I Embarrass My Husband

The Subject is Flowers

I embarrass my husband. It’s true, I do.

It’s not my weight. My table manners. My political opinions or even my high-pitched snorting laugh. It’s gotten to the point he won’t be seen in public with me – or to be more precise – he won’t go for walks with me.

The path I take, he takes no more.

The problem is: I snip flowers from the yards of neighbors when we walk in the Berkeley Hills (specific street locations redacted to protect the innocent – me!). Let me be clear: I do not trespass. I do not walk onto people’s property. I do not lean or leap over fences. I typically limit my activity to that narrow strip of land between the curb and the sidewalk. I never uproot whole plants. I do not snap off branches. I do not ring doorbells, and then when nobody answers, blithely clip and snip. No, I am not a brazen Janice the Ripper. Instead, I delicately and discretely – and certainly when no one is looking – trim a random vine tendril or two from an overcrowded sidewalk array of wildflowers.

There are Boundaries
I do set limits. No more than five flowers per one-mile walk. And I never carry scissors or shears with me, which limits what I can take. Yet my husband, an attorney, says that my appreciation of nature is theft. He contests my description of the blooms I snip as wildflowers. He says they are domestic flowers, not wild. They “belong” to somebody. He disapproves of my appreciation/appropriation of nature and the sidewalk’s bounty. He scowls. He frowns. He worries. He disavows. And now, he won’t walk with me.

It’s not like I steal candy from the drugstore. I don’t even read magazines while waiting on long lines at the supermarket. And I certainly don’t return lipsticks I’ve tried and don’t like … and you’re allowed to do that if you have the receipt! So, I really am a good person who follows a righteous path, except apparently when I follow an outdoor path in the Spring when “wildflowers” are in full bloom.

This allegedly felonious flower-sniping is a new-found pleasure in my life. I never cared about flowers or gardens in my youth. I was, in fact, quite disdainful about my grandmother and mother’s love of gardening and all things household. But now, I do care about these things. I am certain it comes with age and a need to control some small portion of my life. By the time we reach middle age, we’ve experienced too many things beyond our control. To grow a few flowers, to keep the house neat and tidy, to welcome friends over for a tasty, home-cooked meal are modest measures we take to exert some control over our lives. So, collecting flowers from the ‘hood is really about increasing my personal safety net, not assaulting the laws of the land.

And on the subject of my husband’s disapproval, I say let he who is without sin (or in this case, embarrassing and annoying habits) cast the first stone. Not that I’m keeping track, mind you, but do I look at my phone obsessively during dinner for the latest work emails? Do I talk excessively loudly when using earphones to speak into my cell phone on work calls? Do I leave the bathroom sink littered with hair? Do I never, ever empty the bathroom garbage can – even when it is about to overflow like Mt. Vesuvius?

And instead of serving as my floral judge and jury, I think Handsome Hubby should provide encouragement on these walks. I have gotten a little (well, a lot) lax in the exercise department these days and if a little garden gambol around the neighborhood gets me moving, I think Jon should be right here beside me, encouraging me to step lively

What Would Thoreau Do?
Even if my husband is technically legally correct, I believe Henry David Thoreau – in the spirit of civil disobedience – would support my five-flower habit. Walkers along the road smile when we pass. They see my tiny bouquets and do not look askance. They do not judge. Why then does my husband castigate me?

Just last night my husband returned from a business trip. It was late. He had been gone several days, but instead of greeting me with a smile and a kiss, his eyes immediately turn to a giant leafy bloom in a vase by the front door.

“Oh, my God,” he exclaimed, “Whose yard did you pilfer that from?”

Et Tu, Spouse
My arms, raised to embrace, fell to my sides. I started to protest. I started to proclaim my innocence. I started to explain that the leaf came from our backyard. But instead, I stood my ground. Instead, I pointed out that his sentence ended with a preposition.

If he wanted to lead the Neighborhood Foliage Watch Patrol, I would lead the Familial Grammar Police. Et tu, spousy. Et tu. I’m going for a walk.

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