without icing. Yet I just can't do it. It's the principle of the thing.

So instead, I'm going to check the spelling in this essay, and go to Best Buy, and get her the Mac laptop she's been coveting. That ought to take her mind off the card. Shock and awe worked in Iraq; it will darn sure work in my house. Which leaves me safe until the next card-giving occasion. And I won't be buying a card then, either, because I despise them.

Except the ones that contain money, which can always be sent to me care of WORLD Magazine. If my card boycott continues, I'm going to need them.


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