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How complicated could giving flowers be?

The world over, flower giving is done in either a spirit of celebration or a spirit of consolation.

Got a date to the prom? Awesome! Here, pin this flower on them. It's like a floral fist-pump.

Recovering from appendicitis? That's too bad. Here, take these lilies. They'll remind you of the beauty of nature and help distract you from that gnarly scar across your stomach.

Win an Olympic gold medal? Great! Hold this bouquet and wave.

Get 18th runner-up in the county beauty pageant? Sorry. — But the judges all agreed that this pile of aromatic beauties is a perfect 10!

Occasionally, though, the intent of flower giving isn't so cut and dry. Sometimes the desire to both celebrate and console are represented in a single bouquet, like sending flowers to the bereaved to both celebrate the life of the deceased and to console those left behind.

In the Mormon world, there are other occasions where a single flower comes with complicated intentions.

Like the second Sunday in May, when Primary kids, young men and young women deliver little potted plants to all the mothers in the congregation.

I look at these gifts as a way of thanking women for the great work they do, while also attempting to commiserate with them on account of that work. The flower giving is a way of saying:

You gave another human being life! That's super! You're wonderful, here's a marigold!

While simultaneously conveying:

The person you gave life to snaps at you daily and is morbidly embarrassed by your every opinion and utterance. I'm sorry! That's terrible! Here's a flower.

We want them to know:

You're selfless and giving and kind and talented and motivated!

While also commiserating:

You have no personal space or possessions. Take a minute to enjoy this orange dandelion before it's snatched from you by those little people you're sharing a pew with.

And then there's Valentine's Day in some singles wards, where unique flower traditions are prevalent. In some places, on the Sunday nearest to the holiday for lovers, the men show their affection by giving a girl of their choice a single rose. After the last meeting, the guys all sneak out and return with thorny, petaled gifts in hand, which they then divvy out to the girl of their choice.

It's a nice, albeit complicated, exchange. Complicated because it's not really clear what the flower is for. So the women feel loved? So they feel pretty? So they know the guys honor them for being born with two x chromosomes?

I've wondered at the intent behind some of the roses I've been given. Each has been a multi-tasking rose conveying a gamut of unspoken sentiments like:

The bishop told me I had to do this.

I will never ask you out, but I will give you a flower I didn't pay for.

I got you a rose, now will you ignore my poor behavior and insulting comments and go out with me?

You don't have a boyfriend in this ward — right? Because I don't feel like getting beat up.

You may have turned me down three times and stopped returning my texts, but you can't stop me from giving you this! So there!

I really wanted to give this to your roommate, but that guy gave her one first. Here. Bye.

Sorry about that horrible date a few months back. Forgive me?

You're single! You go, girl!

This rose is red. I tried to find a yellow one but couldn't. Do not read into this. It means nothing.

The giving is like a less-smutty version of "The Bachelor" rose ceremony. It's a bit uncomfortable for all parties involved, especially considering most wards have more women than men, and there's some lag-time while one-third of the girls wait for the guys to restock and bring them theirs.

But whatever the complicated meaning, the unspoken gesture of "I'd like you to have this flower" is universally understood — and always appreciated.


E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com