Remember the 1990 movie Crazy People with Dudley Moore? Moore plays Emory Leeson, an advertising executive who goes through a nervous breakdown on a night of lightning, thunder and rain. Pressured to deliver advertising copy by the next morning, he cracks and prepares the copy telling the truth about the products:
- “Jaguar – For men who’d like hand-jobs from beautiful women they hardly know.”
- “Volvo – they’re boxy but they’re good.”
- “Your fear of flying nay be valid – United. Most of our passengers get there alive.”
- “Paramount Pictures presents 'The Freak.' This movie won't just scare you, it will fuck you up for life."
- “Metamucil: It helps you go to the toilet. If you don't use it, you'll get cancer and die.”
Emory is placed in an institution but, by mistake, that copy goes to the publishers and is an outstanding success. The public loves this innovation: advertising telling the truth.
Which is all by way of a segue to the cards of Emily McDowell.
What do you say to someone who has found out that they have been diagnosed with cancer? Or someone who has just lost someone close? Or split up?
Emily was in advertising but opted out for a sea change. Not sure what she wanted to tackle, she accepted advice to do what she loved and began drawing, lettering and writing stories. People asked to buy them and she began a business selling items online, the first a Valentine’s Day card that sold 1,600 copies, to her amazement.
The business grew from there, the theme being truth. Her cards have a simple, sincere honesty that recipients would appreciate and value.
At age 24 Emily was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That experience is reflected in the empathy cards she designed for people with serious illnesses.
According to Emily:
The irony of it is, when you are sick or when you’ve experienced a loss, it’s the time when you really need people to reach out the most, and it’s the time when people don’t know what to say the most. The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called “sir” by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo. It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realising it.
After 9 months of chemo and radiation, Emily went into remission and has been cancer-free for the last 14 years.
Some of Emily's empathy cards:
Some others. . .
And my point in posting these items?
To ask the following:
As well as perhaps giving a card, why not also speak and write honestly, and offer an honest shoulder and hand, to our loved ones and friends who are in need? They won’t be offended and would no doubt value the honesty. I know I would.