Send me no roses

What's so romantic about the most impersonal gift there is?

Topics: Valentines Day, Coupling, Life stories,

Send me no roses

Here’s how my starter marriage ended: After four years of structuring a life around everything my husband wanted and nothing that I did, I finally worked up the courage to move out. I was 24, and I wanted my interests and dreams and feelings to matter to someone, even if only to myself. Having no property, no children and no money to pay the legal fees, neither of us filed for divorce right away. Over the course of several months, as my absence piqued his interest, he would make the occasional overture — as if there were still hope. I knew it had to end the day a box arrived on my doorstep, containing multiple layers of perfectly formed, long-stemmed red roses, along with a note that read, “I know you hate red roses, but …” Society deems them romantic; why should my likes matter?

I’ll spare you the details of what I did to those roses before calling to assure him we were through.

My second husband (my real husband) and I have been together for 17 years, so I no longer remember at what stage of a relationship I would introduce the idea that I do not find red roses romantic. I do know it’s a strangely controversial opinion. I know the look of shocked dismay that’s likely on your face as you read this — I’ve seen it countless times since I began espousing this opinion somewhere around the age of 15. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I happen to find red roses garish. I confess I am also not a very sentimental person. But none of that is why I find them unromantic. Here’s my unfiltered view of it: It requires no thought, no time, and no effort to send someone red roses. They are as ubiquitous as they are obvious. All that’s required is some method of payment. So how does a gift so entirely impersonal add up to romance?

There’s a long-running joke in our culture about the ineptitude — the boring thoughtlessness — of giving a man a tie on Father’s Day. But at least, in that case, you have to pick out the tie.

Look, I get it. Love is hard. Expressing love, even through flowers, is perilous. There’s the possibility of miscommunication, dislikes, allergies. There’s an entire industry built up around the idea that red roses signal love, with a capital L. And if red roses mean “I love you,” anything else must mean something less. Roses are not only simple and straightforward, they’re safe. The only real hazard is sending them too soon.

But to love someone, and to express that love, requires knowing them. If you want to send a gift that says you care, the first step is to care. Show an interest in what she likes and longs for — in flowers and in life. Then on any occasion when you want to do something nice for her, send her something that says you listened. If she (or he, for that matter) tells you she thinks red roses are the ultimate in romance — and I recognize that she probably will — then by all means send them. But take the time to know. That’s where the romance happens.

This Valentine’s Day, my husband will give me a box of chocolates, as he suddenly started doing about 10 years ago. Not the most original gift in the world, granted, but it doesn’t need to be. The box he gives me won’t be heart-shaped and shrink-wrapped, plucked off the top of the giant pile at the corner drugstore. (Although I would eat those.) Instead, he will go to the nice candy shop near his office, stand in line, and pick out a small collection of the truffles and caramels he knows I love best. The point of this gift will be to say he knows me and loves me, and that makes me smile just thinking about it.

Karen Templer is the director of product development and design at Salon. Follow her on Twitter at

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>