Jay Leno once said, “It’s Valentines Day. Or as men call it, Extortion Day.”
When romantic days draw near, married men break into a sweat. Romance was easier when love was new, but after nineteen years of marriage, all card bearing days have become a challenge. I find myself in the same predicament each anniversary, Valentines Day, Christmas, Mothers Day, and each of the other fourteen days that require an over-priced card. I stare at the cards, and have déjà vu, all over again. All the cards look familiar and I worry that I’m about to buy a card I’ve already given her. I think about surprising us both, and grabbing one at random. I’ve heard nightmare stories about men buying the first pretty card that comes along, only to find that it says something like, “To my favorite mother-in-law.” I’ll never do that again, uh, I mean, what kind of an idiot doesn’t read the card.
When I browse through the cards, it becomes a battle of finding the right words, without throwing fuel on any simmering coals. When I was dating, any fuel for the fire was good, but after nearly two decades of being a husband, I have created a few fires that don’t need stoking. Apparently, I’m not the only man who has created a few touchy memories. Single men have all the good cards, but most of the cards for wives say something like, “I know I haven’t been a good husband, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t loved you with all I have” or, “Though I haven’t said ‘I love you’ in twenty five years, you should know I care.”
Though these touching cards moved me, I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to give a romantic card that reminded the wife of shortcomings. After wiping a tear from my eye and fanning my emotions away, I thought it better to keep digging through the cards for something more uplifting than an apology that was self-justifying.
Humor doesn’t always play well in wife cards. Since I couldn’t find just the right card, one year I decided to print my own. I wrote what I thought was a cute little poem to share the memories of our years together.
My garden is green,
Our house smells like diaper poo.
I'm lucky to have
A sweetheart like you.
You're voice is so pretty,
Like the birds overhead.
You're hotter than fire ants
Attacking my head.
Your love's like the ocean,
My heart I bequeath
When you sit in my lap,
I swear, I can't breathe.
I lay awake at night,
Listening to your teeth grind.
I'm forever yours,
And you're forever mine.
For some reason, she wasn’t moved. Now each Valentines Day, I’m in the stores, struggling through the scattered cards, and battling over roses. I watched a man rush in with a panicked look on his face, grab the first card he saw, and bolt for the counter. I had already viewed it, so I stopped him to ask if this was for his mother-in-law. He thanked me for saving his skin and grabbed a card for a daughter. He was gone before I could stop him.
I finally found the perfect card. Not mushy enough to cause dry heaves, nothing to remind her of annoyances, but a card that diverts her toward sentiment. I turned it over and gasped, “Six dollars? This is robbery!” I then thought about the effects. This isn’t just a card. It’s a magnifying glass that helps her focus, for a brief moment, only on the fond memories connected to the prose of the card.
Jules Renard once said, “Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.” Perhaps this is the secret to love. If a man can get his wife’s heart full, she’ll forget about all the things that annoy her. When life turns her upside down, the challenge is to use love to get her back on her feet.
Happy Valentines Day.