I learned yesterday at Target that 99.95% of sympathy cards FUCKING SUCK. And the wordier the card is, the more likely it is that it Fucking Sucks. The other 0.05% made me cry in the middle of the store, so I felt like that maybe wasn’t a good choice for a card either. Making someone cry in the middle of Target might also qualify a card for the Fucking Sucks label, but I’m not sure.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I take a really, really long time to pick out greeting cards of any kind – especially after the portion of yesterday’s post where I agonized about my inability to make decisions. Sometimes I think it’s almost an art form to choose a card that fits me, fits the occasion, and fits the recipient all at once. I’m always just absolutely delighted when I find a card that says exactly what I had in mind, and every once in a while I’ve been known to buy more than one copy of the same card if it’s a real winner. For example, some readers will know that the flowerpot cat card is one of my favorites, and it’s always been received very well. But then some of you are going to click that link and think it’s the dumbest card you’ve ever seen. That’s cool. I’ll hate you another day.
It can’t be easy to write sympathy card messages for a living, but come on. They’re SO BAD. If you sit there for a minute and think of the most awkward, awful thing you could possibly say to someone who’s lost a loved one, and then you put it on a card with a dumbass picture of a flower or a leaf on the front, then you, my friend, have just begun a career as a sympathy card designer. Bonus points if you cause the awkward, awful thing to work in a rhyme. Double bonus if you’re an exclusive card designer for Target and you make the card DARK GRAY. What the fuck is that? Maybe you should put a picture of a goddamn casket on the front, too.
I know there never seems to be the right thing to say to someone who’s lost a loved one. You feel so helpless and useless and at a loss for words, and, at least in my personal experience, inevitably you blurt out something incredibly ridiculous and then it haunts you for a long time afterward in a very “I carried a watermelon” sort of way. I’ve been very fortunate in my life so far because I have had very little experience with death, but at the same time that means I’m particularly bad at dealing with it. I’d never even been to a funeral until after Ginny’s accident, and then I went to two funerals and a memorial service in the same day after spending most of the week in an ICU waiting room, like, way to give me a crash course on it, God or whoever the hell, but anyway. The point is that on that long, sad Friday, I amassed a collection of idiotic blurty phrases that would keep me in the sympathy card business for the rest of my career if I were so inclined.
I still beat myself up a bit about some of the insane things I said that week because I’m nutso neurotic like that, but really, I kind of had an excuse because I was tired and grieving and dealing with a lot all at once. And, honestly, I doubt the people who heard me say the dumb things remembered them for even a little while afterward. But there you go. We’d been through a terrible tragedy. We were sad and in shock. People give you a pass on a lot of stuff in those situations.
I could certainly be wrong, but I am assuming that most sympathy card designers do not get down to work immediately after experiencing the death of a loved one, nor do they hang out at funerals and memorial services to get good ideas from dumbasses like me. In my head, sympathy card designers probably do other kinds of cards too, and they sit down at a desk and do their work every day just like most of the rest of us. So what is their excuse for their terrible and sometimes laughably inappropriate cards?
Anyway. I don’t want the family receiving this card to wonder what the hell I was thinking and if I’m on crack, or to break down sobbing when they read it. I really just want them to know that I love them and that I’m thinking about them. Which is basically what I wrote on the very spare, almost blank card I eventually selected. If I designed sympathy cards for a living, that’s what they’d say. I tried my hardest to find a card that felt like a hug, because that’s the only good thing I know to do for someone who is sad.
All of those sympathy card designers should quit their jobs and go write Successories or something. The kind of people who are into Successories probably think that most sympathy cards are awesome.