My love is like a red red rose
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
– Robert Burns
Cracking the Rose Code
After six decades, I stopped and smelled the roses. No, literally, I stopped and smelled the roses on a rose bush in my backyard. I wanted to know what the hype was all about. Was there any truth to the old adage? They smelled nice and, to my surprise, I did feel a bit better after inhaling the fragrance, although I remained skeptical. Perhaps I was the victim of the placebo effect. Did I feel better because the flower industry relentlessly tells us that people, especially women, feel better when they receive roses?
A Rose is Not Just a Rose
Roses are color coded. Just to list a few: Red roses express romance. Yellow roses represent friendship and joy. Lavender roses, although I’ve never seen a rose of that color, signal love at first sight. Pink roses symbolize gratitude and appreciation. White roses signify purity and innocence and orange roses embody desire, enthusiasm, and passion.
If the color of roses isn’t hard enough to keep track of, they are also number coded. A signal red rose says, “I love you.” A single rose of any color depicts devotion. Two roses intertwined is a nonverbal proposal of marriage. Six roses implies a need to be loved or cherished, although, I’m not sure if the plea is on the part of the flower giver or the flower recipient. Eleven roses (I always thought the number was twelve) assure recipients that they are deeply loved. Since roses are cheaper by the dozen, you could save the spare rose for another occasion. Thirteen roses indicates a secret admirer. I suppose the secret admirer could team up with a person who is in love and save the cost of the added rose.
The mere presence of flowers is intoxicating. Researchers found that women who looked at a video of a man thought him more attractive and sexier if flowers were present in the room vice watching the same video in a room sans flowers. In another study, women were more inclined to agree to go on a date with a stranger if flowers were present in the room. Women stand closer to men who give them flowers than they do to men who don’t present flowers. Woman displayed wider smiles after being given flowers versus a fruit basket…A fruit basket? That’s like giving your wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas.
Like it or not, flowers play an important part in human behavior. In many cases, flowers speak louder than words. People feel good when they give flowers. People feel good when they receive flowers. Sick people surrounded by flowers feel better as they recuperate from an illness. Men buy flowers to initiate or maintain romance. Women buy flowers to express friendship. Instead of stopping to smell the roses in my backyard, I would be far better off buying a dozen roses…err…I mean eleven roses and bring them home to my wife. She deserves them for putting up with my antics for a score and twelve years. I love you, Helen.
Jacob C., Guéguen N., Boulbry G. & Selmi S. (2009). “Love is in the air”: Congruency between background music and goods in a flower shop. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 19(1), 75-79.