Ah Valentine’s Day. For some it invokes a gush of romanticism, hopefulness and a sputtering of expectations, usually doomed for failure. For others it brings back emotions and memories as bitter as bile, catalysing a surge of “Love sucks” playlists and booze laced singles get-togethers. And then I guess there are a handful of people who will get exactly what they’d hoped for, be it an engagement ring or a single rose.
The rose is a funny thing, I feel like it’s a kind of double agent in some ways. More often than not a rose says: I love you. It can also say: I’m sorry, Congratulations or Thank You.
In my case, no matter what is inscribed below the Valentine’s Day wording stamped in red glitter glue, the subtext has told quite a different tale. At times it was “I’m about to break up with you. Yes, today.” Other times it was: “Man give girl rose. Girl must now put out.” And one time it was: “I found this in the dustbin – hard to believe right? (not hard to believe) and before you realized that I’d completely forgotten to acknowledge you today, I picked it up, wiped off the Wimpy sauce and ta-dah! Also, you should see a shrink about this pattern you have of dating losers.”
Since those tumultuous teen terrorist attacks on my heart, some less like teen and more like twenties, I have grown some protective thorns of my own and made it quite clear that my preference is the Gerbera.
Gerberas don’t have a colour chart which defines the status of a relationship – don’t we have facebook for that now? Can you imagine the look on some poor unassuming (or very assuming, depending on how you see it) girls face when, 2 months into what she believes is a relationship (believing like an idiot who has never made her way to the self-help isle in Exclusive Books that exclusive dinners, intimate conversations, kisses – not to mention some pretty heavy over the bra action – define the title) receives a bunch of huh? White roses?! What the flora? Yes, it appears you and that douche… I mean, guy, are “just friends” by popular translation.
A couple of days ago, Penny and I were nursing a glass or 5 of Whatever’s-open-in-the-fridge – I want to say in the build-up to Vday but in all fairness, we don’t need a reason. Roommate Code.
For the first time in a long time I was being told a story which featured the infamous rose as its lead character, doing exactly what roses are intended to do. It made my heart bloom.
It was the story of a young girl having to deal with the loss of her mother and best friend, in the middle of her Matric exams. Instead of opting out of writing, which under the circumstances would have been perfectly understandable, Penny had set out to get a Matric certificate, something neither her late mother nor father had possessed.
Each day she would summon up what strength she had left in the creases of her deflated soul to get up and face a wad of unsympathetic paper. Each day she would force the lump in her throat down a few notches to where it couldn’t erupt in tears. Some days were more successful than others. And each day, a single rose lay on her desk reminding her that somewhere in the world, someone recognised her insurmountable courage. Someone understood that no words or poetry could bring peace to such a struggle, but that the simple gesture of a rose could at least bring a sense of comfort and reassurance that someday she would feel warmth and safety again.
Penny passed Matric with a University exemption and to this day, that someone is still unknown.
Her story equated to about 5 minutes and yet it has stained my heart. Passing by the red tack which erupts in florists and newsfeeds the week of Valentine’s Day I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the bouquet’s and bounties would carry as much “love” as one single rose was able to deliver all those years ago. I wondered if all secret admirers were as true and thoughtful as the anonymous saint who extended some kindness to an 18-year-old in need.
Am I questioning Saint Valentine? Maybe a little. But I’m not a hater… when My Man handed me a bunch of Gerbera’s my cup raneth over (as they say) with the feeling of being cherished and appreciated. But for those of you who may have fallen into an Eeyore slump over a rose no-show, and believe me I’ve been there gurlfriend, think about what it is that you are giving that sadness and self-esteem eroding energy to.
A rose is just a rose. Well, most of the time…