My Failed Relationship (in plants)
Allow me to begin with a confession, dear reader. I’m afraid it’s worse than the truth about my inability to keep flora alive (a metaphor a little too close to home, as I will explain).
During the death throes of one of my rather more ill-advised (than usual) relationships, my then-boyfriend found himself without a computer and so used my laptop and iPad frequently. His late-night internet binges were fuelled by weed, white wine and large bars of Galaxy (apparently coping with one’s mid-30s is much like dealing with the menopause). All too often I’d innocently carry a coffee and cinnamon roll over to my laptop for a Sunday morning internet-browse and find my browser window already open, the grimmest sort of porn** greeting me when I’d planned on beginning with a little email correspondence, perhaps a browse of the more SFW parts of Tumblr. Please don’t get the wrong idea, dear reader, I’m not a prude; but one sometimes prefers a gentler start to the day, no?
In addition to the frequent encounters with The Worst Kind Of Porn including one mortifying moment at 07:00 in Manchester Airport where, over a coffee, I merrily fired up my iPad and treated numerous holidaymakers to 9.7" of smut, I would also occasionally be greeted with an exchange of emails or Facebook messages.
Readers, this is where I must make my confession: I didn’t immediately look away. Some of you will be familiar with the sickening rise of realisation, the punch in the gut, when you absolutely must know the truth. I saw flirtatious correspondences with barmaids in the pubs we frequented, I saw an email sent to an acquaintance of unknown origin telling her that they were soulmates, and, perhaps most memorably, I saw his missives to his most recent ex, gushing over her new profile pic in which she posed, double DD cuppers resplendent in a bikini while she grasped a glass of champagne, on her honeymoon of all places. She’d responded with a YouTube link to Amy Winehouse’s ‘Love is a Losing Game’. He’d followed up with a deeply reflective piece on the transitory nature of love, and used the metaphor of a vine which, if left untended, will wither and die. Frankly I felt that one should not be scampering off to tend to other vines, but this was not my conversation to have…
In any case, our vine was untended (indeed, it was abused most horribly) and of course it withered. The painful end came, and a couple of years later I began a new relationship. It blossomed for 18 months or more before we drifted apart, and eventually the end came once again. It felt much less acrimonious; an older, wiser pair of adults who realised they weren’t right for one another. I didn’t want to argue, I wanted what was best for us both.
The Plant Death metaphor didn’t resurface in my mind until most-recent-ex moved into our spare room, about three weeks or so before I formally dropped the guillotine on what remained of our relationship. Before his decampment, the only resident of the spare room had been my chilli plant, which I had tended from a wee sprout and which had already blessed us with its fruits, meagre as they were.
It would be quite a few weeks before he moved out ‘proper’, and in that time decency (believe it or not, despite what you read above) kept me from entering his territory. Indeed, the door was kept firmly closed the majority of the time as he banished himself to the south wing, accompanied only by 3 guitars, a banjo, some rather dusty weight-lifting equipment and an extensive collection of male singer-songwriter CDs (Neil Halstead, you have a lot to answer for). He emerged occasionally to prepare some miso soup, then retreat into his cave. Sometimes he’d cook a tofu paneer in the one pan he officially owned (‘mine’ were presumably poison by now) and would shuffle back to his room to eat it with the one wooden spoon he had carved himself. (Reader, I’m not making this up, I promise.)
It was only when I began to show the room to prospective flatmates that I finally saw the sorry state the poor chilli plant had arrived at. Him being a vegan, a pacifist, environmentalist and curry-lover, I was surprised to see that Chilli Plant had suffered total neglect, its dry leaves scattered in a circular pattern on the floor, its little buds entirely dead.
The sight provoked a chuckle upon first glance, I must admit. That he had cloistered himself away in the room, supping miso soup and twanging on his banjo while the plant withered and died seemed fitting, as he seemed to be trying so very hard to coax melodrama out of a situation that needn’t have been unnecessarily painful. As I picked up dead leaves from the carpet, I pondered on the other plants we shared.
There was the ‘coffee plant’ that lived in our bathroom, which I later discovered was not a coffee plant at all. A fib rather than a lie, since I do believe he was genuinely unaware of its true lineage, but a falsehood all the same. This represented distorted expectations, and a certain ignorance that remained blissful for as long as it could.
There was the cheese plant, a towering display of gigantic greenery. One arm was fatally wounded when we moved in together, and perhaps this was an omen. More telling was his perennial inability to get around to repotting the sorry specimen, which led to its vain attempts to reach its roots out into the air, desperate to take hold. A very sad display indeed.
And finally, there were the cactus and succulents. We’d purchased them in happier times, and the man in the garden centre had told me they would almost certainly survive any and all neglect we might subject them to. Surely enough, they survived the emotional drought, and I recently spent some time lovingly removing dead bits and treating them to their quarterly watering.
But what is there to learn from this story, dearest readers? If relationship wisdom is what you seek, I suggest you ask someone with a more successful track record than I, but nonetheless, if I may I will humbly suggest some lessons we all might do well to learn….
- Tend to your love little and often. Do not overdo it; never get wet feet.
- A little knowledge goes a long way; ask questions, never assume.
- Allow time and space for roots to take hold.
- Always watch for and listen to what someone needs.
- And finally, even total neglect won’t do, no matter how prickly the specimen. Shower with a little love once in a while.
** My young friends, please note that 90% of what you see on Pornhub is highly unlikely to coax a climax out of a vagina. For the sake of orgasms, pls do not base your learning on this alone.