A forest of symbols in a time of love

Vatentine’s Day sets off an avalanche of greeting cards, from the sloppily sentimental through the joking — lots and lots of puns — to the off-color and the openly insulting. Just about any emotion you can imagine can be packaged into a Valentine’s Day card. Here’s one from a friend to me this year, with a pun (“Love you a bunch!”) and a penguin: “just a bit twee”, the sender wrote, but adding in mitigation that at least it had a penguin:


And then we get this remarkable object, a veritable forest of sexual imagery:


#2 (passed on to me by Ann Burlingham) is from Jenny Lawson’s The Bloggess (Like Mother Teresa, Only Better) on 2/13/15, under the heading “This might be a weirdly inappropriate Valentine or I might be reading too much into this”; it’s a vintage Valentine Lawson found at a yard sale. Her comments in full (I’ll expand on several of these):

    1.  Look at this girl’s feet.  She’s straddling a flaming bucket labeled “MY VALENTINE.”  Her vagina is literally on fire here.  That’s not healthy or appropriate.
    2.  Why is she even burning valentines?  Was it an accident?  Does she like arson?  Is this how she lures firemen to her home?  So many questions.
    3.  Sometimes a hose is not a hose.  Also, you’re not even aiming at the fire, sir.  It’s like you’ve never even had fire training.
    4.  The hose seems to have a mind of its own and is spraying everywhere.  The entire place is a wet spot.  Plus, why does she look so excited that she’s about to get soaked?  Her only expression seems to be “AWESOME. But not in my hair.”
    5.  That hose isn’t even attached to anything.   It just winds back into the guy.  And the guy is like, “LOOK AT MY MAGNIFICENT HOSE” and the girl is all, “THAT HOSE IS SPECTACULAR.”   In fact, they’re both so “THIS HOSE IS EVERYTHING” that they are entirely distracted from the impending inferno and smell of burnt gingham.  I suspect this valentine was drawn by a man.
    6.  Why is “fire” in quotes?  That’s not how quotes work.
    7.  I realize it’s a cartoon, but that’s some mighty spermy looking water.


       This is the most subliminally sexual valentine I’ve ever seen in my life.  Or possibly it’s just me and I need to get my head out of the gutter.  Also, I just noticed that the boy’s hose is pointing to the words “PUT OUT”.  Yeah.  My work is done here.

Item A: The skirt as omphalic, more specifically vaginal, symbol. And on fire, presumably burning with lust.

Item B: The bucket is labeled MY VALENTINE, not MY VALENTINES. So maybe the flames are her valentine to the guy (as opposed to her burning her valentines).

Item C and D: Well, yes, the flagrant phallic symbol.

Digression on the symbols so far. Symbolic penises are everyone and obvious, but vaginas are less obtrusive. While collecting material for this posting, I did come across this number (671, 12/6/09, entitled “Randall and Me”) of the snark comic xkcd Sucks:


(Think of this as a bonus.)

A missed chance in #2: The (red, engorged) fireman’s hat. Surely a clitoral symbol, much more flagrant than the usual bowler hat.

A linguistic digression in E:

the guy is like, “LOOK AT MY MAGNIFICENT HOSE” and the girl is all, “THAT HOSE IS SPECTACULAR.”

It’s the quotatives: “the guy is like … and the girl is all …”. Discussion here.

Another puzzle, one that Lawson doesn’t mention: The guy appears to be stepping up into the air; notice that his feet are off the ground. A symbol for erection?

Item F: The quotation marks around “fire” are the (very) common use of quotes for indicating emphasis (where underlining, italics, boldface, or all-caps are used by more standard writers).

Item G: Yes, that’s mighty spermy-looking water.

(For the purposes of this posting, I’m treating the card as a species of cartoon.)


One Response to “A forest of symbols in a time of love”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    I need to put an ice cube into my drink after reading that. Who would send that “valentine” to anyone for whom they felt the slightest affection? And if it was aimed at children, well, words fail me.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: