First, what families do these companies think they're writing these cards for? I did not have a selfless mother, who did everything for her children, and who created happy and wonderful memories my sister and I will cherish for the rest of our lives. Nor did I have a father who was always there for us, who willingly provided his understanding, support, and guidance, and who created happy and wonderful memories my sister and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.
Who the hell has a Beaver Cleaver family? Greeting card companies need to get their heads out of their asses and sell real cards for real people. (Come to think of it, I came up with that idea recently--for a whole new line called "Keeping It Real: Real Cards for Real People." I dare Carlton or Hallmark or some competitor to do something with it. I'd even write some realistic yet gracious verses for them. I'm just saying.)
Now, let's talk about greeting cards for gay men. Oh, I've seen what's available, at places like Little Sisters, Vancouver's gay and lesbian emporium, featuring naked hunks, sporting huge erections, with smart cracks (no pun intended) inside (just because we're gay men, why does everything have to be about nudity and sex?). In fact, on several occasions, I've spent a few minutes among these cards, amused or playfully mortified by just how brazen and tasteless they are. Buy one to give to someone? You must be kidding. No one buys these things, do they? Aren't they nothing more than novelty items, meant to entertain customers when they come into the store, but destined to remain there forever? I could never give one to someone who means a lot to me, certainly not to my life partner, Chris, the man I've been with and loved for nearly two decades.
No, at certain times of the year--like Valentine's Day, or Chris's birthday (November 6), or our anniversary (June 13), or Christmas--I need to find something just right--meaningful yet appropriate, and definitely not obscene.
So there I am, standing in front of the wall at Carlton or Hallmark (or both), every kind of greeting card imaginable at my disposal, and not one of them appropriate or right or suitable, for so many different reasons. I can't tell you how hopeful I've been walking into these stores, sending out positive energy the perfect card will catch my attention, so I won't have to spend ridiculous amounts of time looking, outright rejecting most, reading a choice few over and over, trying to expand my imagination to somehow make them fit the person or how I feel about him, only for my spirits to deflate and my frustration level to rise, as I'm sucked into the vortex of craziness that is the greeting card business.
The problems with greeting cards a gay man might give to his life partner are endless but mostly characteristic, regardless of the occasion. Sometimes, I find one with the perfect verse, exactly what I want to say to the man I know I'm so blessed to call mine, only to be faced with a picture, or an illustration, of a man and a woman on the cover. Do I draw a mustache on the woman and call it a day? Haven't gotten that desperate yet, but the thought has occurred to me, on more than one occasion.
This past weekend, I found a Christmas card with the perfect sentiment inside to give Chris, but the picture on the cover was of a man's hand holding a woman's, hers long and slender, fingernails carefully manicured and painted. Can't exactly give Chris that one, now can I?
After I eliminate all the "sweetheart" or "man I love" cards, finding something wrong with every single one, I move into the "husband" and "wife" cards. Is Chris my husband? I suppose so, if I look at him in the broadest sense, even though we're not officially married. He certainly isn't my wife. If anyone is the wife in our relationship, it's me. (Fortunately, Chris doesn't look at me that way, so I've never received a "wife" card from him, not yet anyway. Perhaps he hasn't gotten desperate enough.)
On occasion, I've had to settle for a "husband" card--it's the only one I found with the right expression of sentiment for Chris, without a picture of a woman, or some part of a woman body, or something reminiscent of a woman, on the cover. "So I'm your husband, am I?" Chris asked me once, skeptically. I understood his raised eyebrows. What do we call each other? In the heterosexual world, you have husbands and wives. In the gay world, we have...lovers, partners? No one's produced lovers and partners cards yet, and I'm not certain that's how I feel about Chris anyway. So I explained to him, it was the only card I could find, before I snapped in the store and had to have mall security escort me out the door.
This Christmas, the greeting cards were the worst I'd ever seen, THE WORST, not just for family members but for Chris, too. Oh, the cover pictures were beautiful, inspired, artistic expressions of a warm and wonderful time of the year. But the verses? Are you kidding? They were dreadful. Or maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind to search for greeting cards on the occasions I made the concerted effort, hopeful, so hopeful, I'd find them all in one location and put an end to that part of holiday lunacy. And the "sweetheart" or "man I love" cards? Hopeless. Absolutely hopeless. I can't tell you how many stores I looked in--London Drugs, Save-On Foods, Carlton, Hallmark, in several different locations, over and over--always hopeful, always disappointed.
In the end, I bought the exact same card I gave Chris last year. I remember the picture on the cover--completely generic, not a man or a woman, or anything to point to a specific sex, in sight--and this entirely suitable verse: "Your love is a gift I treasure more with every passing day, and as time goes by...I find myself discovering more and more reasons for loving you. That's why this Christmas, I'm thinking about how wonderful it is to have your love in my life, and how much you mean to me [Carlton]." (Collective, "Awww!"). I just hope Chris doesn't have as good a memory as I do. Come to think of it, I know he doesn't. Greeting cards aren't as important to him as they are to me.
Maybe I should have followed my first impulse and bought all ten or so copies of the same card so I'd have a decade's supply, thereby saving me from having to endure the anguish of searching futilely for just the right cards to give him well into the future. Anything to avoid the endless frustration of greeting card stores at Christmas time.
Postscript dated December 4, 2012:
Nearly two years after I first published this post, it continues to receive a phenomenal number of pageviews–to date, nearly 1,000 in total. This tells me many gay and lesbian people have an interest in giving each other greeting cards, and they continue to have difficulty finding something suitable, either through companies like Carlton or Hallmark, or through gay and lesbian emporiums in their cities.
So, let me tell you how Chris and I solved this problem for ourselves, starting last Christmas (2011). We made our own customized greeting card.
On our local drug store's (London Drugs) website, under photo development, there is the option to order greeting cards. All you have to do is select a border consistent with the occasion (in this case, Christmas) and insert a picture of your choice. Then submit your order.
To be sure we had our cards well in advance, we ordered them in early November. They arrived several weeks later, and we just sent them off this past weekend. The price, by the way, is less than if we'd bought personal cards for all of our friends and family members.
The bottom line is, you don't have to rely on what the big greeting card companies have available. Sure, there are many Internet greeting card companies, all of them headed by folks who are willing to work with every customer to ensure the desired product is made. But why not do it yourself? It couldn't be easier.
If you click on this link, you'll see a sample of the Christmas card Chris and I sent to friends and family in 2011. It will give you an idea of what you can do for yourself, with minimal effort and maximum result.
Good luck, and I hope you never have a problem finding suitable greeting cards again.