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Mother’s Day and culture shifts

May 14, 2010

Written by Julienne

We celebrate it at the same time every year.  It is the quasi-holiday where we honor those who gave us life, and those who teach us to live it.  Each May, we reluctantly stand amidst the masses, in the lobby of any number of local restaurants, waiting for a table.  What is this day, the veritable bane of my existence? Mother’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong — I love my mother.  She’s funny; she’s caring; she’s accomplished.  She, along with my grandmother and aunts, deserve to be recognized for the positive impact they have on my life.  But they’re not the reason that May seems to come sooner each year.  It’s the florists.

No offense, but I’ve never met a florist I haven’t hated.  It’s just that, on Mother’s Day, it is inevitable that I find myself in some precarious situation — surrounded by posies, petunias, and pruning shears.

I’m not a bad person.  I manage to purchase gifts for birthdays, Christmases, and any number of generic holidays.  Father’s Day 2009?  Check.  (Kayaking lessons.)  Wedding shower for my only sibling?  Check.  (I made all 80 favors by hand.)  It’s just this interaction with florists — the porters of the plant life, the bosses of the blossoms — that I don’t have down yet.

It’s really not my fault — it’s them.  It was they who closed the shop early one year before I could pick up my order.  I pounded on the door until someone heard and let me in, at which time they presented me with a corsage that was wilting and brown around the edges.  (That took a full hour to resolve and included much sighing.)  It was also they who, when I ordered one Mother’s Day corsage with three red roses, gave me three one-rose corsages.  (Three roses is a lot for a corsage, I know, but it was per mom’s request.  My mother may be 4’11”, but she is no fading flower.)  I even remember Mother’s Day 2009 — the year that they put daisies in my bouquet — even though I specifically requested that they not be included.

Mother’s Day seems to be full of these uncomfortable instances year in and year out.  I’ve come to expect them — maybe I would even miss them if they weren’t there.  But for you to truly understand my angst, I have to explain why I make such a fuss over this day.

My father, God bless him, is a developing creature in the art of flower purchases.  When we were kids, he would procrastinate and buy Mother’s Day paraphernalia at the last minute.  This always meant that my mother was left with some strange amalgamation of flowers and ribbon colors.  (One year the corsage was orange.  I don’t remember anything else about it, except that it was bright orange with a baby blue ribbon.)   I promised myself that, come adulthood, my mother would have the best of everything on this day.  It is because of this that I take the purchase of flowers quite seriously, and am sincerely hurt when my florist interactions are less than enviable.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day 2010.  I recently moved to a new area of town, so I decided to give the small flower shop there a try.  New year, new decade, new lease on the most draining relationship I’ve ever had.  Or is it?  I walk in, say I have an order for Mother’s Day, and have the incredible feeling of déjà vu…

“Mother’s Day? Sure,” she says and asks what I need exactly.  I tell her I want a corsage and a bouquet, to which she responds, “A corsage?  Are you sure that it’s for Mother’s Day and not the Junior Prom?”  I don’t even know how to answer that.  Unless my mother Freaky Friday-ed back 40 years since I saw her last, yes I’m sure.

“What type of flower?  We have a nice lily that just came in,” she boasts.  I tell her that sounds great, but my mother really loves roses.  I even make some quip that my mom is stunting my creativity.  She rolls her eyes and just starts writing.

She moves on: “What are you looking for in the bouquet?”  I say, “Something springy.  I like the pink Gerberas over there…maybe some tulips…what do you have?”  “We have a lot of flowers,” she tells me.  (Oh really?  I thought this was one of those cafes that only sells grilled cheese. Hundreds and hundreds of combinations of grilled cheese.  You’re a florist?  My mistake.)

We decide on the flowers and I ask if she has a box she can put them in.  (One year, the flower shop put my order in a long, gorgeous box.  It happened unbeknownst to me, but my mother got a kick out of it.  It’s a joke between us now and I get her flowers in boxes as often as I can.)  She tells me that they have boxes, but that she won’t “put the flowers in there.”  I ask why and she fires questions, “Why do you ask?  What does she care?  Why do you need a box?”  To which I reply, “Because she likes it and I want one.”  The cashier rolls her eyes again and marks *BOXED* on the form, but not before telling me the bouquet will be crushed.  I assure Chicken Little that I don’t live very far — I just want the box.

I finish the order, pay, and, fuming now, walk toward the door calling out a disingenuous, but hearty, farewell over my shoulder.  She gives me the same and quickly adds, “See?  And I didn’t give you a hard time about the box.” (Um…false.)

As a profession, I find florists to be bombastic.  So connected to their craft, they seem offended by the half-hearted and sporadic interest average citizens take in the world’s flora.  I wish that this year’s experience was just an anomaly and not the latest manifestation of an unpleasant relationship with an entire profession.

It seems that a florist especially would take joy in the opportunity to participate in the minutia of people’s lives.  They make a solid and important contribution to weddings, birthdays, and even funerals.  Florists are seen everywhere, but rarely heard.  They are needed; so why all the unconstructive criticism?

When did it become okay to argue with consumers?  What happened to the small business tenets of politeness, agreeability, and community engagement?  In such a tight economy as this, retail negativity seems counterintuitive.  One would expect merchants to actively seek new business, and to actively preserve the business relationships they’ve already made.

Instead, instances of rudeness are ever increasing in our society.  I think it’s because we’ve allowed it to happen.  When we have an unpleasant experience with a company, do we go back?  More often than not, yes we do.  The concept of ‘word of mouth’ doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as it once was.  Maybe it is due to our electronic, technologically-charged, social networking culture shift.  Then again, we can’t blame Facebook for everything.  It is time that we demand civility.  After all, aren’t we paying, in part, for the experience as well?

So, to all those other women whom I said deserved thanks on this glorious occasion: consider this recognition enough, please.  I can’t bear to make any other purchases just now.

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