I love cut flowers. I love them a lot, probably to an unreasonable extent. There's just something bright and cheery about them, a little bit of outside come in to beautify the day. If I could, I'd have cut flowers in every room of my house, every day, all the time; they're one of the few things that never loses its 'special' quality. It's possible I've played the Smithereens' "Cut Flowers" a few (thousand) times.
As a young woman, I absorbed the cultural narrative that cut flowers were a thing boys gave you. If you didn't have a boy, you didn't get any flowers. Sure, sometimes your dad sent them to you, and if you were in Texas for Homecoming your best friend got you a giant mum, but the 'flowers come from boys' meme was firmly entrenched in my head.
I was not a girl the boys pursued, and my luck ran to not-particularly-romantic gentlemen. "Happy Valentine's Day, I got you a tool set!" was always conflicting for me, because I *liked* the tool set, and I *needed* new tools, so it was a wonderful gift and I loved it, but I sure would have liked some flowers, and I had said so, but I still usually got told "Oh, you know, you're so fierce and strong and practical I thought you wouldn't go in for silly romantic stuff!" In between practical non-romantic boyfriends, I've been single for a lot of my adult life, so receiving flowers is still a rarity for me, something I find special every time.
Years ago, I was lamenting my perennial flowerlessness to an older friend, and she said, "Just buy your own flowers." When I protested that doing that seemed like giving up, like settling for what I could get, she said, "No. It's not giving up at all. It's independence. Flowers are easy. You walk into the store and you buy some, and then you have flowers. No meaning, no hidden statements about your worth as a person, just flowers."
The first time I gave myself flowers, I stood sort of furtively in the grocery store line, sure that everyone knew I was a pathetic loser who didn't have anyone to send her flowers. The cashier stopped, looked at them, looked at me, and then picked them up and SNIFFED them delightedly. "I love flowers," she said. "I wish someone would buy some for me, too. Your friend or whoever is lucky." I almost told her the truth, but couldn't quite admit that I didn't have someone to buy them for or someone to buy them for me, so I smiled and said, "I love flowers too."
Since then, I buy myself flowers regularly. I also go to movies alone if I want to see them, instead of waiting for a date to see them with. If I feel like dinner in a nice restaurant, I eat dinner in a nice restaurant, enjoying it whether my companion is a boyfriend or a book.
I'm not saying it happened overnight, the belief that going ahead and doing the 'date things' myself isn't settling. Even now I fight the curious looks from hostesses when I cheerfully say, "No, I'm not waiting for anyone. Just one, please," and refuse the suggestion that I sit in an uncomfortable chair at the bar and eat my furtive lonely dinner under a giant football game on the TV. No, I'll sit in the dining room, thank you, and enjoy my meal just like anyone else. And when the cashier asks me who the flowers are for, I smile and say "They're for me. I just love flowers." One or two of them even said, "I never thought of buying them for myself. I should do that!" and I always agree enthusiastically.
The journey to loving myself so that I didn't depend on someone else to do it for me has been so worthwhile, though. While I'm dating a lovely man who does buy me flowers and plan sweet romantic weekends, I'm able to look at those gestures and appreciate them all the more because I don't depend on them to 'prove' I am loved. They are allowed to be exactly what they are: expressions of love and appreciation that are sweeter for not being required, for not filling in some relationship check-box. If you're depending on someone else's love to make you feel worthwhile, then you never will. The void has to be filled from the inside; it'll just consume whatever you're given by others, voracious and unchanging.
Today is Valentine's Day, a difficult day for many. For some, the holiday is just a stupid commercial Hallmark holiday designed to throw another set of rapids into relationship navigation. For others, it's a genuinely painful reminder of love lost or missed, of personal emptiness. Some of my friends have lost a partner in the last year, and my heart goes out to them. Today, more than any other day of the year, we fight the social machine that tries to make us worthless, that slams binary genders into heteronormative monogamous constructs and dismisses everything else as 'weird'. If you don't have love, if your love is wrong, if the love you have is incorrectly expressed, you're told that it makes you different, ugly, deviant, less-than.
I'm lucky, in my life, to have so many shining examples of love done right. In all manner of incarnations, from freewheeling uncommitted singles to stable, dedicated polyamorous blended families, I am surrounded by people making love work, and making love into a life. Maybe it's maturity, maybe it's the power of attraction drawing people like me to me, but the core of people who form the closest and most important structures in my life all share one thing, regardless of relationship status: we all recognise the value of loving yourself, of being happy to buy your own flowers and delighted when someone else buys them for you. We all see, in ourselves, something worthy of loving and we're all committed to bringing that out into our daily lives. When we look at each other, our partners, and ourselves, we see beings of light and wonder, souls we embrace without reservation, and individuals worthy of love, and we love each other, and that's good.
I love you all.