You know how a lot of women go around shaking their heads and muttering: "Boy, men just don't get it, do they?"
I'll tell you something men really don't get: flowers.
Men don't understand flowers. No, I take that back. Men don't understand what women see in flowers. Men can't fathom why flowers are such a big deal to women, why women get so worked up about flowers.
A woman receives a bouquet of flowers and she sees something grand. She sees beauty in its most basic form. She sees reaffirmation, a sign that she's special, a thoughtful gesture from the heart.
Whereas a man comes across the same bouquet of flowers and thinks: Damn. Someone must've died. Now I gotta water these things.
But here's the thing: Men use flowers. Oh, you betcha. Maybe they have zero appreciation for flowers. But they understand the power of flowers.
They know what flowers do to a woman. And they exploit this knowledge. Relentlessly. Shamelessly.
A man screws up with a woman, he's on the phone to the florist right away, ordering a dozen roses and ticking off a Visa card number and an address to some dippy salesclerk who chirps: "Ooooh, she'll lo-o-o-ve this!"
See, the man knows that unless his wife or girlfriend just caught him burying a body under the porch, flowers will take some of the heat off him.
In fact, you can measure how badly a man screwed up by both the quality and quantity of the flowers he orders.
A small bouquet of geraniums means he, oh, forgot to pick her mother up at the airport. Two dozen long-stemmed roses in a nice vase means she caught him wearing lipstick, high heels and a push-up bra around the house.
(By the way, have you checked out the price of roses lately? What are these made out of: plutonium?! Fifty bucks for a dozen long-stemmed roses?! Where are they importing these from, Venus?)
While we're on the subject, let me say this: There is nothing more pathetic than a man who pretends to know flowers simply to impress a woman.
I have seen these slimebuckets in action, with their easy grins and their practiced, con-man patter:
Him: "It's funny how we're both drawn to these tulips . . ."
Him: "Didn't I say begonias?"
Her: "No, you said tulips."
Him: "Oh, for God's sake! Anyway, I see the fuchsia's in bloom."
Her: "Those are impatiens."
Him: "Glaucoma's getting worse. Gotta have these eyes checked. Look, Teri..."
Her: "It's Jeri."
Him: "Didn't I say Jeri?"
Twenty seconds into the conversation, the woman knows she's dealing with a full-fledged BS artist.
And if she has any brains at all, she'll lose this creep pronto and hook up with some guy who at least has the decency to admit he knows nothing about flowers.
Certainly, there were many such men at the Flower Mart, Baltimore's oldest flower festival, held not long ago.
As I wandered about, I was struck by the difference in the way men and women act around flowers.
The women were oohing and aahing, touching the flowers, lingering over the flowers, discussing the flowers.
And the men were . . . well, I don't quite know how to describe the men. Not bored, but . . . disengaged.
Whereas the women were focused. The women were like: Flowers! And the men they were with would sense this enthusiasm and nod politely. But in the back of their minds, the men were thinking: There's probably a good tire sale going on somewhere.
Hey, I was the same way. I walked around the various booths smiling and pretending to be interested. But it was an act. I felt very unclean the whole time.
I also developed a bad case of Flower Anxiety, which, in layman's terms, is a condition brought on by having to make a critical decision about flowers.
What happened was, a woman running one of the booths asked if I wanted a free bouquet of flowers to bring home to my wife, and if so, what kind.
And I . . . it was like my brain seized up or something. I stood there stuttering and stammering, tiny beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I gazed blankly at the displays.
Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. She picked up the nearest bouquet and thrust it into my hands.
Then she asked me to leave, said I was scaring the other customers.
I don't know what kind of flowers she gave me. Marigolds, maybe. Or pansies.
My wife seemed to like them, though.