I guess it all started when Chaucer penned the poem Parliament of Foules in 1382 to honor the first anniversary of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. I'm not sure what "Foules" means, but I think it can be loosely translated to "Richie has to buy gifts to keep getting lucky with Mrs. Bohemia".

The potentially erroneous web source I consulted for this information indicated that 14th century lovers latched onto the poem's publishing date as a day dedicated to expressing affections toward your intended or something along those lines. What I think really happened was a lot of women said, "why can't you be more like Chaucer and write something like that for me?" Then lacking any reasonable rebuttal these so-called men rolled up their puffy sleeves, scrawled out some lame variation of Geoff's seven hundred-line limerick and figured that was that. Thank you, weak-willed bastards of the High Middle Ages. Although, I can't really blame them, how could they know that their lack of genital fortitude would set into motion a series of events that would end with me standing in front of a drugstore card rack some 626 years later.

Buying greeting cards runs a close second to digital prostate exam on my list of least favorite things to do. For one thing, they're usually unnecessary. If you're going to person's birthday party, can't you just wish them a happy birthday with your own mouth? Isn't your presence at an occasion enough of an endorsement of sentimentality? It's my belief that greeting cards should exist solely for the events you cannot attend. A person should never open a card then look across the room and say, "Oh, I'm gonna get you for this one, you ol' dog!" If we're incapable of coming up with witty repartee like, "Lordy, Lordy, You're Finally Forty" on our own, is there really anything we should be celebrating?

Geoffrey Chaucer. 19th century
image. From The Illustrated
Magazine of Art. 1:1 (ca. 1853)

I don't know what geniuses compose these cardboard testimonials of affection, but I can't make myself present someone with a card that conveys a message that I would never actually articulate in person. Yeah, it would be nice if I came home from work, took Mrs. Scott by the waist and breathed, "You are the person who has made me whole, my lover, my soul mate, when you are by my side the world melts away and it is only the two of usÖforever and always, Happy Valentine's Day, my love." But I would never utter that drivel, and I'm pretty sure that there aren't a lot of men out there who would, yet this genre of cards represents one third of my card buying options. These dry heave inducing greetings invariably feature some out of focus picture of a mountain or a beach, perhaps to convey that the card presenter would have to be that blurry-eyed drunk to actually slur it's syrupy message.

Another third are designed to be humorous by painting me, the husband, as some clumsy, flatulent moron, whose only passions in life are derived from drinking beer, watching sports and screwing up home improvement projects. Yet despite these obvious character flaws, I have somehow hooked the woman of my dreams and need to express my luck at having found someone who manages to put up with me year after year. What woman wouldn't be thrilled to discover that she is the perfect Alice to my Ralph Cramden? I can't speak for every other man out there, but I'm not going to pick Valentine's Day as the jumping off point for compiling a list of reasons why my wife should consider leaving me. Although, truth be told, flatulence is an issue, but my wife hardly needs a card to reinforce that well-known fact of life.

The remaining 1/3 of cards fall under the "suggestive" category. Something along the lines of "Happy Valentine's Day, Honey" (open card) "Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get Nekid!" Okay, I guess you've got to give the author points for expressing the male populace's point of view on this holiday, but quite frankly, I could probably come up with that on my own. The reason I'm paying $3 for this thing is so the writer can dress up that exact sentiment with a little sack-of-crap sappiness from the out of focus beach card. However, these cards don't seem to exist; under Hallmark's definition of a man, you're either horny, useless or a romance novel protagonist, there is no in between, although I guess horny AND useless could coexist, and probably do in the minds of most women.

There have been times when I've actually ventured into other card racks for fresh options. Why limit yourself to a Valentine when a sympathy card or a congratulations-from-the-gang-at-work card might sum up your feelings more effectively. Just scratch out the word "sorrow" or "promotion" and write in "love", "butt" or "consummate", sometimes this actually makes more sense and it showcases your creative side.

In the end, I usually just rely on delivering the message personally, "I love you, I appreciate the things you do and you look good in that new pair of jeans". Of course being male, I don't express this verbally; it's more through a carefully choreographed series of eye movements and hand groping. But my wife understands this, after all, she is "my lover, my soul mate, when she is by my side the world melts away and it is only the two of usÖforever and always."