I totally forgot about this until a moment ago, but there’s a wonderful little tradition in France whereby on the First of May, you give people a sprig of muguet i.e. Lily of the Valley to mark the arrival of Spring. We used to have some growing in our garden when I was little and my mum would send us to sit outside our front door with whatever we had gathered to sell to passers-by. It’s quite common (or it used to be, at any rate) to see little kiddies sitting out with their bucket of flowers.
One of my more recent memories of 1st May is from about six years ago. I had gone over to France to visit my parents and was out with my brother and his mates, a rare occurrence as my brother is 5 years younger than me and I had never gone out with him or met any of his mates before. I found myself in one of his friends’ apartment, drinking spirits and chilling out, as you do, when a couple of them returned from a trip to the shops carrying three or four small bouquets of Lilies of the Valley, one for me and one for each of the other girls present. From the outside it may look like a classic French charmer trick but there was absolutely nothing behind the gesture other than a wish to show appreciation; it didn’t feel sleazy, conceited and you could tell that they had no expectation that I should say or do anything as a response to their gift. I loved being in France that day.
This is a good example of how utterly different our two cultures are. In England, if a man not my boyfriend gave me flowers on the first of May, or any other day for that matter, even a close male friend, I would most likely wonder what his intentions were. If other men were present (and we are talking 21 year-old men on this particular occasion), they would probably make a big thing out of it, take the mick out of their friend, and it would most likely turn into one of those ‘remember the day so-and-so brought Froggy flowers’ stories you tell when you want to embarrass someone.
I know these days I am supposed to be a new woman and celebrate equality in all things but I would lie if I said that, after living in England for eight years and being treated by men as either one of the guys (if they weren’t interested) or with awkwardness (if they were), I didn’t find receiving flowers from guys five years my juniors absolutely charming and flattering.