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  • Writer's pictureRusty Pencil

Why men can't be arsed to buy cards.

Updated: Jan 20

Old black and white illustration of an old man with long white beard.

Us men are rubbish when it comes to buying cards. It must be something in our genes – and not just in our jeans – that makes us different to women.

According to the GCA (Greeting Card Association) the UK greeting card market is worth £1.7 billion with 85% of cards bought by women. Yes, you read that correctly. That means only a measly 15% of us men buy cards. A man gladly forks out £3.25 for his frothy coffee on his way to work yet foams at the mouth if he has to spend as much as £3.25 on a birthday card. Sometimes a man is hard to please.

A woman’s special place is in her big drawers.

While men struggle to buy cards, women buy handfuls of the damn things. If a woman sees a card she likes, she buys it, maybe a few more for good measure, and slips it into her special card drawer along with the other one hundred cards. It’s a wonder she has any room left for her underwear.

A man, on the other hand, has loads of room for his underwear as he only has three pairs of underpants and seven socks. If he does have a special drawer, it’s full of useless tat like a bent screwdriver, odd screws and old tangled computer leads.

In a woman’s mind, there is always a special card drawer. In a man’s mind, there’s always a special crap drawer. And there’s a reason for this difference; it’s called thoughtfulness, the thinking of others. The woman’s thoughtfulness drawer is that special place for other people because she never knows when she might need to dip into it. The man’s special crap drawer is for his own use because he never knows when he might need to add more useless crap to it.

Men are rubbish. I should know. I’m one of them.

There’s no other way to put this but women seem to think more about others than men do. As a female neighbour once explained to me, women care more about the world and men don’t. I thought this was a bit harsh, what with me being a jolly nice chap and all that and having once helped an old-age pensioner across the road, but I think there is an element of truth in what she said.

Women see giving a card as a simple act of kindness. Men see it as a painful and embarrassing chore. A man having to buy a card is like a little boy being told to give his grandma with the hairy chin a goodbye kiss. It’s a Urgh! Must I? sort of thing.

The difference may be a maternal one, an inborn benevolence, a compassion, but there’s also the ritual: the going to the shops, or taking the time to buy online, the thinking, the writing, the addressing, the stamping, the mailing. Men simply can’t be arsed with this.

This 'emotional labour' - the time and effort to select a card, write inside and post it - is important, as highlighted in an American study in 2018. It’s important because this emotional effort is recognised and appreciated by the recipient, and this, in turn, is important to the giver. A card is small on the outside but big on the inside. This concept is lost on most men.

Emotions, eh? Who needs them?

A card is loaded with emotional commitment, and as we all know, men tend to avoid this sort of thing and generally freeze on the spot like a politician stuttering to tell the truth.

All this is emotion is far too much for a man to take. There are currently only two occasions when a man doesn’t make much of a fuss about buying a card. I suspect they account for most of the 15% of the cards bought by men, and they’re only done to get something in return:

1 - For Valentine’s Day, usually in the vain hope of getting his leg over. (What a surprise.)

2 - For Mother's Day. He may dig deep into his pockets and pull out as much as a fiver for a posh card because it's for his mother and because he fancies his mum’s lovely roast dinner. And he knows if he didn’t oblige he’d get a metaphorical tweak of his ear. Or something worse. And definitely no roast dinner.

Banter, my arse.

Other than these two occasions a man baulks at buying a card. It wouldn’t occur to him to give his best mate a supporting card if he was in an iffy state of mind. That’s far too embarrassing. Not blokey. It may not even cross his mind. Even a bog-standard birthday card these days is packed with emotional avoidance. How many cards pitched at men have you seen that say, 'This’ll do.' A lot.

Maybe deep down they do want to buy cards but can’t bring themselves to send their best mate a thoughtful, caring card. A lot of men still struggle with showing signs of genuine affection, so if and when they do buy a card, it’ll be some vulgar banter that only further reinforces this fake macho nonsense and shallow bravado.

There is, of course, the age. A young whippersnapper is more likely to go for such a card. I know there’s a handsome market for these cards, but I find such ugly banter unoriginal, unintelligent and simply tiresome. Men deserve better.

Don’t kid yourself guys. It’s all bollocks.

All of this is a disguise. If a man can give a card to his loved one and family, why not to his best mate?

We all know that bromance is alive and kicking. And there’s nothing wrong with showing and endorsing brotherly love. In fact, there’s probably more of it these days than ever before, including more intelligent man-to-man cards. From what I can see there seems to be a slight increase in support and genuine camaraderie, and more cards with outward, unashamed emotion. Good grief.

The increasing awareness of mental health coupled with all this Covid grimness is helping this area to blossom. I reckon it could still grow even more, and the world will be a better place for it.

Hopefully, and I think inevitably, a man will see a card for what it really is and make an effort to express himself the right way, his way. He may snort at a woman’s special drawer, but it’s filled with tiny pieces of herself, tiny pieces of love, tiny pieces of her heart.

And that, my dearest men friends, is precisely what a card is.


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