Over the years, the number of “human conditions” has multiplied in proportion to the complexities of modern life. If we were to examine a snapshot of the 1950’s, we would find that the concerns of life centered around home ownership, Dad’s job, cooking, homemaking, the children’s school and “prom wear,” distilling it to its most simplistic and facetious level.
In contrast, crime and suffering didn’t even make it on the radar in the 1950’s unless it was the bad boy pranks of James Dean or interactions with “Officer Krupke” of West Side Story…. Enter the reality of true life- suffering in slilence which is at the heart of domestic violence; kept behind closed doors, in the closet, hoping to pass from a child lips to God’s ear. Such things happened then and they happen now with even greater prevalence. But, you’d never know such loss , such pain in the greeting card Industry!
The practice of sending greeting cards began in the Chinese and Egyptian cultures over 500 years ago to express “fortune and goodwill.” Europeans followed suit in the 1400s with expensive hand delivered cards. Social expression by card expanded to the mainstream population with the invention of the postage stamp around 1840, thus allowing people of all socioeconomic levels to send cards. “The industry” grew with the arrival of printers, manufacturers refining printing methods, the hiring of artisits, verse writers and the creation of higher quality cards “for both the elite and lower classes.” (according to http://www.american greetings.com)
I know, I know, greeting cards are passe’ by today’s standards given the multitude of alternate means of comunication. Ladyjustice confesses that she is a card sender… even now!
Hallmark and the American Greeting company has saturated the market as “the largest producers in the world.” The Brits supposedly spend one bilion pounds per year on greeting cards (an average of 55 cards sent per person per year!) It would appear that Americans either have some catching up to do…. or they are not half as jovial or thoughtful as those in the United Kingdom.
This writer is glad to note small attempts made to capture “specialty markets.” A few small companies are trying to stay afloat as well. However, in LJ’s opinion, more needs to be done both in specialization and sensitivity.
Jon Bender, former president of the Greeting Card Assiociation put it this way, “Greeting cards are effective tools to communicate important feelings to people you care about….
I’m proud to be part of an industry that not only keeps people connected, but uses both imagery and the power of words to help us express our emotions.”
Ladyjustice was serious about this endeavor… and actually took the Hallmark writer’s exam in 2003. She “passed,” but due to the sheer volume of artisits and writers making application – Alas, hers did not rise to the very top of the pile like the cream in your coffee. Can you imagine?? Undeterred, Ladyjustice tried submissions with a few select other companies.
(This blogger wonders how many rejection letters Diane Fanning or Denny Griffin received before they hit it big? Hmmmmmm.)
One example meant to illustrate but not to malign publisher’s often narrow focus, was Oatmeal Studios produced in Vermont.
Their guidelines state: “A Reason to Send a Card” – Cards ideas need to be written for these occasions: Birthday, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th & 60th, Relative Birthday, Belated Birthday, Get Well, Goodbye, Miss You, Thank you, Love, Wedding, New Baby, Anniversary (from friend to couple), Congratulations & Retirement.
Caution: We Reject the Following: Gross Ideas, Mean Ideas, Lengthy Poetry or Prose, Narrowly Focused Ideas (i.e. new baby for quintuplets) (What? LJ)
Well, life can be gross and mean… so don’t write about it…. and certainly don’t even try to provide any comfort for the gross or mean things that happen in life is what they seem to be saying, but not saying…) ‘Just focus on those birthdays…. Inquiring minds want to know, who cares about birthdays beyond the age of 13 anymore??
In the interim, some additional card categories have appeared on the scene such as: divorce, adoption, step-relatives, death of a pet etc. ‘Walk down the aisle of any Hallmark store and you will see as a seasonal example (July)-“ Fourth of July, Birthday, Belated, Get Well, Engagement, Sympathy, Thinking of you, Congratulations, As You Retire, I’m Sorry, New Baby…”
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah….. Where’s the Real Life Cards?
Unfortunately, we no longer have “picket fence lives.” Instead, we contend with battles –whether fighting health problems, economic disaster, personal sorrows, crime and natural disasters….. One could say that the very generic “Thinking of You” and “Congratulations” are very poor generic substitutes for “whatever happens.” ‘Not good enough for this blogger.
It seems like greeting card companies want to pretend that life is always Disneyland…. Give me a well written and thoughful card that touches the heart any day…
1 ) What store do we turn to in locating a card for the loss of a missing child or relative?
2) When your neighbor is hospitalized yet again for that mysterious ailment (called domestic violence) where’s the card or the verse?
3) How do we tell our friends that we are thinking of them on the anniversary “death date“of their loved one?
4) In which American Greeeting aisle do we find the card that says (for LJ’s friend, Addie Carone) “Congratulations for the capture of your son’s murderer after 23 years on the run…I’ll bring the champagne!
5) When’s the last time you have spotted a decent card for your co-worker’s civil union?
6) Where are the cards Ladyjustice never received saying, “You’re a cool person. It’s alright. I don’t care if you have a disability???
7) Why hasn’t Gibson cards created an appropriate series of cards for crime victims going through the tremendously difficult process of a murder trial?
8) A friend of our family had a teenaged son who tragically committed suicide after the breakup of his relationship with his girlfriend. There were no adequare words… There are certainly no cards to help you try to express your sorrow in this situation.
9) Where are the “Free at Last” cards reserved for the tremendously courageous women who sucessfully make their detailed escape plan a la Susan Murphy Milano to start a new life? Ladyjustice can’t think of a better reason for joy and celebration!
As for sympathy cards, they are terrible in this writer’s opinion. They are either “sticky sweet” (Sorry, Helen Steiner Rice) or really say nothing at all… As a society, we as Americans are generally poor at showing comfort and compassion for the many and varied forms of grief. So, we tend to avoid all but the most cursory contact and “send flowers.”
If someone spent the time to create specialty cards with sensitivity based on true life experience;
a) It would relieve those who find written and verbal expression so difficult during such times;
b) It would fill a huge void in experiential cards;
c) Such cards would create a niche market;
d) Most importantly, it would provide much needed care and comfort for all of these “overlooked true life experiences.”
If paper greeting cards aren’t your thing, there are also e-cards, musical cards, video greetings, 3-D animation and all of the other electronic greetings that Ladyjustice knows nothing about!
From the Hallmark Exam: Suggested general verse for a recent homicide survivor :
There are no appropriate words to say…
Only unfamiliar feelings;
As a friend, I am here for you;
I’d be honored to listen and not judge, or to run errands
(i.e. do laundry, pick up groceries, babysit, (Fill in the blank)
I’ll call you on ______________
With Loving Thoughts,
Note to Card Manufacturer: Any specific offer of help is generally appreciated, especially concerning everyday tasks. Don’t expect them to initate calls or ask for your help. They are too overwhelmed…
Does anyone running an organization have need for a slightly used writer to create your specialty card line? (Apply within)
**** Reminder: You need not agree with Ladyjustice’s opinions. However, you do need to “read me!”