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by Dr. Helen Shepard

To me, Valentine’s Day brings memories of exchanging Valentine’s cards with friends and frienemies in elementary school. The anxiety induced in that maudlin holiday is indescribable, particularly, how to select a card that encapsulates/obscures my feelings for everyone in my class, because if you are going to give one person a card, you have to give EVERYONE a card—because Communism, that’s why. Do you want candy, Helen? Then, you have to be a happy Communist and participate.

I wonder how many trees were cut down to make those Ninja Turtles and Batman cards that filled my pink construction paper heart pocket and expressed such sentiments such as, "You’re bodacious," "I love you more than pizza!" or "When Batman activates his batcomputer, it says you’re the one for me!" Now I suppose it’s Frozen and Hamilton-flavored cards and, next year, it will be something else filling our landfills.

Are there Gorlillaz Valentine’s cards yet? Someone should get on that. Ah, a Google search tells me, yes, someone has got on that. Good for them.

It’s baffling to me, that when something becomes successful in American pop culture, someone is there to capitalize on it in the most banal way. And, where is this more evident than in Valentine’s Day cards? You can buy cards for nearly every remotely popular franchise and this has even promoted fans to make tribute cards to share them on Instagram and Pinterest—full of corny puns tied to the latest pop culture obsessions, be it Rick and Morty, Stranger Things or even Grumpy Cat.

What content creator dreams of their precious characters one day being so dispensable, that they are published on hundreds of thousands of small pieces of paper, next to cheesy phrases? Was the original designer of Slimer from Ghostbusters sketching out ideas with a green-colored pencil thinking, "How will this look on a three-by-four inch Valentine’s card and will someone be able to pull off a pun that doesn’t make everyone think of a money shot?"

The word "shot" makes me think of Reservoir Dogs. Has someone made Reservoir Dogs Valentine’s Day cards yet? Someone should really get on that.

Maybe you, dear reader, would like to play along? Simply think of your beloved’s favorite pop culture obsession and make your own card, with a double entendre in that lexicon. Be your paramour’s interest lie in film, comics, video games, television or internet memes, with a little creativity, you can make something that they will cherish for a whole 2.5 seconds.

Here is where you’ll have to stretch your thinking muscle, take a cliché love idiom and twist it somehow to make it a riff on that character’s backstory. Shall I give you an idea to get you started? Take the phrase, "head over heels." Trade one word with another— Kylo Ren or a Storm Trooper might say, "I’m helmet over heels in love with you, Valentine!" Or, say the character has some recognizable shoes—Cyndi Lauper could be saying, "I’m head over kinky boots for you, cutie." Congrats, you played along. Slow clap.

Every card riffs on a familiar phrase from poetry or songs. Try writing ones based on phrases like, "We are a match made in heaven" (retch), or "I’m sweet on you," "You had me at hello," "Your love fills my heart" (gag) or go Shakespearian, with a variation on "if music be the food of love, play on."

Which brings me to my favorite Valentine’s cliché—a phrase so baffling, it keeps poets up at night, pondering its origin and meaning. It’s in a cringe-inducing Stevie Wonder song and on so many Hallmark cards, that you could stack them and reach Lady Liberty’s boob. I’m talking, of course, about, "I love you from the bottom of my heart."

The bottom is where the best love comes from (obviously), like a bottle of wine with sediment. Perhaps it means, "I love you from the heart located in my bottom" (a cute nickname for the prostate). When you read this phrase in a card, or hear it in a schmaltzy ballad, you will no longer be able to resist thinking of it as a stand in for, "Please stimulate my bottom heart, gently at first and after you’ve cut your nails. Happy Valentine’s Day."