Do you want to know what people really mean with those fancy expensive cards, the beautiful handwritten congratulations? More often than not it’s not what it says on the card. Blimey, shocking.
However, no one knows what it really is.
But we’re going to go ahead anyway and take an educated guess.
Birthdays, funerals, baby showers, business promotions; these events are everywhere, all around us, and they are happening every day. In order to function as a civilized society, humans have invented different sets of rules and guidelines for social interaction. The rules get broken and relationships fall into disrepair, people get offended, the birthday invitations stop coming. Jeanie or Janine or Janice, whatever her name really is, has just been promoted to regional manager, and she is having a celebration party this Friday at her house. Naturally, she’s invited the whole department, seeing as it would be rude to leave anyone out.
A job promotion
But you’re tired.
Also, frankly, you’re kind of lukewarm about the whole promotion thing, to say the least. It should have been you. You put in more hours than her. And wasn’t it not you who pulled in all those clients last year?
Plus, you’re beat. There is little you’d rather do than sit in front of the TV with your husband or girlfriend or boyfriend or friends. You don’t want to see the people from work in your free time, especially on a Friday night. But you’re going to go anyway.
Because Jamie or Jiminy or Joanie invited you. You already turned down her last invitation, that department barbecue last year. There is no way you can turn down two in a row and get by without consequences. Well, you do work with that person, and it is very important that she stays on your good side. So, off you go. You get a card, wine, the whole package.
The card says “Congratulations, Jo or Jasmine or Jessica, on your promotion. No one deserved it more than you. Heartfelt congratulations from your co-worker…” And so on and so forth.
What you really meant to say was “Hey, Jacqueline, what gives you the right to snag my job away from me and then act so smug and posh about it? Organize a party and invite me to it? Are you trying to rub my face in it? Well, I hope you’re happy on your new job, and I hope there won’t be anything to stop you from doing great work – you know, like a minor car accident, or a leaky roof, or noisy neighbours, or a deviated septum that keeps you up at night and makes you feel groggy and tired in the morning because you lack oxygen in your sleep. You know, nothing like that.
“Happy 31st birthday, I couldn’t be happier for you! May you live three times as long; and then some.”
Version translated into real-talk:
“Well, jolly good, old bean, you’ve made it this far. Many have. I’m not really thrilled about it, though, because I’ve got a lot on my mind right now – you know, with all the baby problems the wife’s been having, the mortgage, and all the fat clinging to my waistline that’s going to give me a coronary before I’m 55.
I didn’t really want to be here. It’s loud, and I don’t know these people, and I can’t believe you have actually invited that nag from the fifth floor. I dislike when people blow out the candles on a cake – do you realize how much spit comes out of a person’s mouth when they blow?
And the ‘Happy Birthday’ song? How about ‘Kill Me Right Now’? You think you’re embarrassed for standing there any everybody looking at you? How do you think I feel, having to sing that drivel?”
Funerals have never been attended in good spirits. Consequentially, no one ever expects of anyone to like them or to like attending them.
They are sad, mourning, torturous affairs for everyone. Honestly, funerals may be only events of which people don’t think all that much differently than what they put on a card. Sure, you could add a subtext that says something like “It’s so hot, who in their right minds would die in the middle of July and torture their loved ones so?” or “That grandmother of yours was always mean to me. I’m not all that sad, really.”
But even that is a stretch. Funerals make us all feel mortal. They make us rethink our own mortality, and we realize then, more acutely than ever, how fragile we are. At a funeral, the cards are mostly true.
But not at baby showers. Oh, so definitely not at baby showers.
They are a burning pit of unprocessed emotions and unsaid insults. It’s full of mothers, mothers-to-be, mothers-not-to-be, women who possibly cannot become mothers and, ultimately, women who just don’t like the person celebrating.
At a baby shower, you can definitely expect to get a whole range of these hidden behind gorgeous ear-to-ear smiles:
“You know, I’m 35, and still single. It was your stupid cousin who cheated on me after 3 years of marriage. Good on you for having a beautiful baby boy. Hope it turns out like him.”
“I wish that the ‘baby shower’ was an actual shower, so that we could get all the gunk and goo and snot and vomit and whatever it is off the little bundle of joy.”
“It is lovely how you threw this thing and, mind you, just used your baby as a way to get all these presents, demanded of me to come, yet you still didn’t like that present I brought you. I knew, I could see it in your eyes.”
“Honestly, your baby is ugly as the devil itself.”
But despite it all, whatever the event or occasion, if the people invited are your good friends and family, you can rest easy regarding the subtext of the cards.
No one can ever please everyone, but with those dear to you, at least you know that they are really here for you.