The Grass Withers and the Flower Fades

No, I am not being paid by the floral industry to write this.

Why do women like flowers? Why do guys like buying them for women? To address the quesiton, why do women NOT like utilitarian gifts (many generalizations will be made in this post, I understand I'm speaking generally about cultural norms, and there will be exceptions, including many women would would love a Kitchenmade mixer for Christmas). Utilitarian gifts have a purpose, they may convey a kind or caring sentiment, but their primary purpose is to be used.

Not so with flowers. The sole reason to give a gift of flowers is to demonstrate love for someone. They have no other use, and the temporal nature of a flower only serves to enhance the sentiment. I give you this rose to signify my love, it will be beautiful for a day or two, and then it will decay, and I will send you more flowers in the future, because I can never stop telling you just how much I love you. In this way, flowers are the ideal "just because I love you" gift. A gift that lasts is a constant reminder of one's love and affection.

However, the giving of gifts serves two purposes. First, it shows that at this particular moment in time, I want to express a particular sentiment to you, such as love or shared grief (how closely those feelings are related. Grief, as Lewis writes, is the transformation of love through the process of loss). Second, it is a reminder that I continue to feel this sentiment towards you. The expression signified in the first particular is temporal, at a fixed moment in time the giving of a gift expresses an emotion, such as love, that we are feeling right NOW. The second aspect of gift giving allows the gift to remain as a continuing reminder that at that time, and hopefully still, I love you. Flowers are particularly attuned to be a gift which admirably serves both of these purposes. The flower itself is fleeting, temporary. It shows that right now I want to make a irrational gesture of love. I want to give you a gift right now that serves no other purpose except saying I Love You, right now, and I just had to tell you. In this way, it appears that flowers are admirably suited merely for the temporal attitude of gift giving. This is why some women do not like receiving flowers, they appear to be a waste of money on something that does not last. But the sentiment of giving out of love does last, and in this way the truth goes far deeper.

The giving of flowers in the second regard, is an act signifying a continuing gift. The flower fades, but the sentiment is renewed by the giving of more flowers. In this way, it harks back to the first gift of flowers. Even giving a dozen roses on a couple's anniversary reminds both partners of the first flowers he ever gave her, whether it was a single white rose, or a bouquet of wild flowers plucked on the way to a date. Because the flower fades, it requires the renewing of this sentiment by another floral gift, to remind the lover that the sentiment was not merely a one time sentiment, but that the attitude of love lives on. In these ways, the gift of flowers implies both gift giving attitudes: The flower is a temporary gift of momentary emotion, but in a way, giving flowers now makes both the giver and the receiver partakers of the emotions entailed by every other floral gift of the past. They can remind us of a particular time, or of better times, or of better things to come. So darling, when you read this, you'll understand a bit more why I give you flowers, and why they are an expression of love that is more than worth the cost.

Oh, and if this post strikes my readers as a bit out of the ordinary for me, well it is. I was challenged to write on something positive and uplifting, to break out of my typical critic's attitude. But no, I have not changed, and to prove it, if anyone wants to get me this for Christmas, I think it would be an awesome way to convey my usual attitude with the right tuxedo:

Single Black Rose Boutonniere


Sarah said…
Ah finally. It took you long enough to write on this subject… My response: It is true that woman like flowers because they show a love that is not only everlasting, but also immediate. But I believe you forgot an aspect - something about the beauty of the flowers makes a woman happy. It could be said it is the emotion behind the giving of the flowers that makes her happy, yet there is another aspect. When I go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of flowers it not only makes me happy but it makes my roommates happy as well. Those flowers show thought, yes, but it is also because of the simple reason of flowers are beautiful.
Michaela said…
I actually don't like flowers as gifts (yes, I agree with Sarah that they're pretty--especially if they're potted). Anyone who knows me at all could think of dozens of things more suitable. Flowers, to me, say "all women like roses. you are a woman, therefore..."
J said…
Can I add in one more?

It's also a sign to all those around the woman that she is beloved and cherished. I could have flowers delivered to C's house, and sometimes do, but other times I'll send them to her at work so that others can see that she is loved.
The Author said…
Wouldn't the right guy know you don't like flowers, and thus find a more appropriate way of showing those emotions??

Just because you don't like flowers doesn't mean that they nothing more than a generalized default for guys... We all really know you girls like chocolate as much or more. ;-)

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