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Play Your Cards Right

I like Valentine’s Day. I like flowers, chocolates and being wined and dined. Equally I like nights in alone, in fluffy pyjamas with Hugh Grant films. Whether I’m in a relationship or single, Valentine’s Day gives me an excuse to have a bloody good, stress-free evening. Or at least it has done, until now.

This year things are very different. We’re two weeks away from V-Day and I have had precisely four minor breakdowns, all regarding one small but crucial part of the day; the card. I’ve realised this year how easily I’ve had it in the past. Last year I was in a relationship, which entailed a very simple pop into Clinton’s and picking out some kind of cutesy teddy bear covered card with the word Boyfriend scrawled across the top in swirly red letters. Done and dusted. The previous year I was single, saving hassle, a tree and three quid. But this year, things have changed. I’m not in a relationship. I’m not single. I’m ‘seeing someone.’ Much to my horror, Hallmark hasn’t made a card for that.

It all started with what was intended to be a ‘quick’ visit to Clinton’s. With shelves upon shelves of soppiness, you’d think a choice would be fairly simple. But that’s the issue, choice, or more to the point, too much of it. I’ve not prepared myself properly and I can feel myself panicking, totally overwhelmed. I take a deep breath and convince myself I’m over reacting. To reassure myself, I randomly pick one up, promising myself that this card could be an appropriate choice. ‘For My Dad on Valentine’s Day’ it says in huge letters. Half expecting to see a picture of Freud on the front, or at least the number for some kind of psychiatric helpline, I put it back down again in confusion. The task of choosing a card will apparently be much harder than it appears.

Feeling somewhat nauseous, I move on to what looks like a less ‘mushy’ (and less incestuous) section labelled ‘humour’ and pick up a seemingly harmless looking card. It’s the only one in black and white and not surrounded by pink cupids and teddy bears. At first, I think humour seems promising. Everybody loves a laugh after all and one of the best things about the recipient of the card is his sense of humour, so what could be the issue? ‘I only got you a present so you might sleep with me again. Happy Valentine’s Day.’ reads my random choice. There’s the issue. In just three shelves I’ve gone from incest to intercourse and I can’t decide which is the most inappropriate. Call me old fashioned but when I think of V-Day, I think of romance.  While that may involve romping, dedicating a card solely to it is really not my style. I look at it again, wondering if the people who send cards like this address them to their partner or his pork-sword and put it down before I decide on the answer.

By this point I’m starting to get really tense and so glance over at my fellow shoppers, hoping I’m not alone in my dilemma. To my left is a smartly dressed woman on the phone, she picks up a card displaying the words ‘To My Darling Fiancé, checks the price then proceeds to the till. Twenty seconds it took her, max. I glare at her as she leaves the shop then an idea crosses my mind. Would proposing to him be such a bad idea??? How much easier would this shopping trip be if we were engaged!? I’M A GENIUS! I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before! I skip over to the fiancé section and then stop in horror. ‘To My Sexy Fiancé’ ‘To My Beloved Fiancé’ ‘To the Fiancé Who Rocks My World’ ‘To the Man I Will Give Myself To Before God.’ At this point I made a noise, which I maintain was merely a jumble of letters but which the looks from disgruntled customers suggest may have carried a slightly more explicit meaning. “This was supposed to make everything easier!” I say to myself before slouching back to where I had started. (On reflection, I understand that a stress free shopping experience may not be the best reason for proposing to someone, although I do realise it would have solved my problem; it would have made the guy run for the hills, never to be seen –or able to be bought a card for – again.)

At this point I leave and take a long breath of fresh air. I realise I’ve been in the shop for over twenty minutes now and am probably going to be on either Crime-Watch on suspicion of shoplifting or Suicide-Watch, on account that the manager has been observing me and my flustered whimpering for the majority of my visit. Regardless, I take a deep breath and re-enter. I begin scanning the shelves wildly. ‘For A Special Boy’ could be misleading but ‘Lover’ sounds cheap, and ‘From Your Secret Admirer’ makes me sound like a creep. Then it hits me.

I leave the shop and head over to the nearest Starbucks, sit down and suddenly I can’t see why I hadn’t thought of this before. The reason the cards were wrong was because they weren’t right, or wrote by me. I take out a pen and after being dealt all the wrong hands in Clintons, I finally think I’ve been able to play my cards right…

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By Georgia Bickerton

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