For a long time, REAL MEN not only didn’t eat quiche, they didn’t get flowers. Imagine John Wayne on the receiving end of a dozen long-stemmed red roses.
Enter bright-eyed delivery boy with the bouquet.
Wayne, scowling: “Wal, whuddaya got THERE?”
Delivery boy, wilting slightly: “Roses, Sir.”
Wayne, leaning forward menacingly: “Wal, who are they FOR?”
Delivery boy, now shaking in his boots: “You, sir?”
Wayne, swaggering across the room to snatch the roses, stabbing himself painfully on the thorns – though he won’t let on – and stuffing them head down into the trash: “The hell they are!”
Nope. No flowers for men in Wayne’s day. But times change. Today, some florists estimate that 20-25% of their delivery calls are for men.
“There’s been a real upsurge in the last couple of years,” notes Lynn Green at National Flora, a nationwide floral delivery service. “Last Valentines Day, particularly, there were quite a few women ordering for men.”
Chris Wilkins, owner of Flowers by Michael in Baltimore, agrees.
“I’ve seen a definite change, especially in the last 5-6 years,” says Wilkins, who has been in the business for two decades. “Flowers used to be considered a feminine gift. Men would feel terribly embarrassed. But this whole push on men being more sensitive has had an effect.”
Maybe men are more sensitive, or more confident in their masculinity. Maybe it’s generational – few older men admit to ever having received flowers (and a couple snarled that they wouldn’t want them, either, when I asked). Or maybe, the more that men get flowers, the more acceptable it becomes. Shipwright Richard Emory remembers the first time he was given flowers. He had sent a bouquet to a (then) girlfriend who reciprocated by picking a bunch of flowers, putting them in a canning jar and leaving them on his doorstep.
“At first, I thought: “Hey, guys don’t get flowers,”” he remembers. “It’s that macho thing. But I liked it. I was flattered.”
CHANGES IN ATTITUDES
One reason for men’s changing attitude is society’s gradual redefinition of what constitutes exclusively male or female behavior. Men are no longer the only ones who slay the dragons, and women aren’t the only ones who appreciate a loving gesture.
“Gender roles have been changing,” observes Laura Moore, PhD candidate in gender and equality roles at University of Maryland. “The attitude about men and women and their roles has been merging over time. Some men appreciate women taking on a more assertive role.”
PUBLIC OR PRIVATE GESTURE?
Yet even if they appreciate a woman’s assertiveness, some men may be embarrassed by a public display. An understanding of the individual man – or a little lucky guesswork – goes a long way toward making the gift successful. Some men love flowers at work, while others prefer a more private sign of affection.
“I dig it [at work] because I tell everybody it came from a chick,” says Gregg Henderson of Country Floral Supply. “I boost that whole male ego thing.”
Editor Steve Millburg, received his first flowers at his office, which was overwhelmingly male.
“I got teased about it some,” he laughs, but notes that in the ribbing, there was also a little envy. “I don’t know of any man who’s ever gotten flowers who hasn’t had this goofy little grin on his face,” he says, “no matter how much teasing he got.”
Businessman Jack Handy has received flowers at work from his wife.
“It was fun,” says Handy. “Where I work, the atmosphere is friendly, so I wasn’t upset by it at all. I’m not sure everyone would feel the same way.”
“It can either be a bragging tool or it can be a sissifying type of present,” agrees Laura Moore. “You really have to think about the man receiving it.”
“Lots of people send Valentine flowers to the office,” says Chris Wilkins. “This year, we’ll make a lot of our Valentine’s Day deliveries on Friday so the recipient will get them at work.”
The visible sign – which can be simultaneously claiming and honoring – is important to both sexes. But there is still a difference in how men and women receive a public gesture.
“Men really want wives and girlfriends to get flowers at work,” says Wilkins, “but I’d say 50% of guys would rather get them at home.”
IF YOU’RE SENDING A MAN FLOWERS
- Consider the Context
“If it was a very testosterone-y area, a construction site [for example] and he’s going to have to hear it from the guys you have to consider: is that going to be good or bad?” says Laura Moore.
- Consider the Man
“Some would really rather have something more guyish, like electronic equipment,” Moore observes.
In response to the need for ‘guyish’ things, many florists also offer plants, balloons, and gift baskets that appeal to men.
“Food is always popular for men,” says Karen Hayes of Florist Network. “We have a junk food basket and we can send beer. It’s perfect for something like the Superbowl.”
- Consider the Flowers Themselves
Though most people have long forgotten what individual flowers are supposed to represent, there is still a vague sense of the significance of red roses, which have always signified passionate love.
“I might look sideways at a bouquet of red roses from a friend,” says Jack Handy. “I’d think: either she doesn’t know what’s going on, or I’ve got a problem!”
However, Karen Hayes offers another perspective.
“A common question we get is what the flowers mean,” she says. “I always say that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what it says on the card.”
Flowers by Michael
12058 Glen Arm Rd
Glen Arm, MD 21057
Gordon Florist, Inc.
Flowers n Things
Cambridge, MD 21613
WHICH BLOOMS ARE BEST FOR MEN?
If perchance the man in your life has a favorite flower, send that. Husbands and boyfriends often get red roses for Valentines’ Day. For a less romantic, more light-hearted gesture, some women send one balloon and one rose. There is a whole language of flowers, which goes back to medieval times and was brought to a hyperbolic boil in the Victorian era. Internet Florist (www.iflorist.com or 800-600-9882) has a list of flower meanings beginning with acacia ( concealed love) and ending with white zinnia (goodness). Two books, The Meaning of Flowers, by Gretchen Soble, and Tussie Mussies: The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers by Gerladine Adarnich Laufer offer specifics too.
Barring such detailed research, plants and balloons are popular for men as which is a fruit basket, or a specialty basket designed for the fisherman, golfer, or football fan.
- This article first appeared in The Baltimore Sunpapers Home and Family section in 2011