This weekend I went to buy a birthday card for a 5-year-old, and happened upon an option that cost $7.99. It did not come with anything you’d expect when handing over $7.99, such as a Paw Patrol action figure or a can of tobacco or two Steak N’ Shake meals. It did not emit its own light. It did not play “Who Let the Dogs Out,” which is the only time I’ve ever been disappointed by that sentence. It did not convert into a plane, or a robot, or a member of the MCU. It sat there, doing jack squat, mocking its own luxurious price tag, saying, “This entire card rack is ridiculous, and also 5-year-olds usually can’t read.”
I have never paid $7.99 for a card. I will go to my grave never having paid more than four dollars for a card, and if my children’s children ever pay more than four dollars for a card I will scrape myself out of the ground and haunt the shit out of those people. If I am in need of a card and the store I am in does not contain a 99-cent rack, I will march out of there and head home to the Tub of Art Supplies. If you are related to me this holiday season, get ready for some red construction paper.
If I sound worked up about a topic of shattering unimportance, it’s because repeated exposure to social media has made be an impulsive rage-monster, duh. But it’s also because the Christmas Season compels us to send out Christmas cards, a thoughtful, meaningful process of staying in touch with friends in relations that we have downgraded to paying a robot in Thailand to print some non-denominational words over a picture and stuffing into envelopes without so much as a wine-scribbled note.
There is no longer any need to send cards, but especially Christmas cards, which according to an online provider that rhymes with Schlapfish can now come with Real Gold-Stamped Glittering Snowfall accents, in case you’re looking for reasons to make your loved ones believe you have too much money. Christmas cards are like the $7.99 birthday cards except way worse, covered in glitter, carved up into odd shapes that cost extra to mail and only effective if you go to an actual post office, all but nine of which closed in 2004.
In case you missed the headline, cards are stupid. They’re pitifully useless; they convey dollar-store sentiments that you could better write yourself, were you a 59-year-old quilter who needed a side hustle. (Or they’re wacky and feisty, and call me old-fashioned but I can’t see a scenario that would end in me giving my grandma any holiday card in which the punchline involves two old ladies farting.) Either way they’re a useless and wholly expendable part of the gift-transaction process, one that once left me, at 11:35 p.m., staring at a wall of non-comedy at a CVS in northwest Indiana looking for a Mother’s Day card. #neverforget
Yet somehow in America, we’ve convinced ourselves that no Christmas, birthday, anniversary, baptism, bar mitzvah, promotion, Mother’s Day, pet death or job interview can pass without the compulsive delivery of a garbage poem written by, I don’t even know, who writes for greeting cards? Have you ever met anyone who writes for greeting cards? I feel like you could spent a month wandering America and run into more people who win manufacturer sweepstakes than write for greeting cards, unless that second group is just lying to you about their profession, which they should do.
Look, I’m not against holiday cheer. Far from it. If you include a personalized note, fantastic! If you include a clever novelty letter, that’s great! If you’re going through the motions, why bother, especially since this entire process unfolds while we all remain in unending, bottomless contact with everyone we’ve ever met in our lives. (If Facebook had any positive potential it was killing Christmas cards, but in addition to ruining human privacy and handing election control to Russian coders, Facebook screwed that up, too.) Also, if you send me Christmas cards, I’m gonna feel guilty and have to send them back, and that sounds like a lot of work and many trips to the post office.