A rose by any other flower

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December 17, 2013 by hollyhodgepodge

The meanings of words and symbols change.

Rarely today is the word “gay” used to convey merriment. The notion of heavenly blessing might not be uppermost in mind each time one says “goodbye,” which is derived from “God be with you.”

The meanings of flowers can evolve as well. Case in point: Back in Victorian days, the gift of a carnation conveyed fascination and devotion.

Today, a carnation pretty much says, “I’m cheap, I forgot your birthday/our anniversary/another special occasion, and I’m too lazy to make the effort.”

That sounds a little crass. Let me explain.

It’s not that carnations, in all their sweet fluffiness, aren’t precious. It’s just that, honestly, they’re too common. Carnations are the Nestle’s Crunch bar of flowers. They’re fine if there’s no reason to send them. If you’re at the grocery store on a Tuesday, feel free to come home with detergent, oatmeal and carnations. You’ll get credit. In fact, you’ll get more credit for picking out the right detergent.

But if it’s a day when flowers should be part of the equation (i.e. a holiday, special occasion or day you’re trying to escape the doghouse), go that extra mile and show me that you put more thought into giving me flowers than seeing a barrel of them next to the cash register when you were paying for your beef jerky. Meanwhile, I’m waiting at home with the three-course meal I’ve prepared for Valentine’s Day. Oh, and if money is the issue, skip the flowers and write out a heartfelt card.

Other than that, it’s not vital that you know what the different flowers mean. It’s nice and all, and sending the Right Flowers will probably win you some boyfriend/husband points, but a reasonable woman isn’t going to get her knickers in a twist if you give her a bunch of orange lilies, which said to convey hatred. Unless that’s what you’re going for. Orange lilies are colorful and summery. But maybe go for yellow ones, just to be safe. They mean “I’m walking on air.”

Still, love and logic are not always bedfellows. At the risk of being disloyal to the sisterhood, there are absolutely, without a doubt, times when we women can just be a little bit off our rockers. Like this past Feb. 14, I found myself in a lengthy conversation with a girlfriend. She was upset because her boyfriend had sent her an arrangement of pink tulips and stargazer lilies to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day as a couple. The other women at her office had received roses.

My friend was not able to enjoy her sweetheart’s originality after a colleague made a snide comment, along the lines of, “Oh, tulips. That screams friendship.”

Well, actually, tulips are said to convey perfect love, and pink tulips have been associated with happiness and affection. But my friend was upset by the comment.

I wrote to my friend: “I’m sure his thought was ‘I miss [my girlfriend]. I wish I could be with her on Valentine’s Day. These flowers are very pretty. She’ll probably enjoy looking at them. I’ll send them to let her know I’m thinking of her and want her to smile. I can guarantee you he was not flipping through a ‘meaning of flowers’ book, because guys don’t think about (stuff) like that.”

And, hey, he didn’t give her carnations. Or a Nestle’s Crunch Bar.


Originally published Oct. 1, 2010 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

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