Valentine’s Day: Realities Don’t Always RhymeHEAD HONCHO HELLO FOR FEBRUARY 2014

The best Valentine’s Day of my life was in high school, and I can’t say that many since have even come close. Kind of sad that the standout was twenty-five years ago. By contrast, I seem to have a great New Year’s Eve—the other over-promise-and-under-deliver holiday—about every five years, separated by ones that aren’t merely mediocre but instead pretty much suck.

NOSTALGIA 2014: Writing this post got me feeling nostalgic for my bitterness about Valentine's Day, an emotion that miraculously passed a couple years ago without even requiring a significant other. That nostalgia got me nostalgic for some of Knock Knock's now-retired Valentine's Day ink-on-paper.

NOSTALGIA 2014: Writing this post got me feeling nostalgic for my bitterness about Valentine’s Day, an emotion that miraculously passed a couple years ago without even requiring a significant other. That nostalgia got me nostalgic for some of Knock Knock’s now-retired Valentine’s Day ink-on-paper.

That superlative February 14 took place during either my sophomore or junior year. My boyfriend, whom I was with for almost all four years of high school, not counting periodic tumultuous separations, sprinkled what must have been ten gallons of confetti over my bedroom—bed, desk, floor, window sills—then placed eight inflated balloons on my bed, each with one letter Sharpied onto them: I LOVE YOU. There may also have been rose petals. When I walked in on the surprise, I was beside myself with the romance of it all. My mother did not share my excitement, in part because she thought the relationship was too intense and too young, but specifically because the confetti turned out to be all but ineradicable. Looking back from my vantage point as a real adult with a real life to keep in order, I realize that the truly romantic gesture would have been for Erik to clean the installation up afterward. The confetti on the floor was probably a half-inch deep, requiring one vacuum cleaner bag after another. Years later, when the room was repainted, we found more confetti. I’m sure a few pieces remain laminated into the walls.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday of long standing mega-accelerated by industrial-era commercialism. In fact, if you’d like to know its history, have a look at our now retired greeting card “The Truth About Valentine’s Day,” included in the memory-lane series below. But even though it’s an occasion driven by commercial interests (you know, like weddings), we still yearn for these expressions of romantic love. We (mostly women) yearn for them year-round, but it’s only acceptable to yearn for them—and punish their absence—on February 14. And our poor partners (mostly men) know whatever they do will inevitably fall short and didn’t want to do anything in the first place anyway. And then there’s the single majority who have no one to disappoint us—which can be more disappointing than disappointment itself.

NOSTALGIA 2014: This is one of my favorite cards we ever did, in no small part because it's a poem about a vibrator. When we launched our "Reality Rhymes" series, the smart sales team asked, "But who will buy these for whom?" And I said, "People will buy them for their friends, like on Father's Day, for those friends who have shitty fathers. And they'll buy them because they themselves relate." But my sales thinking didn't pan out: nobody bought the cards. Also, the designs might have been too on-the-nose, such that people thought the cards were saccharine, not subversive; they wouldn't have been triggered to read closely enough. And then there's also the fact that most people don't read things. Like maybe this run-on caption.

NOSTALGIA 2014: This is one of my favorite cards we ever did, in no small part because it’s a poem about a vibrator. When we launched our “Reality Rhymes” series, the smart sales team asked, “But who will buy these for whom?” And I said, “People will buy them for their friends, like on Father’s Day, for those friends who have shitty fathers. And they’ll buy them because they themselves relate.” But my sales thinking didn’t pan out: nobody bought the cards. Also, the designs might have been too on-the-nose, such that people thought the cards were saccharine, not subversive; they wouldn’t have been triggered to read closely enough. And then there’s also the fact that most people don’t read things. Like maybe this run-on caption.

In Knock Knock’s early days, most greeting cards lacked sass and truth. We set out to fill this vacuum, and I’m proud to see kindred cards and messages all over the marketplace now. A primary objective for me then was to create cards that acknowledged the letdown that Valentine’s Day can be, as well as to provide missives that friends could give to one another without feeling like those well-meaning but pathetic Valentine’s Day cards your mom sends you because she feels bad that you’re single.

Knock Knock got out of most of the greeting card racket in 2007, and later we likewise took a break from doing holiday-specific gifts due to low demand. In the last few years, however, we’ve found that Valentine’s Day product is once again flying off the shelves (we’ve now got a whole section of it here). We are particularly proud of and grateful for our “What I Love About You” fill-in-the-blank journal (with an adorable video), a true bestseller that has not only flown off the shelves year-round but whose success has spawned “Why You’re So Awesome,” “What I Wish for You,” and “What I Love About Mom.”

This year I have a boyfriend for the first time in (okay, I’m embarrassed to admit this) nine years. Who happens to be the same boyfriend I had nine years ago. He did pretty well with a Valentine’s Day during Part 1 of our relationship (we refer to the two chunks as “Part 1” and “Part 2”) by baking a flourless chocolate cake and sprinkling an affectionate powdered-sugar message onto it. Like most straight men, however, tangible romantic gestures are not his forte. Still, after a nine-year drought, I will acknowledge that I’m hoping for something slightly north of mediocre, and if Adam wants to have a not-unhappy girlfriend in a couple weeks, he’ll make an effort to step up. Because we’re in our forties now, and guys in their forties should know that going through the Valentine’s Day motions is necessary for conflict avoidance. And that’s nothing if not romantic.

ENJOY MORE KNOCK KNOCK VINTAGE VALENTINES BELOW!

NOSTALGIA 2014: Our 2006 get-out-of-jail-free card in the monopoly of love.

NOSTALGIA 2014: Our 2006 get-out-of-jail-free card in the monopoly of love.

 

NOSTALGIA 2014: I thought this card would revolutionize the dominant discourse on Valentine's Day and its triangulated yet paradigmatic biases of gender, socioeconomic status, and bullshit. I did no follow-up study to determine whether this ultimately occurred, however.

NOSTALGIA 2014: I thought this card would revolutionize the dominant discourse on Valentine’s Day and its triangulated yet paradigmatic biases of gender, socioeconomic status, and bullshit. I did no follow-up study to determine whether this ultimately occurred, however.

 

NOSTALGIA 2014: If I'm honest with myself, this is probably the most relevant Valentine for my life this year. Except the boring. Never the boring.

NOSTALGIA 2014: If I’m honest with myself, this is probably the most relevant Valentine for my life this year. Except the boring. Never the boring.

 

NOSTALGIA 2014: There were a few years when I was like, "You know, we singletons are actually doing a lot better than we give ourselves credit for." This was especially apparent to me in and around 2006, when pretty much all my friends had little kids, and most, in fact, had just had their second, AKA "the marriage tester." I'm sure this makes me a bad person, but the pinks in this photograph have always made me think of female genitalia.

NOSTALGIA 2014: There were a few years when I was like, “You know, we singletons are actually doing a lot better than we give ourselves credit for.” This was especially apparent to me in and around 2006, when pretty much all my friends had little kids, and most, in fact, had just had their second, AKA “the marriage tester.” I’m sure this makes me a bad person, but the pinks in this photograph have always made me think of female genitalia.

 

NOSTALGIA 2014: This card is one of another series, "The Truth About," that I thought was clever but didn't sell. The trifold that allowed for the mechanical staging of information, from one truth to another, unfolding like a rectilinear lotus? The "More than a card, less than a gift" quality of the labored-over content within? Yeah. I think people want a history lesson with their obligatory romance token about as much as they'd like a gift-wrapped nose-hair clipper. The kicker of it is that I spent like fifteen hours researching and writing each of the "Truth About" cards while the burgeoning entrepreneurial endeavor demanded my inexpert guidance—when someone suggested that the return on the time spent researching the history of Valentine's Day wasn't coming out the right side up, I learned a hard lesson about prioritizing resources. Be still my beating heart.

NOSTALGIA 2014: This card is one of another series, “The Truth About,” that I thought was clever but didn’t sell. The trifold that allowed for the mechanical staging of information, from one truth to another, unfolding like a rectilinear lotus? The “More than a card, less than a gift” quality of the labored-over content within? Yeah. I think people want a history lesson with their obligatory romance token about as much as they’d like a gift-wrapped nose-hair clipper. The kicker of it is that I spent like fifteen hours researching and writing each of the “Truth About” cards while the burgeoning entrepreneurial endeavor demanded my inexpert guidance—when someone suggested that the return on the time spent researching the history of Valentine’s Day wasn’t coming out the right side up, I learned a hard lesson about prioritizing resources. Be still my beating heart.

 

NOSTALGIA 2014: I include this only for comprehensive anti-valentine coverage. I see clearly now that at the time I was leaning far too heavily on the "Las Vegas: Fabulous" font, a compensatory crutch like any other.

NOSTALGIA 2014: I include this only for comprehensive anti-valentine coverage. I see clearly now that at the time I was leaning far too heavily on the “Las Vegas: Fabulous” font, a compensatory crutch like any other.

 

NOSTALGIA 2014: The last of our Valentine's Reality Rhymes, a card not dissimilar to the note a parent writes excusing a kid from class. But in wedding cursive. Unfortunately, you know the person giving this card would never really mean it, so the recipient would get in big trouble when he or she took it at its word and failed adequately to gift and celebrate the godforsaken occasion that makes most of us feel like crap. HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TO ONE AND ALL!

NOSTALGIA 2014: The last of our Valentine’s Reality Rhymes, a card not dissimilar to the note a parent writes excusing a kid from class. But in wedding cursive. Unfortunately, you know the person giving this card would never really mean it, so the recipient would get in big trouble when he or she took it at its word and failed adequately to gift and celebrate the godforsaken occasion that makes most of us feel like crap. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ONE AND ALL!




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