April 18, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Sunny 12°C

Virtual flowers

Messages of affection now come in an entirely different form.
By Jennifer Allison
Published: 2014-04-07

t was a busy Friday night for me. Like most Friday nights I had a date. My date included the perfect martini I had just made, a nice soft couch, my trusty dog, Cella, and a TV marathon of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. My teenage sons tell me I need to get out. But I was getting out — just with Hercule, who I happen to adore. If Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael were around on Fridays, I'd date him too.

As soon as I took my first sip I heard my phone chirp from the kitchen. I figured it was one of my girlfriends giving a last minute text to meet at the wine bar across the street. Instead, a number I didn't recognize showed on my screen. I knew the area code, but the number wasn't a contact of mine. Or hadn't been for many months.

"Hi, I'm visiting my folks and they send their regards. You really made an impression on them."

The text was from an old boyfriend; a man I dated for nearly a year. I realize that a year sounds like a long time, but in truth, we only saw each other on weekends or vacations and although we enjoyed our time together it was all in fun; emotions not deep enough or even shared, personalities opposite, and so in the most adult of ways, we parted. This may come off as ridiculous, but I was proud of that break-up. We were both so mature and calm about it. In fact, we were mature and calm for the entire relationship; highly unlike me, given my typical idealist personality full of overflowing emotions.

But this was a break-up I could write about in a book I'd call, "How To Break Up With Class." It was face to face, no pettiness, no, "I'll get my things in the morning, you ass!" while storming out of the house (It helped we didn't keep personal items at each other's homes.) Phone numbers and emails were deleted, at least on my end, and even photos electronically trashed in a blink. I believe in clean breaks. I'm not one to "friend" ex-partners or keep mementos. It doesn't work for me. It seems too superficial and contrived.

The real thing came with an immediate human dimension.

In truth, I've always respected him for how it ended. Though we met online, he kept his texting and emailing to a minimum which is rare these days, even for men in their 50s. During our first few dates he would make plans for the next date face to face. He'd call (not every night mind you) and we'd text only for a quick hello or to touch base throughout the day. It was all, so, well... mature. Before him I had almost given up on the notion that men would call instead of hiding behind a text (i.e. technology), as my teenage boys tend to do.

His text continued: "I don't know how to tell you how much you and our relationship meant to me."

And there it was, my virtual bouquet of flowers — delivered in on an iPhone instead of the local florist.

The problem with women my age (early 40s) is that we remember the time we'd actually answer the door to the pimply-faced high school boy holding a delivery for us. Sometimes they carried roses and other times our favorite tulips. The roses and tulips have been virtually replaced now. Long gone are the days of chocolates and flowers to express your desire to reconnect with someone, whether it be futile or no, in the hopes of reviving a romance. Yearning took a little effort.

We, men and women alike, now get only blips of the past. We hear the chirping of our phones, read the words and are left on our own to see the bouquet, to smell the fantasy fragrance filling the room. We are left to our own imaginations to decipher what kind of flowers they might be, how they might smell and where we should proudly display them. For some of us, these virtual bouquets fill an entire virtual room, while for others they're left on the kitchen counter, as small as the font on the screen in which they were delivered.

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