Mommy Wants Vodka

…Or A Mail-Order Bride

Farewell, My Concubine


While my parents did manage to instill a number of values in me, namely, a love of all things Jam Band related as well as a supreme taste for tofu (you cannot begin to tell me that tofu is not an acquired taste/texture), they neglected to teach me how to select a greeting card. I’m not sure that my parents ever, in all of my life, sent anyone a card.

It’s not necessarily a BAD thing to not have been taught at a young age where and when and why and how to send a card, really, it’s not, but it leaves me completely without a frame of reference as to the proper etiquette for such things. Do I send a Christmas Card to everyone in my address book, or just those who will send one back to me? Do I bother sending birthday cards to people who don’t send me one?

I’m simply not sure.

I suppose that part of the problem is that I really hate to shell out $4-$8 on cards that will undoubtedly be thrown out with the wrapping paper and bows, knowing that if I were in the same situation, I’d rather have a magazine or two rather than a card.

And an even bigger piece of my Problem Pie is that I’ve yet to find a line of cards that really SAYS what I mean. Sure, birthday wishes are generic, I know, but I want a card like those somecards E-Cards. I want something that says, “Happy Birthday, Your Balls Have Excess Skin,” or “Happy Birthday, Be Glad You Don’t Have Herpes” or something else.

Problem is, most people I’d send this to might be horrified by it. I’d laugh my lack of balls off if *I* got this as a card, but I’m fairly certain that I might be in some minority.

Sympathy cards present an even bigger challenge to me. I went out this morning with toddler in tow to pick out a card to send to Steph’s parents, and like most things in my life, I was only half able to concentrate on what I was doing. Motherhood has definitely honed my ability to do 4,000 things at once, but not without sacrificing quality here and there.

In picking through the myriad of sympathy card hell, I was struck again by how much I fucking hate sympathy cards.

I now present to you Aunt Becky’s reasons That She Hates Sympathy Cards, Bullet Form:

*Many of them are deeply religious, and while I know that enough people do derive comfort in Biblical Verses, not everyone does. And even if people ARE religious, I can’t be sure of which way they lean, and who wants to offend someone dealing with a death in the family? Besides, I’m not uber-religious myself, so I’d feel a little wonky sending something like that.

*99% of the cards are covered with misty pastel watercolor flowers. Which is so unlike who I am and what I represent, that I couldn’t send it in good faith. Besides, it often makes the card look cheap, which I can assure you by checking the backs of the cards is not the case.

*The fonts are annoyingly cloying. It’s like the You’re Dead, So You Now Have The Taste Of A 90 Year Old Cat Lady. Sadly, most of the sympathy cards that I’ve bought are NOT for older people, so the schwoopsy-poo font is just irritating.

*The cards never, EVER say what I really want them to say. I can get by with the canned “Happy Birthday!!!!” greetings found on birthday cards without wanting to go homicidal, but the sympathy cards make me insane. Certifiable, even. They’re all “deepest condolences” and “deepest sympathy” and my favorite “only memories remain.”

And I think that’s bullshit. It doesn’t BEGIN to say how I feel about the loss of this person. Here’s a sample of what it SHOULD say, if I wrote it:

“FUCK. I’m so damn sorry for your loss. I puked when I heard the news. Shit. Fuck. I’m so fucking sorry. I want to beat someone up with the unfairness of it all. Fuck.”

Mildly inappropriate doesn’t begin to cover it, now does it? But death in general is at the very least, mildly inappropriate, and I don’t think that any misty pastel flower scene with ties-up-loose-ends Biblical verse really begins to cover that.

Until I get off my lazy butt and make my own damn inappropriate cards, I suppose I’m just going to be stuck scouring the shelves for cards that don’t begin to say what I mean and trying to make do with them.

Or maybe I just need to find somewhere else to buy better cards.

What do you, fair Internet Reader, hate about greeting cards? What would you say in one that you designed yourself?

48 Comments to

“Farewell, My Concubine”

  1. On September 15th, 2008 at 12:15 pm Andy (echaos) Says:

    Sounds like you need to hit up the aisle that has the blank cards… picture on the front and no words. then you can right anything you need and pick out the best picture for the moment.

  2. On September 15th, 2008 at 12:36 pm Sandy Says:

    I have the same kind of trouble picking out birthday/anniversary cards for my own husband. I’m constantly looking for one that says something along the lines of “God damn you are one lucky S.O.B. to still have me”, but I can never find anything quite right.

    As for your proposed sympathy card, I would have 100% bought that one for a friend of mine who recently lost a grandparent and she would have laughed through her tears till her cheeks burned and belly ached.

  3. On September 15th, 2008 at 12:44 pm honeywine Says:

    That must be so hard on Steph’s family. In M.’s family they had so many deaths in April, that now they call each other on May 1st just to check. I like that side of his family. Cards are bad, but at least they’re someone else’s words. I hate sending flowers because then I have to write something myself.

  4. On September 15th, 2008 at 12:56 pm momumo Says:

    I can’t tell you quite where to shop for what you need — but I can tell you what I do — when at last I find a card that is “non-denominational” — because yes, they do tend to go on and on about matters of faith — and isn’t obnoxiously stodgy — I buy them by the bunch — usually about a half dozen — the other bonus of this method, is that generally by the time I need a card again, it’s no longer available at the local target store and so I won’t dupe with someone else.

    btw — Target does have a rather large selection of cards and I can usually find something acceptable there, oh and I’ve bought cards at the Jewish store because they tend to be more vague about what sort of comfort you should get from faith.

    and for birthdays and other more casual occasions, my husband has an uncanny knack for finding the perfect card, I don’t even know where he goes, I just tell him — hey my brother’s birthday is next week, and he will show up with a great card that fits my brother and no one else, weird!

  5. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:04 pm electriclady Says:

    For condolence cards, I usually either buy the superexpensive handcrafted cards that have a very simple image on front and blank inside (actually, that’s what I do for most cards, which is why I don’t send cards often–too expensive!) or I just send a note on a plain or initial notecard. I hate the crap preprinted on most mass-produced condolence cards. Unfortunately, I have written enough condolence notes in my life to have the formula down: dear so-and-so, I’m so sorry to hear about x (or: I’m so sorry for your loss), I’ll always remember (xyz memory of the deceased, usually something that will make the recipient smile), thinking of you, love, me. I think all people want from a condolence card is, I’m thinking of you, I loved him/her too. You can’t go wrong with that.

  6. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:18 pm kbrients Says:

    Sympathy cards are the worst. That is why I buy blank cards and write something myself. Most people who are grieving do not REALLY remember what is written in the card though– only that it came.

  7. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:22 pm Amanda Says:

    I don’t like the selection of sympathy cards either, but I usually do buy the wordy ugly-font ones because I have no idea what the right thing to say is. Usually because there is nothing you can say, really.

    I would make these cards:
    “I Miss You. Sometimes. But I don’t miss the way your nasty apartment smelled or you coming over unannounced at all hours to bitch about stupid petty crap.”

    “Get Well Soon. I’m sorry that hooker gave you gonorrhea. I hope your balls don’t fall off.”

    “Happy Birthday, don’t let the candles on the cake set your saggy old boobs on fire.”

    Aren’t I in a mood today?

  8. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:33 pm Kyddryn Says:


    What’s wrong with “Well, fuck.”?

    I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this.

    Shade and Sweetwater,

  9. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:46 pm Vered - MomGrind Says:

    I just use my writing pad to write whatever I want to say. It’s not fancy, but it’s personal. I almost never buy greeting cards. I wonder if anyone ever resented me for NOT sending a “real” card.

  10. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:47 pm Badass Geek Says:

    I make my own cards, with construction paper and glue sticks. Kindergarden-style.

  11. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:49 pm swirl girl Says:

    You hit the nail on the head – and I would vote for you as the new C.O.O of Hallmark.

    I hate internet cards the most. So impersonal…

    I am not a religious person – so I don’t go for the ‘god’ cards. I usually write a note with a memory or an expression of support for a friend who has lost someone.

    And, Jews don’t do flowers for death. Flowers die. Orchids are okay because they re-bloom and symbolize life. Celebrate the life lived, not the life lost.

    sadly- I know from personal experience.

  12. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:50 pm kalakly Says:

    I usually look in the ‘thinking of you’ sectioninstead of sympathy or inthe ‘ethnic’ section, they sometimes have cards with old proverbs or Native American sayings that are more about symbolism in nature and the idea of afterlife than they are religious.
    I like your wording, although I suspect Steph would have enjoyed it more than her parents will. Maybe just the words that you ar speechless by their losses will be enough….
    If you ever want to go into the greeting card writing business, I have a milllion ideas and would love to collaborate:)

  13. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:51 pm kc Says:

    I think that Bob and Jan would prefer something that said “FUCK” on it. I know that’s how they are feeling right now…especially Jan.

  14. On September 15th, 2008 at 1:55 pm Queen-sized funny bone Says:

    Most of the time I buy a nice BLAnk card and then write what I want inside.

  15. On September 15th, 2008 at 2:26 pm mrs.spit Says:

    I have stationary. Green and blue for standard bread and butter letters and birthday greetings etc. Black and White stationary, with Mr. Spit and I’s name on it, and I send a sympathy letter. Usually I write about a particular memory of that person, or something that they did that stands out in my mind. . .

    I write it in black ink, and sign my name.

    sure makes it easy.

  16. On September 15th, 2008 at 2:51 pm Stacey Says:

    I’ve had very sporadic luck finding sympathy cards. I decided a few years ago to suck up the cost and send food of some sort, with a personal message. Something tempting like cookies or pie because people often forget to eat when grieving. And a message that usually begins “I wish I could be there to hug you…”

  17. On September 15th, 2008 at 2:52 pm Tiffany @ My Random Wisdom Says:

    Yes, I agree w/ the blank cards..
    sympathy is such a difficult thing to express w/o sounding, well, like a hallmark card..

    I have step is VERY hard to find an appropriate card for them on mothers and fathers day…very difficult…

  18. On September 15th, 2008 at 2:56 pm Ginger Magnolia Says:

    I’ve had to send out a couple of sympathy cards recently, and I’ve found good ones at Target. Simple, not frilly or religious.

  19. On September 15th, 2008 at 3:16 pm stacey k Says:

    I guess my problem w/ card is this….
    too small…
    if you have known someone your whole life–in my case 30-something years…can you really express how you feel in the space of only a 4″x6″ piece of paper?
    Or in the one generic sentence that’s in there?
    To me a personal letter is just that….personal—i know when I get cards/letter this way…it makes me feel closer to the person I lost…and happy knowing that the sender remembered and exact memory/moment.
    I always like to put
    “I remember the time we got caught…..”

  20. On September 15th, 2008 at 3:44 pm trish Says:

    I always read every card, and then often opt for the most succint (or blank) so that I can write my own message. The cards never get it *quite* right.

    But lamest of all (I think), is when I get cards, and the sender, on the inside of the card, writes my name with a comma, and then at the bottom of the generic, trite poem, they sign their name.

    But ACTUALLY, since you brought it up, there’s been more than one occasion that I’ve gotten a gift that was so UNpersonal, that I would have much preferred a card with a personal note written in it. But who am I kidding? I probably put way too much thought into the gifts I give anyway.

  21. On September 15th, 2008 at 4:51 pm Amanda Says:

    I kind of look like an ass now because no one else is telling you what their weird cards would say…hmmm…

  22. On September 15th, 2008 at 5:11 pm Lola Says:

    I hear you on this one. I never buy cards that say anything. Nothing fits my personality, and everyone who would get a card from me knows it. I just buy gorgeous blank ones from places like the Museum Store, and I write whatever I want. I refuse to spend my money on corny crap that everyone knows I don’t believe.

    I even handwrite birthday cards for kid parties that my son has to attend. I’ve got a box full of blank cards for every occasion!

  23. On September 15th, 2008 at 5:48 pm Ellie Says:

    I do NOT buy cards. I’m not trying to JUDGE those of you who, ahem, do. I just find them awful and lousy and dumb and EXPENSIVE. I also do NOT make crafty cards. I stick a photo on a piece of paper and call it a card. And I’m happy. Is the recipient happy? How would I know? And why would I CARE? *I’m* happy. And that’s the most important thing.

    BTW? Your sympathy cards would totally sell off the shelves.

  24. On September 15th, 2008 at 6:15 pm Brooke Says:

    I agree that I have found a few good, non-denom symapathy cards at Target lately. Not over the top flowery or make-you-scrath-out-your-eyeballs-ey.

    I’m so sorry you have lost another dear person in your life, Becky.

    I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had my own greeting card company. Some of the cards I wish I could find:

    Congratulations on your divorce! Thank God that’s over! We all thought your ex was an asshole.

    Congratulations on finding someone who thinks he can put up with you every single day. For the rest of his life. (Ha! We’ll see…)

    Happy Birthday! I didn’t get you a present, because, well…I really don’t like you that much.

    Damn! Another one bites the dust. Now that you’re married, who am I going to go get trashed with that makes me look innocent?!?

    Happy Birthday! I hope when I’m your age I will look as good as you do (and have enough money to afford as much surgery as you’ve had.)

    Man…this was not the day for me to come up with greeting cards. lol Apparently I’m kind of cynical.

  25. On September 15th, 2008 at 6:22 pm A Soldier's Girl Says:

    You are soo right! I spend hours in the card section just looking for the right one! I have recently started making my own cards (something I’m sure people with kids don’t have time for) ~ that helps!

    I would love to find a card to send to my husband letting him know all of the things i plan to do to him upon his return 🙂 Instead, I have to write it in & my hand gets tired, so I never get past the foreplay! 🙂

  26. On September 15th, 2008 at 6:46 pm Anjali Says:

    I buy a package of blank note cards, and write my own note, profanities and all.


  27. On September 15th, 2008 at 7:14 pm Emily R Says:

    There need to be more “congratulations on your divorce” cards. Some people are happy to be out of their marriages, and I can never find them the right cards.

    That said, I buy greeting cards all at once. I go to the store and pick out a whole bunch — some generic, some for kids, some irreverent. Makes it easier to just pull out the right one at the right time.

  28. On September 15th, 2008 at 7:20 pm Edward Says:

    l always wish people happines in love and life and good health because when it comes down to it that is the basics.

    If I made a card, a sympathy card, I would say “sorry, I’m so fucken sorry that “I don’t even know what to say” I often think I know everything but I don’t know shit…sorrry…so sorry.

    With Love
    Love Edward
    becasue we all need love and we all hate the know it alls

  29. On September 15th, 2008 at 7:27 pm Nissa Says:

    I hate the canned one size fits all of 99% of greeting cards. I buy blank cards so I can out my own original inappropriate messages in them myself. I do the same for sympathy cards but without the inappropriate factor.

    PS I would totally <3 a herpes Birthday card:)

  30. On September 15th, 2008 at 8:05 pm foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog) Says:

    I hate that I wait until the last possible moment to buy one so the recipient gets it late. I hate that they’ll probably turn it over and look to see what I think they are worth to me (often, they are worth 99 cents to 1.05, and this typically depends on if I have ever kissed them in the past), I hate that most cards are fugly, and most of all, I hate that they never say what I want them to say. I am not much for the super sentimental stuff, so finding one that says “WOO HOO! Lucky you! I remembered your birthday!” takes way too long.

    My husband, when it buys me a card, always signs them “Your husband, his name” for the unfortunate times when I forget who he is.

  31. On September 15th, 2008 at 8:33 pm giggleblue Says:

    i hate mother’s day cards. i need one that says something along the lines of:

    “it’s mother’s day and i’m sending you this card because i don’t want to hear you bitch for the next twelve months about how your ONLY daughter didn’t even send you a card on mother’s day. hope this helps!”

    instead, i get, “you are my mother and best friend…” crap. who thought up this crap??? those people at hallmark must have 1980s TV families. the rest of us live in reality, where our mother gets on our last damn nerve, and we send card out of obligation. cut the shit.

    pretty cover, blank card, sign name. end of story.

  32. On September 15th, 2008 at 10:12 pm LilSass Says:

    Um for reals, don’t EVEN get me started on greeting cards. Old fart sympathy cards aside, can we talk about Mother and Father’s Day cards? OMG!!! “You’re a mom … you must like pink and flowers and shmoopy woopy ‘thanks for all the dishes you do’ ridiculousness. Have you EVER noticed how many Father’s Day cards have BUSINESS TIES ON THEM!! Can we talk about how fucking mundane and trite that is? “You have fathered a child and you are probably a business man who wears a business tie and golfs on the weekends.” Clearly the theme of those cards were designed in 1950 and have YET to be re-vamped.

    As for me and buying cards (clearly, this is a struggle for me), about 97% of the time, I purposely buy the wrong card for the wrong occasion. Got a promotion? Here’s a “I love you Grandma” card. It’s your 30th birthday? Oh no it’s not. It’s your quinceanera and this entire card is in Spanish, whether or not you speak Spanish. And finally, I am going to let the world in on my favorite card-buying practice of all time. You know those Mahogany cards made for our brothers and sisters of a darker persuasion? I am obsessed with those cards and buy them quite frequently.

    True story: my childhood BFF lost his father to lung cancer last year. I bought him a “Girlfriend, you don’t NEED a man” card. He laughed so hard he pissed himself and it was EXACTLY what he needed.

    (I think this is the longest comment I’ve ever left in my life. Clearly you got me started!)

    P.S. is by far one of my favoritest sites on the web. There’s a card for every occasion!!

  33. On September 15th, 2008 at 11:00 pm RhoRho Says:

    Another of my unfinished money-making projects was a greeting card line – where i stole lines from old rock n roll songs. I never checked out the copyright infringment thing, for one. Otherwise, i now go to the dolla store, where you can get 2 for a dolla, and many of them are fairly un-sentimental, maybe even blank inside. And on the back they say $2.25.

  34. On September 16th, 2008 at 12:28 am excavator Says:


    I’m really sorry about the loss of your friends. It seems beyond cruel that her parents should lose two of their children in such a short span of time.

    I don’t know if I have anything unique to add to your reasons for hating store-bought greeting cards. I suppose I’ll make a refinement on the selection issue. I am literal minded enough that I just can’t send a card that is wildly out of sync with my genuine emotions. I love my mom but it’s a complicated and somewhat problematic love. Try to find a card that isn’t an outright lie at mother’s day. My husband and I aren’t doing well and haven’t been for some time. I gave up on finding accurate Valentine’s cards and asked him to skip it.

    But all this is made even more difficult with a toddler in the store with you, Trying to find the one that doesn’t ring too false a note while making sure the child isn’t tripping a little old lady or eating a greeting card is a form of torture for me. And the sad odds are that any card I reach my hand out to randomly is going to be wrong. Which makes it kind of hard to git-n-go.

  35. On September 16th, 2008 at 12:44 am Danielle Says:

    I hear ya on the watercolors and bible verses. Not my bag. However, when my mom passed, any card, any type was appreciated because the person that sent it cared enough to get one, write in it, and then send it. Made me feel a little better.
    Hugs and sending you positive thoughts.

  36. On September 16th, 2008 at 1:07 am Backpacking Dad Says:

    “Sorry about that time I got you pregnant and then told you it was the mailman.”

  37. On September 16th, 2008 at 8:18 am Kelly Says:

    I hate sympathy cards with “sympathy” in them, whether I am sending or receiving the card. I always search all over for the one card that doesn’t say it.

    Last year for Christmas, I bought some incredibly religious looking nativity scene cards for my girls on my dart team, and hand stamped, cropped, fancy edging, and photo squared, the following message on the front (to cover the original inscriptions)….”Jesus loves you…” and for the inside, “Everyone else thinks you are a bitch.” Went over very well, they were all pretty perplexed at first when they opened those cards and saw the pretty nativity….

  38. On September 16th, 2008 at 10:37 am chris Says:

    you should design a software or something to be placed at a store where people can make their cards right there.

    I don’t like cards about “love”…There so bogus.

  39. On September 16th, 2008 at 2:14 pm Rachel Says:

    I think that someone (namely you) should design a line of inappropriate but appropriate for the situation cards. Like someone mentioned, congrats on your divorce. Or congrats on losing the loser you were dating/living with. Or my deepest sympathy for that 50 pounds you gained. Whatever. I personally found a great Christmas card at Target of all places….it had a pic of Santa on it, and said He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good (open card now)
    so try not to be an asshole.
    I wish they had that card in boxes of 20, I was not about to spend $3 on every one I send cards to, regardless of the appropriate sentiment.

  40. On September 16th, 2008 at 2:40 pm Fiddle1 Says:

    Lots of good comments here. I think ditching the card all together and writing out a letter on blank paper may suit. You can say what you want. Speaking from your heart is always best. Their situation is so unbelievably unfair. I can only imagine that their knowing you are thinking about them and hurting with them will bring comfort. Also, including some fond memory is always good..they’ll save it forever.

  41. On September 16th, 2008 at 9:48 pm Natalie Says:

    OMG your if-I-wrote-a-card made me nearly pee myself (and my husband looked at me really funny). They all do suck. But, I kind of liked getting all the cards when we lost Devin. I barely could read them through the tears though, so that’s good news for card buyers.

  42. On September 16th, 2008 at 10:15 pm Heather P. Says:

    Honey, you are over-thinking this.
    Steph’s parents will just be comforted by the fact that you are thinking of them.
    Yes, they suck, but at least it shows the reciever you took time to think of them in their time of need. Or at least that is what they represent to me, when I get one.

  43. On September 16th, 2008 at 11:12 pm Painted Maypole Says:

    i really think there would be a market for your cards.

    i really hate anniversary cards. i love my husband, but like most people we’ve had some rough times, and all the “our love grows stronger every day, and I can’t imagine my life with anyone but you, and you always know just how to cheer me up when I am down and sing with me in my joy, and oh you just COMPLETE ME” crap drives me to distraction.

    How about a card that says “hot damn! we made it another year without killing each other”


    “I love you, and although you sometimes drive me nuts and there are whole segments of our relationship I’d rather forget, I am, on the whole, glad I married you”

  44. On September 17th, 2008 at 9:37 am Jenn Says:

    I always buy the cards that are blank inside and then I write my own message (when it’s a sympathy card, I mean). I am really NOT a card person though, in general. I hate the damn things, I really don’t like to keep them but I feel guilty when I throw them away. Unless that is the ONLY thing you are getting from me, chances are you won’t be getting a card for your birthday.

  45. On September 18th, 2008 at 3:59 am pamajama Says:

    OMG, I so completely love “I puked when I heard the news.” It’s pure genius! In the mean time, try out this company: It’s very entertaining. xo

  46. On September 19th, 2008 at 5:12 pm kate Says:

    Yes!!! I feel exactly the same way about cards.

    I don’t know you, and yet I think I love you.

    I think you’d appreciate these:

    As for the symathy card thing: I think what you said really sums it up best. Heart-felt ALWAYS works.

  47. On September 21st, 2008 at 6:37 am Brooke Says:

    since losing Caden and seeing the god awful cards out there, we have many times contemplated doing up our own line of sympathy cards.

    I mean seriously card companies, do you really believe that only 80 year old ladies who are seriously into god, daisies, and sunsets die?

    Guess what. It fucking sucks but babies die too. Kids die. Teenagers die. Young, kick-ass adults die.

    There needs to be an overhaul in the sympathy card department. I would go with a blank card with a decent picture, or in my case, I make em myself.

  48. On February 22nd, 2011 at 8:28 am MissHannah Says:

    Last sympathy card I sent was for my 10 yr old god-daughter who had quite serious care needs.I almost didn’t send one since I was at their home almoest 24/7 for a while after but I know her mum would keep teh cards and din’t want there to be a space where mine should have been (weird?I don’t know)anyway I couldn’t find a “sympathy” one so I sent a picture of some lovely hot air balloons which I know she loved. I think thats the way forward for me.

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