“You need to buy me a rose,” I said to my new boyfriend.
He smirked. “Flowers are a waste of money. I already bought you dinner for your birthday.”
In the girls’ hostel in my college, we had a tradition. At midnight, everyone would gather in the birthday girl’s room and fuss over gifts, especially from a new boyfriend. My roommate’s a glossy rubber plant in a shiny brass pot, a gift from her beau, had received considerable attention. Another friend showed off a dozen red roses in a large crystal vase.
I knew my boyfriend couldn’t afford a dozen roses, but a single long stem would do the trick. It would satisfy my friends and confirm my status as part of a Couple-Going-Steady.
I stopped my bike across the street from the florist’s and offered to pay for the flower. He refused the money, but bought me the said item, a single red rose, resplendent in a delicate glass tube-like vase.
He handed it to me. “Are you happy now?”
I was, until he asked me. For his birthday I had ordered an annual subscription of Readers Digest delivered monthly to my hostel. I would read each issue, plaster it with love notes and hand-deliver it to him every month, so the gift would last him the whole year. For someone who had gone into so much trouble, a single red rose was forthcoming.
I displayed my rose proudly on my desk. I scribbled a note, “Love, always!”
Needless to say, I gained the necessary approval of my friends.
After a week, I flattened the rose between pages of my Romeo and Juliet and still admire its crumbling brown petals, about once every decade.
I proposed to him twenty-five years ago, and have been happily married with two wonderful kids. Romance has largely taken a back-seat, especially after the Valentine’s Day Fiasco of 1998.
He was a busy doctor, and I decided to gift myself to him, dressed in black lingerie. I brought a cardboard box from work and hid it until he came home late at night and went for a shower.
With my kids sleeping in the adjacent room, I put on my lingerie, pulled out the box and got in.
Damn it! The box was too small!
I got out, ran to the kitchen, and wrapped myself in saran wrap. I lay down in bed with a fake rose across my belly. Then I pretended to sleep.
He emerged from the shower, turned out the lights, and got into bed.
I said in a husky voice, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
“You too!” he said, and promptly fell asleep.
For our twenty-fifth anniversary, I bought him a $300 gift-card from a popular men’s clothing store to buy a suit I know he needs for his new job. I cooked a nice meal and asked him to buy a chocolate mud pie on his way back from work.
There’s a florist shop right next to the bakery…
He came home with the cake and said he had to go back to the car to get something for me.
I was delighted.
But instead of a dozen reds, he brought back a $2.99 chrysanthemum bush in a plastic pot covered in gaudy green paper.
“I can’t believe this!” I said, faking a smile. “Is this for me?”
I’d hoped not for a dozen, but twenty-five red roses, one for each year he hadn’t got me one.
But instead of dead red flowers which would eventually wilt, he got me living blooming yellow chrysanthemums, which would continue to blossom for as long as the plant lived.
He’d put my price at $2.99. I’d hoped for at least $12.99.
Perhaps the plant needed more sun or subconsciously I didn’t water it enough, but the bush died soon after, ending another chapter in my love-life.
The other day I came home late from work with a splitting headache and a sore back. My husband had picked our daughter up from school, fed her a snack and had even washed her hair!
She was doing her homework, head wrapped in a large towel, as the smell of steamed rice wafted through the kitchen. He’d grilled some salmon and stir-fried broccoli florets.
He poured me a glass of wine and gave me a neck massage to die for.
It wasn’t a special day in any way, like an anniversary or a birthday.
It was just a day I needed him.
It dawned on me that if I wanted to make my marriage any more perfect, the change would have to be in me.
Staring at the windows of neighborhood florists, I wonder why I ever craved for superficial and petty expressions of affection that could easily be faked.
Why did I want flowers from a man who had already given me his heart?
But this Valentine’s Day, I got a dozen long stemmed superficial and petty expressions of affection.
And he’s forgiven.
She grew up in Bhilai, India and lives in Arcadia, California, with her husband and two wonderful children. In her free time, she paints, reads, sings, goes on long walks, and binge-watches old TV dramas.