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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 08
Shortage of heartfelt greeting cards for same-sex couples
Section One
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Shortage of heartfelt greeting cards for same-sex couples

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Last Friday was Valentine's Day. And I'm married. My husband and I tied-the-knot last May and, while I find it easy to remember our anniversary, May 25, I often times find myself forgetting about Valentine's Day. I don't know about you but I don't really need a 'special' day to give my husband a gift. To me, the holiday stinks of assimilation; I always felt that Valentine's Day was better left to the straight kids.

My husband, however, sees it differently. And so I must, too. (If you are married you are probably smiling right now after reading that last comment!) Well, one of the easiest things you can do is buy something for Valentine's Day - even if it is last minute.

Let's see: There's candy; but he doesn't like sweets. Oh ... there are flowers; but it is Seattle and the middle of winter, so what's the point really? I'm a writer so I could always get him a Hallmark card and I will rock his world by writing something awesome. Yeah! That's it! To the gift card aisle I go.

Do you know what I found when I got to the gift card aisle? Not a whole lot for same-sex couples. In fact, at a major grocery store in Seattle, I only found one. That's it - one card. And it was stupid. And so I left.

I ended up at Target because I thought, well, surely this is a bigger store ... and do you know what? They didn't even have one card that was designed just for two men or two women.

Now, before I go on, let me just acknowledge the fact that, yes, I could have gotten a generic 'From me to you' card and that would've been good. But that is just it, isn't it? We shouldn't have to settle anymore. There are more than 15 states where same-sex marriage is legal and I say it's high time Hallmark realizes that fact and starts printing some cards for the many millions of LGBT Americans.

I'm not the only one who thinks so. TIME magazine's Steve Friess found that things haven't changed much since the 1990s when he first looked for a card for another man. And that, just for anyone keeping score, is piss poor.

'This is how Gays browse for Valentine's Day, birthday, wedding, or anniversary greetings. We walk into Walgreens or Target, ignore just about any card that shows pictures of actual humans or that declare love to a 'husband' or 'wife,' because inevitably the language, and probably the imagery too, will be positively hetero,' he said in a story that was published February 11 on the magazine's website, TIME.com. 'Instead, we find cards with mutually enamored, anthropomorphic animals and ascertain they aren't drawn to imply gender. Or, alternatively, we go schlocky because a crude cliché about one's age or a knowing joke about the banality of a long-term relationship really knows no sexual orientation.'

Friess writes with the acknowledgment that the Gays of Sochi and Uganda would kill for such mundane dilemmas, but he's still baffled.

Well, that makes two of us for sure.

'If this is an ultimate first-world problem, it is because the marketplace in first-world countries is supposed to resolve these inconveniences and awkward moments by providing products to satisfy a growing niche,' he said. 'Back in 1992 when I sought out my first Valentine's card for another man, I expected nothing more. More than two decades later, though, it's surprising - and surprisingly bad business - that so little has changed.'

The key player here, of course, is Hallmark. There are other card makers, but Hallmark dominates the $8 billion-a-year industry with more than 5 billion cards sold in the U.S. annually, and a presence in drug stores and other retailers that goes far beyond its own 38,000 stores.

'Back in 2008, when only Massachusetts and California had legal same-sex marriage, Hallmark made a big deal about rolling out what they considered to be Gay wedding cards,' said Friess. 'Even though the cards were carefully unspecific - artwork showed intertwined flowers and overlapping hearts and the nondescript message 'Two hearts. One promise.' - they enjoyed praise for their foresight.'

'That the company is basically doing roughly the same thing six years and 15 additional marriage-equality states later is strange,' he noted. 'This is an age, after all, when all-American icons Chevy and Coca-Cola include same-sex families in their diversity montages during the most mainstream of TV events, the Super Bowl and Olympics.'

'This year, Hallmark offers two cards in our in-store Valentine's Day selection that are specifically created for same-sex relationships - titled 'Love: Man to Man' and 'Love: Woman to Woman' - and they are labeled that way in the display,' the company's publicist, Kristi Ersting, wrote to Friess last week. 'There are other relevant Valentine's Day cards that would be appropriate for same-sex relationships as well as other romantic relationships. They would be found in the display under titles like 'Love for Him/Her,' 'Man/Woman I Love' and 'For My Partner.'

Two cards, one for each same-gender pair.

'Neither of which, it should be noted, the clerks at any of the Hallmark stores in and around Ann Arbor, Mich., seemed aware of or could locate,' said Friess. 'And then, of course, some other cards that can, as they say, go both ways.'

I found, just as Friess did, that there were other markets (other than the Gays) that Hallmark has got their eye on such as a 'priest's anniversary, a thank-you note from a pet or for a day-care provider, and congratulations on potty training, the loss of teeth, a new cat, or a gold award from the Girl Scouts.'

'I did spot a Valentine's card under the banner 'Daughter & 'Son' - but it's unclear whether this is a passive-aggressive way of questioning an in-law's validity in the family or acknowledging his gender transition,' he said.

'Gay people have won so many victories in such a short period of time that many figure it's all over but the mopping-up,' Friess concludes. 'But the mopping-up includes small things like this that illustrate inclusion and respect as well as acceptance.'

Maybe next year? Well, here's hoping.

A belated Happy Valentine's Day to all the lovers out there - I hope you had a better time at the whole Valentine's gift-giving thing than I did.

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