When you choose gifts for people, what do you think about? Do you consider practicality or are presents meant to be frivolous? When I give gifts, I want to bring joy and I want my gift to either be consumable or biodegradable because goodness knows, we've all got enough stuff.
What suits my thinking? Flowers! Flowers make wonderful gifts and they make everyone smile -- yes, even men.
I thanked a reporter for doing a story on me a few years ago with a bouquet of purple irises. "Oh, they're lovely!" he said with a touch of nervous pleasure. I wondered if my gift pushed him into foreign gender territory because after he praised the beauty of the flowers, he stammered a bit then turned red. I explained that it is perfectly OK for women to give men flowers and he said, "You're not an ordinary woman." I wasn't sure how to take that statement, so I let it go.
As society becomes more gender balanced, more women will send men flowers, and this means that more men will have the opportunity to feel happy and special and deserving. Flowers are a win-win situation.
Dana William Hamilton at The New Leaf florist in Toronto says that it's becoming more common for women to send men flowers for any occasion, including Father's Day.
"People hadn't been giving flowers for Father's Day for years," says Hamilton, "But then came metrosexual men and there were suddenly more flowers and plants; flowers used in interior decoration, women sending more flowers to men during the year, and plants given as gifts for Father's Day."
If mums get flowers on Mother's Day, why wouldn't dads get flowers on Father's Day? I mean, how many golf clubs can a man own? Does he really need another pheumonic nailer? How about something that will make him smile and lift his spirits instead?
Before the '90s, men were almost forbidden to go near flowers unless they were getting married or being buried, but gay men have not had the same rules applied to them. In many ways, gays have had more freedom to express themselves than their heterosexual brothers, and flowers have been one of their mediums.
In Toronto's gay village, there are two florists on the same street, and groceries and convenience stores sell their flowers on the sidewalk, making the neighbourhood vibrant with colour and floral beauty. Shaun Proulx, Canada's gay Oprah, lives in the 'hood and loves to use fresh flowers in his home as much as he loves to talk about them.
"I would get rid of almost anything I own except flowers," he says. "The joy they bring to my life is immeasurable. I'm proud to say I have lost many hours of my life just staring and studying the flowers around me."
Historically, beautiful, delicate flowers were with associated with "weak" or passive types like women, gays, and children. This way of thinking not only suppressed these groups, it robbed heterosexual men the pleasure of experiencing nature's fragrant and brilliant jewels. Perhaps thanks to metrosexuals, the door has opened for all men to appreciate flowers without the fear of gender bullies coming after them to kick their pansy asses for liking something so "feminine."
I asked some of my heterosexual men friends how they feel about flowers and I'm delighted to tell you that for those who have yards and gardens, the majority like to plant flowers. Many said they either currently have flowers at home or would like to have indoor flowers more often.
Sounds like a great day for men's independence! Well, that's what you might think, but gender-dividing media like Spike TV targets young men between 18-34 and gives a hardened and repressive version of expected masculine behaviour.
Flowers are flowers. Some flowers self-pollinate because they have both "male" and "female" reproductive parts and others rely on wind and insects to cross-pollinate. Flowers don't really have a sex and they certainly have no gender, but strangely our culture has engendered them nonetheless. The following is Spike's list of the top nine most "manly" flowers:
9. Snapdragon (don't you know that "dragons in any form are badass"?)
8. Hops (used to make beer)
7. Cactus (especially the ones with long stiff flowers growing out of them)
6. Belladonna (poisonous)
5. Tree tobacco (can be smoked like a cigar but can kill you, therefore, "this flower is clearly not fit for girly-men")
4. Venus flytrap (carnivorous plant)
3. Rafflesia (a.k.a. meat plant) "The ultimate man's flower," says Spike, "It's super big and like man, it doesn't like to be tied down." This flower emits a rotten meat stench and Spike says, "Any flower that smells like meat (even rotten meat) is pretty ballsy."
2. Poppy ("No other flower in history has caused as much bloodshed and human destruction as the poppy" -- a.k.a. opium)
1. The Corpse flower, or amorphophallus titanium, means, "giant misshapen penis." It is the largest flower on earth and like the meat plant, emits a revolting smell of rotting flesh to draw carrion insects that helps it cross-pollinate.
Judging by this list, Spike suggests that the best flowers for men are reeking and dangerous and sometimes resemble a phallus. So fellas, how would feel if you were sent a bouquet of meat-eating plants or huge, stinking erect flowers? Would you feel manly, or would you feel nauseous? Maybe you'd feel insulted.
Spike's endorsement of archaic gender stereotypes seems to say that men can't appreciate nature because it's a sign of weakness, a twinge of the feminine -- the deadliest masculine sin of all -- and instead supports stiff, distant men who feel the social pressure to shut off their natural emotions and turn into a cactus: "tall, prickly on the outside, somewhat unapproachable, sturdy, and tough."
Men are not cacti; they are warm-blooded humans who respond to beauty, emotions, and nature. I think giving a man flowers is an enormous compliment that shows he's worthy of receiving such a beautiful gift and he gets the (probably rare) opportunity to feel special -- maybe even feel even titillated! On Father's Day or any other, consider giving the joyful surprise of flowers to bring a wide smile to a man's face, happiness to his heart, and maybe even a bashful blush to his cheeks.
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