A BAFFLING BOUQUET
- A lesson in why it's important to address things properly -
I can count on three fingers the number of times flowers have been delivered to me, and sadly, only one of those times was at the hands of a love interest. Despite the significance of this incredibly romantic and rare gesture, there was one delivery that would trump it in memorability.
Golden hour had descended upon Southern California, casting its radiant glow onto my front porch and illuminating an enormous vase of elegant white flowers sitting just outside my front door. It was hard to miss them as I pulled into my driveway that afternoon. They seemed to have their own spotlight, as if mother nature herself had recognized their extravagance.
“Holy shit!” I said, craning my neck as I thrust my car into park. I hopped out like an eager child on Christmas morning, curious to find out who this Santa Claus was. A grand gesture from Double D in an attempt to win me back perhaps? A secret admirer who would make me forget Double D ever existed? I started envisioning what this prince might look like, while frantically searching for a card I hoped might lead me on some sort of scavenger hunt to find him.
Typically, this is when you discover it’s just your mother behind things again, reminding you of how much you’re loved by all the wrong people and making you wish you were dead. Luckily for me, however, I knew my parents couldn’t afford what I suspected this particular arrangement cost, and even if they could, I knew they would never spend that kind of money on something as disposable as flowers.
When I did find the small envelope, I tore it open to find an even smaller message: “Congratulations on your nomination. Xoxo, Calliope.”
Though it was a kind gesture, I was incredibly confused. First of all, Calliope is not the name of a dude. Secondly, though she was married to someone who worked on our show, Calliope and I had never met, much less spoken. Something about it seemed odd, but I reasoned perhaps it was merely admirable etiquette I myself had never had or been exposed to.
When I saw Calliope at a party a few weeks later, I beelined toward her to thank her personally and show my gratitude.
“Thank you so much for the flowers!” I said, immediately pulling her into a hug. She reacted as though she was a germaphobe - stiffening her body as if in so doing the germs couldn’t sense she was there and latch on. Her head turned to the side, searching for some sort of escape.
Once I let go, she flashed an insincere smirk before responding dismissively, “You’re welcome.”
“They’re really, so beautiful,” I said, oblivious to her cold and icy demeanor. “No one’s ever sent me flowers before. It’s just, so nice.” I lingered in hopes of engaging in a conversation with someone I assumed would be as warm as their gesture had been, but I was met only with awkward silence.
Considering that perhaps Calliope suffered from social anxiety, I tried harder to engage her by asking questions I’d hoped might break the ice and make her more comfortable. “Are you having fun?” I asked her.
“Mhm,” she responded without moving her lips.
“Cool… cool… I love your dress!” I said, referencing it.
“Thank you,” she said simply, maintaining intense eye contact with me. It was around this point I started to wonder what I was obviously missing. Calliope was fixated on me as if waiting for an explanation or apology of some kind. I racked my brain trying to find what I might be sorry for. Was it possible I offended her by approaching her so casually? Then, I began to question if I was misinterpreting her demeanor for something else entirely.
“What if she sent flowers to the wrong person?” I wondered. “What if she has no idea who I am?!” It would definitely explain the quizzical look on her face. Sympathizing with what I perceived could have been confusion, or in fact sheer embarrassment, I immediately extended my hand in hopes of clarifying the situation.
“I know we’ve never met before so, I should probably introduce myself formally. I’m Rachel,” I said, extending my hand out to meet hers. Hers remained crossed in front of her. “…Melvin.”
“I know who you are,” she said, still stoic.
Now I was incredibly confused. I retracted my hand.
Then, as though she had decided to give up on me, she said, “If you’ll excuse me, I see some people I know,” and crossed off to the dessert table.
…What the hell was that?
A few weeks later and back at work, I still couldn’t shake off the odd interaction I’d had with Calliope. None of it made sense, so I looked to my friend, Sarah, for an objective perspective that might point out whatever was apparently lost on me.
“I just don’t get it,” I said while grabbing lunch with her from the commissary one day. “Why would she send flowers to someone she clearly doesn’t like? Which, is another thing I don't understand - how do you not like someone if you’ve never even met them?” A question that seems even more relevant nowadays thanks to social media.
“Well, if she reads Matt O’Malley’s blog, then it would make sense.”
“What?” - I honestly had no inkling of what she’d just said.
“You haven’t heard of Matt O’Malley? Or, his blog?” I shook my head no.
“He’s sort of like Perez Hilton. He has a website where he reports rumors about different actors to try and generate buzz and press. Some of it is bullshit, but a lot of it is actually true. Anyway, a few weeks ago, he posted that not only is there an actress on our show who’s “dangerously thin, thanks to a massive coke problem, but she’s been sleeping with one of the producers to get a bigger storyline.”
“That’s gross, but okay?” I said, still not putting things together and encouraging her to get to the point.
“People think it’s you.”
“WHAT?!” I said, practically spitting out my mouthful of water. “That’s ridiculous! First of all, I gave up soda for lent like ten years ago and haven’t had it since.”
“Not Coca Cola - Coke. Like… cocaine,” she clarified. My jaw dropped. I’d barely been introduced to alcohol let alone drugs.
“Gross! I would never touch that stuff!” FYI: I wouldn’t, and I haven’t.
“I know that,” she responded. “But, someone on our set is, and because you’re the most obvious skinny one, people think it’s you.”
“That’s fallacious reasoning,” I said. My past experiences pertaining to this topic started to rear their ugly heads, putting me on the defense. “And I’m not dangerously skinny - I’ve been like this my whole life!” Nevertheless, I naturally and immediately questioned whether or not I was, in fact sick, simply on the grounds people thought I looked it.
“And, all our producers are old! Why would anyone sleep with someone nearly twice their father’s age?” I asked, as disgusted as I was horrified by the idea, let alone the accusation.
“It’s Hollywood, Rachel. People do that shit all the time,” Sarah informed me.
“Oh, my God!” I said, realizing a heinous truth. “The awkward silence between Calliope and me at the party, the way she stood looking at me as if waiting for an apology… those weren’t congratulatory flowers! They were fuck you flowers!”
“Yup,” Sarah confirmed.
“I can’t believe she thinks I slept with her husband!”
“A lot of people do,” Sarah told me.
“Well, a lot of people read that blog.”
Though I’d noticed my coworkers greeting me daily with the same stone cold reception as Calliope had, I assumed they were merely trying to keep their distance from the emotional mess they believed me to be since my break up with Double D. But slowly, all the pieces were beginning to come together.
“Is that why everyone has been acting funny around me at work?” I asked.
“Yup,” she said simply, shoveling a spoonful of pudding into her mouth. “They think you fucked Walter.”
“Gross! Just because a blog puts something out there doesn’t mean it’s true!” I reminded her, as though she was a representative for my accusers.
“Well, in this case, it is. Unfortunately, you’re just the one taking the blame.”
The next few weeks were uncomfortable, to say the least. I couldn’t help but cringe every time I saw Walter in the halls, especially once I started noting who he WAS hanging around the halls with (it was NOT Sarah, if that’s what you were thinking - although that would have been a great twist). Regardless, people continued to suspect I was an opportunistic mistress, rendezvousing with my boss in private, as opposed to out in the open. It was strange to imagine them walking around thinking I was not only willing to get naked for my boss, a married man, but that I was also willing to let someone as old as him penetrate me…ugh! As far as I’m concerned, my vagina is the olympic gold, reserved only for the most fit of athletes to dream about one day competing for.
One of the first lessons I remember my mother teaching me about love was to take up my romantic issues with whatever guy I was in a relationship with - not with the girl he may like more than me, or in Calliope’s case, the girl he might throw it all away for. Attacking other women, whether passively aggressively, or even aggressively, only pits us against one another and perpetuates a very real problem we continue to face in the dating world.
The more we hold people accountable for their actions, the more they’ll be forced to change them. I, myself, am guilty of this very crime. For, rather than telling people I wasn’t the cocaine snorting skinny girl they mistook me for and identifying the one who actually was, I kept my mouth shut. I figured it wasn’t my place to stick my nose in their business, even though it was supposedly already there snorting coke. Nor did I want to embarrass either Walter or Calliope by making their private lives public. Unfortunately, in the end, my “noble” act only made things easier for Walter and his mistress - and worse for me.
The moral of the story here is this - sometimes, the best weapon to use when fighting an injustice isn’t: passive aggressiveness, killing someone with kindness, or keeping your mouth shut. It’s using your voice to address things properly.