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This Valentine’s Day, say it with bitterness

Greeting card makers are seeing increased interest in anti-Valentine's Day cards celebrating being single or lamenting the holiday with witty bitterness.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching — not sure what to get that ex-special someone? might have some options for you.

“Valentine,” one card for sale on the Web site reads, “we’re both looking for the same thing.”

Open the card up, and it continues: “Someone else.”

Another card from the site starts out cheerily: “Happy Valentine's Day!”

Inside, it adds, “Even though we both know it’s over.”

For most people, Valentine’s Day is still about chocolates, hearts, teddy bears and romantic sentiments. But a growing number of the recently or steadfastly single are getting in on the holiday as well, spawning anti-Valentine’s Day cards, T-shirts and parties.

Anti-Valentine’s Day cards have been popular among smaller distributors and Web-based e-card producers for several years. Now the trend is starting to attract more mainstream attention.

Industry powerhouse American Greetings Corp. this year added 10 anti-Valentine’s Day cards to the roster of 2,500 cards it produces for the holiday. While it may be just a tiny portion of the company’s holiday effort, “that’s huge for a new product in our industry,” said American Greetings spokeswoman Megan Ferington.

Ferington said the Cleveland-based company decided to add anti-Valentine’s Day cards after noticing last year that more people were holding singles parties or girls’ nights out on what is traditionally a night for couples.

“Singles just want to be part of the holiday,” she said. “There really was an undercurrent of people wanting to celebrate.”

One card from American Greetings’ collection opens with: “They had shared a moment.”

Inside, it reads: “A lifetime commitment was completely out of the question. Happy Anti-Valentine’s Day (for the woman who knows what she doesn’t want.)”

In addition to the more overtly anti-holiday cards, Ferington said American Greetings also has boosted its lineup of Valentine’s Day cards that are meant to be sent to friends rather than soul mates.

Hallmark Cards for years has offered both humorous and heartfelt Valentine’s Day cards to send from one female friend to another, said spokeswoman Rachel Bolton. Recently, however, she said the popularity of such cards has grown, thanks in part to such cultural influences as the TV show “Sex and the City.”

“One of the huge trends is cards for singles,” Bolton said.

It’s not surprising that people who make their living selling greeting cards would reach out for a wider audience than just those who are happily coupled up (or in grade school). After all, Valentine’s Day is one of the most important holidays of the year for the industry.

The Greeting Card Association expects Americans to buy 190 million Valentine’s Day cards this year. That figure shoots up to 1 billion once you include cards, generally sold in packages of 25 or more, exchanged among schoolchildren, the trade group says.

Ferington says American Greetings is hoping that the more cynical products will interest younger adult consumers

“Bringing them back to the greeting card aisle is definitely important to us,” she said.

CafePress, which produces and sells T-shirts, cards and other items for artists and designers, began more heavily promoting anti-Valentine’s Day after being surprised a couple of years ago by the number of such items popping up on the site.

This year, the Foster City, Calif.-based company is holding its second annual anti-Valentine’s Day design contest, which awards prizes to the designers who produce the three top-selling items in the category.

CafePress spokesman Marc Cowlin said there are currently 22,502 anti-Valentine’s Day designs available on the site, nearly double the 11,555 designs available last year.

Still, that’s just a small portion of the 115,359 overall Valentine’s Day designs CafePress visitors can choose from.

“We still see a majority of the business going to Valentine’s Day — or pro-Valentine’s Day, if you will,” Cowlin said. “However, the anti-Valentine’s Day (business) is growing.”

Cowlin said the majority of the anti-Valentine’s Day items on the site fall into two categories: they are either anti-love or just against the consumerism associated with the day. (Never mind that people are taking part by buying something anyway.)

The messages, available on T-shirts, greeting cards and other products, range from the witty — “Valentine’s Day: Depressing geeks since 496 A.D.” — to the more blunt — “I don’t love you.” Some CafePress messages more benignly promote the single life, with messages like “Happy ‘Single Awareness’ Day.”

For those who really want to shun consumerism this Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of free anti-Valentine’s Day cards available online from artists, cynics and others who just don’t like the holiday. Artist Dylan Edwards began designing anti-Valentine’s Day cards for his friends a few years back, when he was feeling a little bitter about spending Valentine’s Day alone.

Later, he posted some on his Web site, and soon he noticed that traffic to the site was spiking considerably in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. Now, he tries to add a couple new cards each year, and says the free offerings are a good way to get his name and contact information out to potential paying clients.

One of his cards features pink hearts and an elephant-like creature against a purple background, along with the message: “Nobody will ever love you, so you might as well give up now. Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Edwards is still single, but he said that these days he’s less bitter about it.

“I’m pretty content with ... the way my life is,” he said. “That’s actually helped the cards branch out a little bit from just raw anger.”