To that special (and totally dodgy) someone

US manufacturer courts controversy with new range of greeting cards for adulterous husbands and wives
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The Independent US

Loved ones of all varieties are catered for. Well, not quite all. When Cathy Gallagher, an advertising executive from suburban Washington, was casting around for a new line of cards to launch, she realised there was one category whose feelings went unacknowledged: adulterous lovers.

So, earlier this year, Ms Gallagher - who is happily married - started a company called Secret Lover Inc and developed 24 different cards for illicit paramours. There was the "please-leave-your-spouse-now" card. The "we-can't-go-on-like-this" card. The "I-wish-we-could-be-together-on-your-birthday" card. They consist of understated acrylic paintings with plentiful text on both the cover and the inside.

They made their debut at a trade show in New York in May and became such an instant hit she has barely been able to keep up with demand from visitors to her website. They are due to go into stores this summer.

Naturally, they have attracted as many detractors as admirers. Ms Gallagher has been denounced on conservative talk radio, and a number of wholesale buyers say they want nothing to do with her. One incensed letter-writer to the Arizona Republic newspaper called her a "beneficiary of evil".

Ms Gallagher is not deterred. She knows her idea is controversial and divisive, especially in a country that is so touchy on the subject of transgressive sex.

But she also confidently predicts a large market. "Secret Lover conducted extensive research, and the statistics conclude that 60 per cent of married men and 40 per cent of married women in the United States are, or have been, involved in an affair," she claims. "This places the numbers in the millions."

Reliable figures are, of course, notoriously hard to ascertain, and quite a few academic studies put the adultery rate rather lower than Ms Gallagher. One also has to wonder about the wisdom of committing one's secret passion to a signed piece of paper.

Ms Gallagher might regard her cards as keepsakes, but to a divorce lawyer they are more likely be defined as evidence.

Practicalities aside, they reveal themselves to be every bit as saccharine and rambling as the sort that bored husbands give to their wives year in year out to mask their growing indifference - the very thing many adulterous affairs were started to get away from.

"I love your sweet smell," opines one. "I can't find it in a bottle ... it's the smell of your soul." Another reads, "Let's live our lives together and finally be one."

Flaubert had it right almost 150 years ago, when he wrote that his disillusioned heroine Madame Bovary had "rediscovered in adultery all the platitudes of marriage".

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