“The Myth of The Perfect Rose” (Non-Fiction, 04/30/07) Doc. #017


Note: Have You Met Mackey?

They say behind every great man is a great woman. I’m not sure what they say is behind every unknown literary blogger, but behind me is my amazing wife, Mackey. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, and a talented writer and editor.  Oh, blushes!

About a month into dating she decided for me that we were going to get married.  It was actually before we started dating.  I’m kind of a creeper.  She then waited four years for me to come to the same conclusion (she figures things out a bit faster than I do sometimes).

Up until this point she has only been fixing my typos, but I thought it might be fun to give her a voice on the blog, so she’s going to be critiquing and commenting in PURPLE throughout this post.  Potentially starting here, but that’s up to her.  Nah.  Now on to the essay!

The Text:

The Myth of the Perfect Rose

Written April 30, 2007 (Age 21)

From apple to sauce, from sauce to booze, from booze to bum, from bum to booty, from booty to ghetto, from ghetto to Holocaust, (wtf? did someone slip me drugs?) from Holocaust to horror, from horror to movie, from movie to film, from film to camera, from camera to picture, from picture to perfect.

An association between two ideas, whether actual or imposed, holds strong after it is made. (Okay, now I get it, but that was a REALLY intensely strange opening.) The association between love and a rose led American poet Gertrude Stein to write, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” To Stein, a rose did not embody love, did not embody anything. A rose is simply a rose. Yet the association remains. The giving of roses on Valentine’s Day is still prevalent. The rose, supposedly, is nature perfected. But Bret Michael, lead singer of Poison, noted that “Every rose has its thorn.” <-(too disconnected, doesn’t add to the paragraph.)

No number of poems will have enough force to destroy the association between a rose and love. (I’m confused, what is the main idea here?) Even though roses today are genetically engineered and have little to do with nature, they still symbolize nature perfected, and to give a rose is to say, “You are perfect.”

There is another expression: Nobody’s perfect. This one is not so popular. It’s used to comfort the cheated-on, the disappointed, the scorned. The rose does not have the power to make people perfect, but it allows us to feel perfect, if not only in the eyes of one person.

Women are often associated with flowers. The heroine of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth (Is there more drug use in the House of Mirth than I’ve been led to believe?) is named Lily. Kate Winslet’s character in the movie Titanic is named Rose. (Add a third example and/or replace “Rose,” there are already enough instances of the word ‘rose’) We associate women with flowers because they are delicate, beautiful. This may not fit in with our modern perceptions of women, but as I’ve said, once an association is set, it holds strong.

The association between a rose and perfection is practically harmless. It helps rose farmers turn a profit each February, and it makes the gesture of love as easy as going to the supermarket. The danger of the rose is that the other flowers are being ignored; the other flowers are getting jealous.
The lily would like to be loved for once, would like to be told that she is perfect. The sunflower, fat and awkward, would like to know that she is appreciated for something other than her seeds. The daisy is too poor to concern herself with jealousy, but she wishes people would stop making such a big deal about the rose.
Meanwhile, the rose is oblivious. She knows her petals have led many men to search for her. She has seen her reflection on the lake and does not think that anyone could dislike something so beautiful. Her thorns are to protect her, yes, but she will not hurt a hand that grasps lightly, that wears white gloves.
The other flowers scream out, “Pick me! I will never bring you harm!” But the men continue to hunt for the rose. They have heard all about the rose. They believe she is worth the pain. The lily is furious over this, how long has she been openly offering her purest devotion? Why would anyone suffer the rose when they could hold her to their cheek? The sunflower’s expectations are lower, she follows the sun across the sky and counts the days until winter. The daisy just wishes the men would stop stepping on her in pursuit of the rose.

There is a rose for everyone, hidden somewhere in the world. A perfect rose whose thorns are set in such a way that you can pull it from the ground without being cut. A rose whose roots start to loose at the very touch of her destined one’s hand. She waits to be picked, and placed in a vase by the window.
Once you find this rose, your life will be uncomplicated, fulfilled. Nothing else will matter, the rose will protect you from pain. She will never wilt or lose her leaves. She will never stray from her place by the window. She will wait for only you, to pick her up again and hold her.

Such stories are children’s tales, yet I’ve know many a man who believes these things. I know many who think that they will someday find their rose, not all of them men.

I gave roses once, when I was younger, when I believed in fairy tales and perfection. Now the Tiger Lily is my friend. She is a complex flower of compromise and change. (what does that mean?) (She grows in ditches where she can be picked for free.) Not everyone likes her stripes, some say that she is too loud for a flower. I do not care, and I do not give her to anyone who would have preferred roses.


“The Myth of the Perfect Rose” doesn’t feel like a whole and complete essay. Instead, it feels like two essays on related themes, sewn together human-centipede style and presented as a single essay.

The tone of the essay shifts so dramatically and unexpectedly from academic to something like magical realism, that you can almost see the stitches where the two pieces were fit together.

The magical realism of the flowers personified is so good, and the introduction is so bad, it’s kind of a shame that this wasn’t revised further.

Interesting idea presented in an interesting way combined with a lazy tone-deaf introduction. Grade: C+

The greatest strength of “The Myth of the Perfect Rose” is its unique and attention grabbing first paragraph.  It’s a barrage of well-known and powerful ideas, linked in a way that leads the reader to connect ostensibly unrelated concepts through a series of obvious links.  Though it could use a little more polish it is a remarkably effective hook.  Moving on to the different tone of the rest of the work is jarring to the reader, though, and that is a problem.

Ok, before I go on can we just take a moment to reflect on the fact that the author never once mentions female sexual anatomy?  There’s a pretty obvious symbolism going on there which I will now paraphrase: “Look, I gave you a bunch of little vaginas.  Would you now please give me a little vagina?”  

The body of the piece is meandering.  There are several thoughts at work but no clear thesis.  The flower symbolism is not rooted (heh) in any tradition more solid than the author’s own associations in the moment.  The sunflower particularly came out of, and went, nowhere.

The imagery is distinct and the writing is energetic and emotionally sincere.  One gets the impression that the author is confiding in the reader, which may help to explain the meandering nature of the piece; the author is still working through his thoughts on the subject.

“The Myth of the Perfect Rose” is promising as a first draft.  Come see me during office hours to talk more about this. Grade: B-


I wrote this essay for a creative non-fiction class shortly after my “relationship” with Paine ended (see “working on dying” (Poem, 5/11/07) Doc. #011). I was actively in the market for new female companionship, but my priorities had changed. I was no longer just looking for someone fun and attractive, I was looking for a life partner.

Which is WAY harder than just finding someone fun and attractive. I dated several girls for a few weeks or months (not at the same time) and then, after it was clear we wouldn’t work long term, I would end things without sleeping with them. Not even once! I was a changed man.

I even got dumped for the first time in my life. Her name was Bianca, and she was stunning. Petite, fit, stylish, with beautiful dark curly locks of flowing hair, an amazing smile, and the perfect skin that comes with youth and a privileged upbringing. I must have been charming as **** because she was WAY out of my league and she still dated me for two months before figuring it out.

I was more upset about being dumped than I thought I would be, especially considering that was still pretty unsure about her. Yeah, she was pretty, but she wasn’t funny! It’s not that she didn’t have a sense of humor—she thought I was funny—but how do you have multiple extended conversations with someone who isn’t funny? After the getting-to-know-you period was over, our conversations became tedious. Maybe she felt the same way, but I wasn’t super hot like she was (I beg to differ) so there really wasn’t anything for her to stick around for.

Anyway, I took it pretty poorly, unfriended her on Facebook, started talking **** about her to other people. I might have sent her a nasty message, but I probably just wrote it and deleted it. I don’t have it.

It took me a couple of weeks to realize what a turd I was being, and why (actually not a bad turn around time). Rejection hurts. I had gotten used to being turned down for dates, that’s not really rejection in my book, you can’t help who you’re attracted to. But being dumped? That’s real rejection. That’s when someone gets to know you and decides, nope, not for me! I began to wonder what it was about me that Bianca didn’t find appealing. It drove me nuts.  (Comment redacted.)

When I finally calmed down and figured out that there wasn’t anything wrong with me besides being a sensitive little b****, I apologized to Bianca and refriended her. Feelings are weird, man.

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please click on one of those SHARE buttons below (or comment!). Thanks for reading!

~Sean L

P.S. Interested in more from Mackey? Find her on Twitter @Mackey4Saw!

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