Image is everything

Yesterday I bought myself some roses. I was out to lunch at the most magical cafe I have ever been to – a combination of gallery, garden, florist and restaurant, with mosaics, murals and fascinating objects in every direction. Simply going to the toilet was an aesthetic experience worth writing about (but you’ll be pleased to know that I intend to refrain – from writing about it, that is).

I have had a particularly rough couple of weeks, and wanted to spend my one day off being distracted. This was the perfect place to do it. My 4 year old and I met up with a dear friend and spent a delightfully long lunch exploring the garden, lounging on couches, and chatting.

After lunch we succumbed to the lure of the florist and bought ourselves a magnificent bunch of perfect roses.


Tightly furled, they are just beginning to contemplate opening into their native splendour. The bunch is multicoloured, beautifully warm, cheering and festive – feelings I am inclined to cultivate, particularly now. Sitting in pride of place on our dining table, they cheer every meal, and spark many discussions on the relative merits of the different colours. None of us can quite warm to the green roses – there is something a little wrong with the whole idea – but we are agreed that in the context of the bunch they all work some magic.

I love flowers, yet I could count the times I have bought them for myself on one hand – several times. For some reason flowers are meant to be supplied by others. They are a completely artificial expression of romance and affection, imbued with all kinds of complicated meanings that we tend to regard as a natural extension of the plants themselves. Yellow flowers for friendship. Red for romance. White for death.

I’m sorry, but says who??? I have written before about the myth that romance equals roses and candlelight dinners, and contemplating my roses has made me wonder why it is that the buying of flowers has become so significant. What is so wonderful about receiving flowers, rather than buying them myself?

They have become a potent, yet very misleading symbol. Does a man buying me flowers mean he loves me? Does the fact that my husband never buys me flowers (ok, I exaggerate, he bought me one bunch, around 16 years ago – but who’s counting?) mean that he doesn’t love me? How could I stack up the buying of flowers against the way he looks after me when I am sick, makes me laugh when I am sad, and knows what I am thinking – sometimes when I can’t articulate it myself.

Sometimes I think that we fixate on symbols at the expense of real meaning. We judge relationships by the number of flowers, jobs by the pay, and friendships by gifts. Sure, it’s nice to get flowers. It’s a thoughtful act, and it does make me smile. But sometimes a rose is just a plant. So I now declare myself free to buy my own flowers.

3 thoughts on “Image is everything

  1. Joe

    So I now declare myself free to buy my own flowers.

    Excellent! This seems to me the logical closure to the original discussion from February… because you are allowed to say you love you too! (And, if nobody in the house is negatively affected by aromas, it’s a win for everyone.)

    (I wonder if saying “I love me” inherently depends on more symbolic language than saying “I love you” does?)

  2. So true. I have told Craig he had better *not* ever buy me flowers on Valentines Day. I love romance, but hate the commercialisation of it. I love flowers too and intend to grow my own!

  3. Very true! I think we should all give ourselves permission to buy roses whenever we please! They are so beautiful (but you’re right about the green one… weird, huh?!) x

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