Are You a Delicate Flower?

It's time to dump the Princess and the Pea.

Posted Jul 02, 2009

Please say no, you're not a Delicate Flower; please tell me you're not a DF.

Because she's one kind of broad I just can't stand.

You know the one I'm describing here, right? She the princess of pain; she's the queen of whine and roses, except the roses always have too many thorns. (N.B.: Yes, I know: some men do it, too. But the culture congratulates women on helplessness while it punishes men--at least publicly. More about this in another post.)

What characterizes the Delicate Flower? She can't wear anything except eighteen-carat-gold jewelry without getting a rash; she can only have silk next to the skin (or pima cotton if she's really slumming it). She absolutely must have organically grown, hand-picked, hand-squeezed grapefruit juice and she would drop down dead if you applied anything but fresh tarragon to her chicken. She requires an office with a big window because she gets sad on long winter days but she pines for specially treated glass because she doesn't like to work in direct sunlight.

A true DF has never pumped her own gas.

Notice any impatience here? It's well earned; I claim a collective voice. I speak for all of us who purchase earrings where the fanciest metallic detail is wrought in aluminum, those of us who wear blouses made from any fabric not needing ironing, who drink V-8, buy "Tubs O'Spice" from a warehouse club, and work in the green cinderblock basement office where they put us.

It's not that we don't have our own anxieties or weaknesses, but we face them with courage and accept responsibility for them. If we're so terrified of thunderstorms that we can't leave the house on a cloudy day, we don't figure out how to work from home; we go to a counsellor. If we hate writing, we don't become college professors; we choose a different career. If we hate driving, we don't have somebody else take us everywhere; we learn to use the GPS. If we hate flying, we don't travel by Bonanza; we learn to travel with Dr. Smirnoff.

We get help when we need it--and that help makes us more independent. We get on with life.

Does this make heroines? Does it even make us good sports? Do people look at us with respect and say " Let me shake your hand, m'dear! You're a real trooper!" No, it makes us lumbering peasants, Cinderella's tacky sisters, pond scum far removed from the refined, exquisite, rare jewels who must be protected and cherished.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't complain about any woman getting attention any way she can, but it seems to me that the precious whiney Delicate Flowers are letting us all down.

These women were once the girls who broke movie dates with their best friends in order to wait at home in case a boy called; these are the ones who disassociate themselves from the causes around which other women rally because they want to be seen as unusual, and as wonderfully different from the rest of their sex.

While we've all been fighting the good fight to be accepted as peers, they insist on being seen as sweet little things who can't stand the pressures of the big bad world.

When I hear the high-pitched wail of the princess, I steam like a pot of overcooked pasta. What happened to the rewards of independence?

--to be continued/crossposted with The Chronicle of Higher Education