Saturday, December 10, 2011

Choosing the Perfect Greeting Card for Any Woman: Surviving the Holidays in Your Relationship or Marriage

We’ve talked about choosing the perfect gift for any occasion, and a reader notes that finding a great card to go with a gift or express a holiday wish is difficult to impossible. But! You still have options that will surprise and delight her!

We’re in the middle of a bunch of religious and cultural holidays right now, and greeting cards are making life rough on the postman and his shoes, as well as a lot of people who are trying to find something that really expresses what they are feeling. Selections are really pretty crappy, and one could wear out a good pair of shoes just trying to find something that comes close. “Lorne” does an excellent job of summing it up:

David,

I have to share with you an observation I made today. I'm sure many of your readers have noticed this as well. The selection Christmas cards we men have to give our wives' is horrible. I was at the local Walgreen’s [a drugstore chain in the U.S.] today to pick up a card for my wife and another from the boys for her, and honestly I couldn't much tell the difference whose was whose.

The “'From Husband” cards all portray us as either bumbling idiots who are just lucky to have a woman in our lives, or needy men willing to do anything just as long as we can spend time with our wife. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my wife and believe that she is a great person, but the message these cards sends out is "Thanks for putting up with me, I really don't deserve you." How can that be attractive to a woman? For one thing, if I knew I was that big of a goof, I should be shot for not doing something about it.

To me the message shouldn't at all be about me, but more about her. Something as simple as “I love you and am looking forward to a great holiday season with you and our family” seems to me much better than anything I found at the store. I've always had a hard time selecting Christmas cards that I felt had conveyed the right message, but now that I am really in tune with your writings, I finally understand why. Maybe I should start an online website for smartass Christmas cards, at least that way we'd have some options.

Anyway, thanks for all your work, I really look forward to reading your newsletter everyday.

Happy Holidays,
Lorne


Lorne’s experience is identical to my own, and I’ve received numerous complaints from others. I don’t know what’s going on in the creative department at Hallmark, American Greetings, and other greeting card companies, but the evidence could easily make the case that the greeting card business is all about getting women to say, “Oh, how sweet,” as if “sweet” is a term that any man would ever want used to describe him if he knew what it meant.

Wussitude alert: According to female readers and support staff, “Sweet” means “Nice, mushy, child-like, weak, and wussy.” It has nothing to do with “considerate” in the female dictionary. Think “Fredo” from the movie “The Godfather.” Michael Corleone’s sister Connie refers to him as “sweet and helpless” as she pleads with Michael to not cut him off from the family business because he’s too big a wuss to survive on his own.

So we’re clear that you don’t want to do anything that earns the title of “sweet,” right? Considerate, yes, sweet, no. Good. Now that we’re all clear on that, Lorne says something that has a blinding flash of inspiration for those who have the sight to see it. He says, “Maybe I should start an online web site for smartass Christmas cards…”

You don’t have to start your own web site, but get this: any woman worth having would be far more pleased with even a poorly-made self-made card that was your best effort than with anything that you can buy off the shelf, no matter how extravagant, as long as it looks like some time and effort went into it.

What???

Yep. Sure ‘nuff. Now pull your jaw back up to where your mouth will close and I’ll tell you why.

How many thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or possibly even millions of each card do you think a greeting card company prints? And in how many languages? Do you really think you’re going to make a woman feel “special” by giving her something that a great many women all over the world have?

Now add in the “lame verse” factor that Lorne mentions. So the upside is that she notices you remembered the occasion, the downside is that you handled the occasion by buying her something that lots of other women have and gets you the title of “sweet” instead of “my MAN!” That’s the bad news…

Now for the good news! The women I surveyed said they’d rather have a sticky-note that said something sincere and a bit romantic than an expensive card that said little or nothing and was mass-produced, because it would make them feel special and have a piece of their man in it for them to hold onto when they felt bad. They feel special when someone spends time to do something only for them – which shouldn’t surprise you when you consider how much time they spend doing for everyone else, especially in their household. And keep in mind, it was a free-form answer box in this survey, not a multiple choice that limited their selections. In other words, these are their words, not mine.

Such notes go into a woman’s “treasure box,” that secret stash of mementos that she drags out when she feels bad, especially when she’s missing you or she’s locked herself into a room after the two of you have been fighting. Pay attention here guys! The stuff that goes into her treasure box (which might actually be a shoe box, a drawer, a book with stuff pressed between the pages, even one of the felt bags off of a bag of Crown Royal (Canadian whiskey) – literally anything that can be used to store and hide small, special things) is what she uses to bring herself closer to you, and you would be wise to make sure that she gets several things over the course of the year that would be a candidate to go in there.

(And you’d already know that if you’d read "THE Man's Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage"!)

Now, for even better news. Anything is fair game. You can use greeting card software to create and print something as long as whatever is written inside is genuine, and preferably hand-written; don’t let the computer add the verse. Do it with a pen in your own hand, and if you have a good photo of something you know is a special memory for her and can be matched to the occasion, use it instead of the packaged art work for at least one of the panels. About any kind of paper or card stock is acceptable, as long as it’s not had fish wrapped in it or soaked in some kind of oil. One of the best-received cards I ever created was a birthday card made with crayons and brown paper cut from a paper grocery sack (the theme was a reference to her inner child).

The recipient was a 42-year old woman whose car was worth more than my house at the time, owned and ran three successful companies, and was as tough as nails. Like all women, she was simply so accustomed to receiving generic, mass-produced gifts and cards that she was overwhelmed by somebody taking the time to make something especially for her.

Now for a word of absolutely golden advice: if you’re not particularly creative and uncomfortable even starting such a project, enlist some help from somebody who is. DO NOT, under any circumstances, enlist the help of one of your wife’s friends, or even from any woman who knows your wife (or girlfriend, of course). This sounds counter-intuitive, but there’s a good reason for it.

The short version is that women are highly competitive, and even someone who is supposed to be your wife’s best friend might be jealous and competitive enough to sabotage your effort so that she can “one-up” your wife or create some drama if she’s feeling bored. If you think not, just ask a few female friends.

Or better yet, just realize that this is one of the ways in which men and women differ. For us, the title of “best friend” goes to the person we feel closest to and feel most protective of, a combination brother, buddy, comrade-in-arms, and even soul-mate to a degree. For women in general, their best friend is whomever they spend the most time with and share the most information with, regardless of depth; it’s based on quantity of social interaction, not quality of emotional bonding.

(There are exceptions to this, and studies show a correlation between brain structure, testosterone levels and aberrant behavior, as in nearly any case where a woman displays more masculine behavioral tendencies – higher than average testosterone levels in women will change behavior long before obvious physical symptoms, like heavy facial hair or a masculine swagger, can be seen.)

If you don’t have any female friends whom you can trust and you need help, the women at our forum, http://forum.makingherhappy.com, would be delighted to help you with ideas. They’re bright, creative, and good people who like to help anyone who is trying to help themselves.

Like the best gift for a woman, the best card is one that shows thoughtfulness and personal involvement, a gift of self, time, forethought, and effort, not the most brightly colored or catchiest sounding mass-produced thing on the shelf. Like a hand-picked bunch of wildflowers or a live plant you have grown yourself, a hand-made card shows that you cared enough to give your time to her instead of just blowing her off with money. And there’s a word for that: ROMANCE. It works for all seasons, and all occasions. Except when the woman is a parasite or predator, that is.

So there you have it. If you want more, come see me at http://www.makingherhappy.com. For now, I’ll simply wish you “Happy Holidays!”

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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