My mother is what you might call a die-hard gardener.
Having abandoned flowers some years ago, she now grows almost all of the produce we consume in our household. Eggplant, corn, enough zucchini to choke a horse, an amount of soybeans that I’m reasonably certain breaks some kind of zoning law – they all spring up from the tilled earth in the back yard in droves.
Sometimes, when I get home before dark, I see her tromping around in the jungle that is our property, barely visible behind the tendrils of the pumpkin plant we have dubbed “Audrey 2,” toting a giant wheelbarrow full of something rather fecund-smelling, a strip of old cloth tied around her forehead Rambo-style, huffing and puffing with effort as she buries a newly transplanted stump of a tree beneath a mound of soil.
So let’s be clear: by no means am I insinuating that gardening is for pussies. But short of actual industrialized farming, the hobby of gardening is culturally the domain of women and perhaps older men. When straight men try to do it, they have to call it “landscaping,” and they need it to involve at least rototillers and preferably a few bulldozers. Rarely does one catch a virile, 30-year-old, hetero bachelor out on his porch, repotting some zinnias. While changing the topography of the terrain seems to be an acceptable masculine activity, planting flowers is not. Why is this?
The traditional roles of men and women in child-rearing apply to gardening as well. After all, what are plants but children that don’t shit their pants or cry deafeningly at Applebee’s?
Women have always been known, whether correctly or not, as innate mothers. A woman who takes care of a rosebush must water it, as she would breastfeed a child, must feed it, as she would spoon applesauce into a baby’s mouth, must look after it and protect it, as she would probably not plop her infant in the flatbed of a truck to go on an eighteen-hour road trip. Once a woman has a kid, we have decided for whatever reason that her main responsibility until the child is self-sufficient is to devote her life to making that child into a functioning member of society. Women play French opera for their babies in the womb to calm them, cook them special baby food out of kale and owl pellets to nourish them, read them bedtime stories at night to comfort them. Men, on the other hand, are expected to take that valued member of society that women have spent so much time cultivating and transform it into something that will one day invade Europe. A woman nurtures her child; a man teaches it to build a nuclear weapon. After all, a woman’s main interest is for her child’s security; it will take her a whole 9 months to produce a new model, so the current one needs to last. A man, on the other hand, can shoot for quantity over quality if need be.
Additionally, men are inexplicably forbidden to enjoy aesthetics. For instance, let’s see what happens when I search for “man’s bedroom” and put the first result below:
Just as I expected: utilitarian, basic, with muted tones and lots of right angles. Function, not fashion. Now let’s search for “women’s bedroom and see the first result:
Are you fucking kidding me?! The queen herself could not fart in that bed for fear of being set upon and roundly scolded by a twittering school of fairies made of cotton candy.
Gardening, which often involves the cultivation of various specious of flowers, results in an aesthetically pleasing result: vibrant color, gently swaying branches, visits from fluffy forest animals. A straight man would only be allowed to outwardly express joy at such a spectacle if he was in the process of blowing it up or somehow receiving fellatio from it. Taking pleasure in beauty is a deeply emotional experience, and the acceptance of deep emotion will always be attributable to women and their estrogen. Domestic things especially are only allowed to be pretty for women, since until the world got some sense knocked into it, women were the ones looking at the interior of their houses for most of the day.
Kind of weird, but there is no denying that a garden can be a satisfying way to spend some time. If you meet a straight guy who has one, he is either very in touch with his artistic, sensitive side, or he is looking for a way to cover up the fresh graves. Tread carefully.