Just Saying: Lover’s dilemma — Schmaltz or snark?

SARAH SHEPHERD PHOTO

SARAH SHEPHERD PHOTO

In our household, Valentine’s Day is a low-key event.

Usually just a card exchange, sometimes dinner at a local eatery. But on my part there is an unwavering procedure: I always buy two cards, one earnest and schmaltzy and another snarky.

This has been my routine for more than 30 years (who saw that coming?) and applies equally to birthdays and anniversaries.

There are millions of schmaltzy cards for these occasions but it takes a little extra effort to find the appropriate snarky card. If you’re in a hurry to buy a snarky card, I have some advice. Scan the rows of cards to see if there are any with a chimpanzee on the cover. It has long been my experience that any chimpanzee card is almost certainly a satisfactory snarky card.

Maybe not the best, but reliably above average, particularly if you’re short on time. In fact, almost any card that has an animal on the cover is going to be somewhat snarky, and I have used them all.

With 30-plus years of card-buying, some duplication is inevitable. I would guess I’ve knowingly used the classic dog’s head-in-the-toilet-bowl card a half dozen times. It is a very versatile card and can be used for all occasions. The punch line is always the same: Drink responsibly.

My rule of thumb is that it’s okay to use such a card repeatedly as long as you allow for a several year interval between purchases. It’s always a hit because the receiver of such a card usually forgets she has seen it before.

Every once in a while I’ll buy one of those cards that unfolds like an accordion and has some rhymed verses that more often than not make some lightly leering comments about body parts. I hold these types of cards to a very high standard and so it’s tough to find one that passes muster. I think it was last year that I found one that had appreciations of eyes, nose, lips, hips, arms, breasts (called “charms” for rhyming purposes) and so on.

The punch line was about loving the recipient for her mind too, which is pretty corny now that I recall it.

It got a laugh, but I guess you had to be there.

This year I found a Valentine’s card that I would give an A-minus. On the cover was a very weird-looking girl and the text “You’re Special.” Inside was the text “. . . in a way normal people can’t comprehend.” I’m pretty sure that will be a winner.

When you get to be as old as we are, there is a whole genre of cards (for all occasions) that play on aging and the relentless and tragic passage of time. The human beings depicted are lumpy geezers and the text is usually filled with wry world-weary thoughts.

One of my recent favorites was a lumpy couple with a ridiculously malformed gift birdhouse being handed to the silent wife. “Well it’s not painted yet!” he says. Inside the text notes that, in marriage, saying nothing at all is often the best strategy.

I guess you had to be there.

Of course wine- and cocktail-themed cards have been plentiful over the decades. (Although it is a bit embarrassing when martini glasses are a prominent feature of received Christmas cards, almost always from family members, which makes it more understandable.) I have given dozens of martini cards over the years so turnabout is fair play, I suppose.

I can’t be certain, but I think I’ll have to wait a year or two before I can employ a dog’s head-in-the-toilet-bowl card, to maintain the proper interval.

That card is a winner every time.

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