Staggering. Who ever would have believed it. I’ve just read that women – yes, women – purchase 85% of all Valentine cards. Back in the day when I was thrown out of class for trying to read a Valentine’s card under my desk, it was the boys who bought the cards…for the most part. And, back in the day, the cards were unsigned. So what’s happened between now and then?
Let’s go back to the 1840s, when the mother of Valentines, Esther Howland, began to mass produce cards made from scrap in America. Think kindergarten – card, glue, ribbon, lace, coloured pictures – and you get the idea. A sweet idea for a time when sweetness was in vogue and women and ribbons and lace all went together in one nice pretty sentence. Old Esther did well for herself and probably never in her wildest dreams imagined that not two centuries later, 1 billion cards would be sent each year in the States on and around the 14th of February.
Do people in this part of the world even send anonymous Valentines any more, I wonder, as I sit and think about who amongst my male acquaintances even has my mailing address and knows what the inside of a post office looks like. Is splashing out hard-earned dollars, forint, euro or pounds on a bouquet of flowers and having it delivered without a name considered a poor return on investment? The thought of some other unsuspecting bloke getting the credit must be galling and a huge turn-off when it comes to weighing up the price of anonymity. Or would sending something unsigned now amount to stalking? But back in the day, that was half the fun – figuring out who the card or the flowers might be from.
The most imaginative Valentine’s gift I ever received was a real buffalo heart … still warm but not quite beating. The most considerate was when I worked between two offices – one in the morning, the other in the afternoon – and received flowers at both of them…from the same chap. The cynic in me now gags at the amount of money wasted on this one day, while the romantic in me says that every day in love is a day for thoughtful gestures. The child in me though, is secretly hoping that when I open my mailbox this morning, I’ll see an envelope and when I open the envelope, there’ll be a card… unsigned. Imagine, my very own twenty-first-century stalker!