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Dear Friends,

My first job was at a Hallmark store in a strip mall. I ran the register, replaced stock, and cleaned up the cards. Greeting cards are a dirty business. People touch everything. They sift, shuffle, peruse, pick, change their minds, and leave the rejected cards in the wrong place with the wrong size and color envelope. Someone cleans that up. That person was me.
 
Greeting card stores sell things people don’t need, like sentimentality. They specialize in the precious. Poodle dogs on coffee mugs. Ugh Mondays! and Don’t talk to me until I have my coffee. The message they send is that life is a burden and everything will be better after you have, eat, or feel something other than what you feel. Greeting cards tell you how to feel. Like soap operas and pop songs, they are formulaic.
 
Hallmark is a feelings factory full of clichés, someone else’s brain debris. I never send my parents greeting cards because I can’t find one appropriate for the relationship. Most cards have too much sap, too little finesse, or play on stereotypes. My father isn’t overweight, he doesn’t play golf, he’s not possessive about the remote control, and he’s never given me much money, so there is no Father’s Day card for him. Mother’s Day cards are either a play on perceived female insecurities, that they consume (eat, drink) or are (talk) too much. Or, the card copy is overwrought with a description of self-sacrificial maternal nurturing I’ve never seen. A good card is hard to find.
Years ago, I had an idea for a line of alternative greeting cards that told the truth:
 
Happy Father’s Day! You may be getting older physically, but emotionally you’re not a day over 10.
Happy Birthday Grandma! I feel close to you because we’re bonded by a common enemy.
Happy Birthday Uncle Fred! Your love has touched me deeply. I’ll never forget it. But, I’m gonna try.
 
Could I sell this idea on Shark Tank?
The point of a greeting card is to let people know you care. The sender took time out of their day to go through the steps: procurement, hand writing, stamp affixing, post office visit. The effort. That’s where the care is. My father and stepmother send me cards on the holidays. But, a couple years ago I got a bad one. It said, “Celebrate your birthday like a real woman: Drink wine and bitch.”
 
This card was sent to the wrong person. I could’ve written a dissertation on the misogyny contained in that pithy statement, but it had a check in it. After I festered on whether my father was paying me off to keep quiet about the patriarchy, I said something. My father apologized. He said it was an accident and he didn’t remember seeing it. In other words, he wasn’t paying attention when he signed it. The card was probably meant for one of Linda’s friends back home, he said, someone with a different sense of humor. Someone who might wear a t-shirt saying: How merlot can you go? on the front and on the back: Until I have to Pinot. You know, someone who shops at Hallmark.
 
It’s tempting to point the finger but over ten years ago, I bought a greeting card for a new hire at the company I worked for. It was a condolence card. I thought it would introduce her to the dark humor at our company and that it was funny, but my bosses did not. Everyone makes mistakes.
 
Greeting cards often send the message that there’s something wrong and to fix it we need something external. The fixes come in a small package, but the big message is: You are not enough. You must supplement yourself. Here’s a candle or here’s some chocolate that tastes like one.
 
Men are upset about cancel culture, but women have been suffering under candle culture for decades. A candle is an anonymous gift. It says: “Here. I don’t really know you.”
When you think about it, the business of letting people know you care is rude.

Hallmark was full of vanilla-scented candles that smelled like chemistry. They had weak wicks. They were full of toxins and fumes and plastics and all the things that kill oceans. Candles are a blank greeting card.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t send cards. Thinking about other people is a ritual worth keeping. This newsletter is my version of a greeting card. It’s my way of saying: “Hey, I know you exist.”
 
Of all the greeting cards, Get Well Soon is universal. I'm stocking up on these because I live in America, and everyone is sick about something. Last month, I lost a few subscribers due to the short story on rat crotches. When they unsubscribed, they cited the reason as “inappropriate content.” I agree that the rat’s conduct was inappropriate. In lieu of apologizing for a dead animal's behavior and the jokes I made about it, I can only say I hope they Get Well Soon.
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Reflection Question

Human beings are a collision of instincts. At some point, we've all tried to do something nice and ended up doing something rude. A writer's life is one of asking and your question for this month is

What are some of the ways your instincts collide?

Writing Prompt


Write long hand. Set your timer for 10 minutes. Keep the pen moving the entire time. Write in the form of a letter starting with

Greetings from...

If you want to share your writing, send it to: anessayandaquestion@protonmail.com (no critiques, just praise)

Goings On


I can't take the heat. I am headed out of Los Angeles for a few weeks to breathe different air. I'm not excited about flying, but you can do everything right and still get COVID. Let's hope for the best.

Thinking of you,
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Copyright © 2020 Diana Dinerman. All rights reserved.
Diana Dinerman is a writer/performer based in Los Angeles. Learn more about her here.






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Diana Dinerman · 2525 Hyperion Ave · Los Angeles, CA 90027 · USA

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