FLOWER-GAZING: FRESH-CUT FLOWERS AS RITUAL
Let’s get one thing out of the way: we all have our vices, and mine is shopping. Little things, big things, expensive things, cheap things — the running joke in my family is there is literally no retail environment I go into where I can’t find something to buy. Stickers at the grocery store, a makeup bag at Saks, press-on nails at CVS; It’s an expression of independence, self-love and care, and indulgence. Some people like a stiff drink at the end of the day, or an adventurous vacation, or a day at the spa — I like leaving a store with a shopping bag in my hand and those emails that say “PACKAGE DELIVERED,” and that feeling you get when you bring something new home.
It goes without saying that this vice (like lots of vices!!) is dependent on finances, and having liquid cash is not a static condition; when I was in college and working in retail without any real debt things looked a lot different than they do now as a law student who's sold her soul to the government for loans. And so I’ve found little ways to treat myself no matter the financial climate, chief among them: fresh flowers.
It probably started as a kid — I remember getting SUPER hyped about my communion bouquet. But I think it all really came to fruition in my teens. For my freshman and sophomore year, I went to a small private high school in Back Bay that allowed us open campus privileges during lunch and study hours. This meant that all of Newbury street and the surrounding areas were like our playground, and I’d often walk to the open market in Copley square to buy fresh flowers for my mom. They were cheap, and pretty, and it made me feel like a grownup.
In college, I’d spend weekends at my then-boyfriend's apartment and travel back from East Boston most Sunday mornings with my eyes sore from crying the night before. It was an emotionally abusive relationship; I usually stopped at Whole Foods on my way to the train to grab a yogurt and sit at the counter texting my friends to explain away his behavior (both to them and myself). The whole relationship felt damp and heavy; looking back on it I only remember our time together as rainy days, even though plenty were in fact sunny. And so, along with my plain Greek yogurt, I almost always bought fresh flowers. I’d stand by the display looking at other people and wondering how their significant others spoke to them, waiting for the person behind the counter to wrap the two dozen roses I had meticulously selected to bring home. At the time I didn’t realize it, but somewhere in that cellophane and paper wrapping was a little glint of salvation; something about that automatic gesture reminded me of beauty — of levity. Cradling the bouquet on the train home, I’d wonder if people were curious where I got them; part of me hoped they assumed it was from a partner. But a bigger part of me found comfort in the fact that they were not; that they were mine, from me, to me, to my home and my family and the space I lived in away from the dysfunction I endured on the weekends.
Then, in law school I got sick; it was hard for me to leave the house on my own or spend long periods of time on my feet in stores. So my mom would bring me home tulips — one day she drove around for an hour looking for a color I wanted and some new vases. I’d put them on top of my bookcase and look at them as a reminder of the outside world, of the life outside of my limits. When I started to feel better, I became a regular at our local florist — it was a quick errand that didn’t ask much of me, and I always left with something that made my eyes happy to look at.
Classic Millennial Plant Hoarding
My plant collection has grown steadily over the years; I have a number of beloved succulents, and every time my monstera sprouts a new leaf I beam with joy like a mom at her fourth grader’s talent show. But I still buy fresh flowers — right now there are two fresh bouquets of white tulips sitting in our dining room and an orchid I brought home last week. On Valentine’s Day I brought home two bouquets of bright orange roses and every time I go to Whole Foods, I scour the plant section for tea roses in odd colors like lavender or beige.
It took me until relatively recently to see this as a ritual; it’s always been instinctual, part of my larger shopping habit. But when I think back on all the times I’ve bought flowers, I realize why they’ve been my go-to in good times and bad. This time of year you can also find flowers everywhere! Little wild violets and dandelions can bring just as much joy as store-bought flowers. I've found a foolproof source of contentment, a reminder that no matter what’s going on, I can bring vitality and beauty into my life.
Caroline Reilly is a reproductive justice advocate and a law student based in Boston, MA. You can find her work on Teen Vogue, Bitch Media, Rewire, Scarleteen, Frontline (PBS), and Death & the Maiden, and where she writes about abortion, medical misogyny, death phobia and more. Additionally, her writing on abortion access for minors, which gained national recognition, can be found here. Find her on Twitter at @ms_creilly.
- Choosing a selection results in a full page refresh.
- Press the space key then arrow keys to make a selection.