Sunday, 8 July 2012
by Michelle Hayward
I once had a relationship with a man who would regularly send handwritten postcards through the mail, and scribble little love notes within the pages of books; how lovely it was to get to page 96 and find an unexpected message inscribed in the margin of my current read.
Yet despite all this attention to detail, I was shocked when the same guy failed to acknowledge my birthday. He said it was the everyday gestures that mattered in life – that he’d rather express his feelings when it felt right rather than to mark the reoccurring date of a past event. And in light of his usual thoughtfulness, how could anyone argue with that? I totally got it - he was absolutely right! Although I still wasn’t clear why the miserable rotten bastard had accepted a birthday card and gift from me two months earlier?
Detecting my dissatisfaction, he scurried off and returned with a large flat box. Intrigue rapidly turned to horror as I unveiled a giant padded birthday card, embossed with a hybrid elephant-bear. I was curious, and quite frankly annoyed, as to why he thought I was a gigantic padded-card mule-bear type of gal in the first place? (And I’m not going to make you relive the bastardisation of the poetic form encountered inside the thing – we’ve all had cause to visit the dark place that is Hellmark.)
Look, I’m hardly an arbiter of good taste myself, but I really don’t do cute. How could he not know that? How could such a seemingly profound person, send such a vomit inducing nylon card to me? I wondered if my demands had altered his perception of me. I began to hope he found nylon teddy-bear pictures appealing; it was better than thinking I did. But then did I really want to spend my life with a man who found nylon teddy-bear pictures appealing? Perhaps he was trying to prove a point – of course he was being ironic!
The whole fiasco culminated in me melting down into a semiotic crisis of contradictions. Sending the wrong card became more damaging than not sending a card at all. Believe it or not, I don’t usually care much for my own personal anniversaries, but perhaps on this occasion, I made it matter. I didn’t really care about a birthday card; I wanted to know if he loved me. The card suggested he did (‘I LOVE YOU’ was written on the front). But now the card had put me right off the man.
I took his postcards out of the drawer. They were standard blank postcards containing a few fairly innocuous words ‘Thinking of you always xx’. I flicked back through the novel notes - the same. I realised it was the method in which the messages had been presented that had impressed me, rather than the messages themselves. Paradoxically, that’s how greeting cards generally function – their sentiment is expressed in the act of sending the message, rather than writing it.
In the end, this issue was more than our relationship could withstand; a fluffy animal – an unexpected everyday gesture, eradicated all hope of irony. All the same, I do regret repeatedly stabbing his forever hippo-bear with my eye-liner pencil.
Afterwards, I told everyone we had separated because we were unable to settle our artistic differences. He told everyone I was a nightmare psycho bitch from hell and told me never to darken his door again...