For the past six years, I've bought Sini a bouquet of pink tulips for Valentine's Day.
No doubt somebody out there is thinking it'd be more romantic for a guy to give his wife red roses, right? If Sini were a typical woman, maybe that'd be true, but my wife is far from average.
Perhaps I should explain.
You know those moments when you realize your perfectly constructed plans have gone wrong despite all your efforts? I have those moments a lot. No, it's not because I'm bad at planning. It's because I live with aliens. Sometimes I forget that what applies to me and most other Earth people won't necessarily apply to anyone from Eris, my wife's home world. They do things differently there. Sini reminds me about that each time she does something the average Earth person might consider bizarre or when she responds to a situation in some entirely unexpected manner. As compatible as we are, we're still distinct in a lot of ways.
I did buy her a bouquet of roses once. It was before we were married. As a matter of fact, it was our first Valentine's Day together. We were still living at the boarding house with half a dozen other people, and I was still in university and working part time at the music store. We were so broke it was pitiful.
I'd saved up money for weeks, just so I could take Sini on a dinner date to a nice vegetarian restaurant and give her a gift of flowers. You guys have no idea how much choreography went into that date. I enlisted my twin brother, Michael, and we went to the restaurant ahead of time so he could help me learn the layout of the place. Michael and I met the manager and I explained to her what I wanted to do. She seemed pleased by the idea and agreed that it would be okay for the flower shop to deliver Sini's flowers directly to the restaurant. Our next stop was the florist, where I spent a stupidly huge amount of money on two dozen red roses and gave the shop attendant specific instructions about where they should go and when they should get there. Michael ordered some flowers for his girlfriend too, although his weren't nearly as costly as mine. My brother and I were both stunned by the price of roses, but we agreed that our ladies were worth it.
On date night, everything was going exactly according to the plan. Sini and I got dressed up, and we took a cab to the restaurant. One of the servers met us at the entrance and offered to escort us to our table. I told Sini to close her eyes.
"Why?" she asked me.
"It's a surprise," I said.
"I like surprises."
"I know," I said, smiling. "And I like surprising you."
I took Sini's hand, and the server let me take his arm, and the three of us started to weave our way between the tables. We must've looked pretty funny to the other dinner guests, now that I think of it; a sighted person guiding a blind person and another sighted person with her eyes closed. I told you some pretty weird stuff goes on in my life sometimes.
When we were halfway across the room, Sini said, "Can I open my eyes yet?"
"Not yet. Wait until we get to our table."
A few moments later, the server stopped walking, and helpfully told me that my chair was two steps directly in front of me. He asked if we'd like to see the menu, and I told him we would. I thanked him, and he left.
"Now?" Sini asked.
"Okay," I said. "Now."
I think I might've held my breath waiting for her reaction. Little did I suspect that the surprise would be entirely on me.
"Roses!" she exclaimed in obvious delight. "Tyler, they look delicious!"
Let me assure you, that was not what I'd anticipated. In hindsight, I suppose I should've known better. Sini's people are all vegetarians, but their diet isn't restricted to cultivated fruits, vegetables and grains. They can – and do – eat pretty much any kind of non-toxic plant matter, including most flowers. Sometimes when we're out for walks, I still have to remind Sini that people's gardens are not a free buffet.
I think 'mortified' is the only word to describe how I was feeling when I realized Sini was actually eating her roses. I heard the distinct rustling of the cellophane that had been wrapped around the bouquet, and then the subtle yet unmistakable sound of chewing.
`They're…not an appetizer," I said lamely.
"Oh!" she said. "I am sorry. Should I save them for dessert?"
"Uh…" Honestly, I couldn't think of anything else to say at that point.
Sini was quiet for a second and then she ventured. "You did not intend for me to eat them, did you?"
"No," I said. "I didn't."
"I mean, usually when a guy gives a women flowers, she admires them or maybe takes a picture of them so she can still look at them even after they're dried up and gone."
"That seems like a waste of flowers," Sini said. "Why would anyone wish to keep flowers until they are inedible?"
"Well, most people don't eat them," I said.
"So, I cannot eat these?"
"You can if you want to, I guess," I told her. "I bought them for you to enjoy, and if enjoying them means eating them, than I guess that's okay."
We got through the rest of our dinner without any further incidents and, although it wasn't the date I'd envisioned, it was a wonderful evening nonetheless. Later that night as we were snuggling in bed, Sini told me she was sorry that she'd misinterpreted my gift and she was even more sorry that she'd embarrassed me. There was really no need for her to apologize. Even back then, as new as our relationship was, I already comprehended that our cultural dissimilarities were bound to create some misunderstandings and awkwardness. I kissed her and told her everything was okay. I wasn't upset.
Since then, I've learned Sini prefers the flavour of tulips to the taste of roses. So, there it is; the reason I don't buy my wife roses for Valentine's Day. If the point of buying flowers for a woman is to make her happy, then I'd rather give her the ones she likes best than the ones that are traditional.