The Joys Of Modern Life

44. greetings cards
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The Independent Culture
CARD DESIGNERS, once famous for their restricted vocabulary along the lines of "The sun is shining and so are you", have at last realised the commercial potential of telling it straight. Now we can let them take responsibility for the words we can't quite bring ourselves to utter.

So it was that I found myself in Paperchase the other week. I must admit I had doubts about whether I would find what I needed. After all, there is probably only a limited market for cards bearing the message: "I wouldn't take you back if you and Jeremy Clarkson were the last two beasts on earth. PS Have melted your Johnny Thunders picture disc under the grill."

Happily, there are plenty of close approximations. "It's your party and you can cry if you want to," read one card. "Might as well, you ruin everything else you're involved in." Tempting, very tempting. Some designs were less kind. "Just do it," advised one, decorated with the barrel of a revolver.

No doubt plenty of people might want to wish someone "Happy divorce", if so, I found the very thing, featuring a couple holding either end of a baby. "I'll take the TV set," shrieked the woman. "And I'll take the baby!" shouted the bloke. Very postmodern. Another, for the lovelorn, read: "Congratulations on your engagement. You've spent your life looking for that one special person." And inside: "And now you've gone and got engaged to someone else." There was also "Don't marry - be happy" and "Life's a Bitch - And So Are You," just in case there was any doubt about your message lingering.

Finally, I found the revenge card to end all revenge cards. "Take Viagra," sneered the front, which featured a cartoon of a tragic-looking bloke with his head in his hands. "Lots to gain!"

Modern greetings cards don't only express raging heartache - they're pretty good on other, more complex, subjects such as lust. I didn't find a card that said "Fancy a shag," but I did find "Your place or mine?", featuring two sad goldfish sitting side by side in their respective bowls. Another, playing on tradition, said: "I heard you were sick." The quip inside told another story: "I like that in a person."

If you want to let someone know you like them, there are plenty of subtle options. "Top totty," said one. "Gorgeous," read the message on a cut- out Ken doll, naked except for a stick-on red fluffy posing pouch.

There's even a card celebrating one night stands. It featured a toy car stuck on a piece of card with the words "Fast love."

My favourite selection, partly because they are so baffling, is gratuitous insults. Why, for example, would you send a card bearing the slogan "Lovely new underpants", above a cartoon of a scrawny bloke in Y-fronts? And how much would you have to hate someone to send them a card saying "You're lovely", above a picture of an elephant? The "Bad Hair Day" card with a bedraggled Felix the Cat on the front is a particularly fine specimen. Although whether the card should be sent or received by the follically challenged is unclear.

I didn't find any mention of roasting prized records. But I did buy the one that said: "Remember that bottle of 20-year-old Macallan you left behind? It's great for cleaning the cooker."