(Tobago Peeps article from last Monday. This is actually an abridged version of a blog post written a few years ago, documenting the following experience ...)
One Valentine’s Day, mainly out of curiosity, I had offered to help out in a friend’s flower shop at Gulf City Mall, San Fernando
. Apart from Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day was the busiest day in my friend’s establishment, so he was glad when I had asked if I could assist. Next week I’ll write about it from a Tobago perspective, but this is what I learned in Trinidad.
I spent that day-into-night surrounded by hundreds of red roses and different flowers (lilies, tulips, chrysahthemums, etc) witnessing with up-close fascination the frenzied commercial mass phenomenon which is promoted as being 'romantic'.
Mainly men came in to buy flowers. Their expressions ranged from stressed, confused, scared, embarassed ... to innocent, hopeful, eager, cassanova-ish.
Some would come in and mumble something quickly under their breath, forming an entire sentence into one incomprehensible word:
... seemingly embarassed to be buying flowers ... akin to going to a supermarket to buy tampons or sanitary pads for "their woman".
Most of the men had interesting ways of asking for flowers. One man came in and said simply: "Ah want flowers."
One man came in, cast a swift glance around, pointed to rose bouquets awaiting collection in a corner and said: "Gimme one ah dem ting like dat."
One man came in, pointed to some helium balloons and said: "Gimme wanna dem."
(N.B. I'm only highlighting the ones I found were funny. Some were regular, politely asking for advice on what to get).
Some of them didn't know what to write on the little gift cards. They got people in the store to come up with words and write their messages for them. I wondered: what does a man say when "his woman" gushes over a beautiful message that he knows he didn't write? Some of them wrote their own simple messages, like: "To (Woman's name) From: (Their name)" ... and some would add something extra like "With Love". One man stated that he had to go away and think about his message, but he knew "some Brian McKnight songs so would put in some of those lyrics."
I observed people (mainly couples) streaming past the shop door, along one of the main corridors of the mall, like robots programmed to buy. I noted many women walking confidently ahead, determined to buy (or be bought for) ... with 'their man' slowly trailing behind, looking unenthused and submissive, as if to say:"Is Valentine Day. If ah eh come wit she and buy she ting ah go be in trouble."
One man, who came in later in the afternoon to buy roses, said: "Gorm! Ah already get cuss!" I asked him: "Why? Because you didn't get her anything?" His response: "No! Ah order de ting! Look it dey! But ah now comin' to collec! She cussing because she ent get it yet!!"
Skip forward to four years later and I am living in Tobago, a much simpler, less commercial society than Trinidad. As Valentine's Day approaches, how many people here slip into the I-have-to-buy-something-or-else mode? Are flower shops overflowing with men scrambling to purchase blooms? Are jewelry shops splitting at the seams with lovers who don't care if they have to break the piggy bank to appease the loved one with an expensive purchase?
(To be continued)