Sunday, May 03, 2009

the opposite of phallic

It's spring here, maybe for real and to the point where it won't snow anymore. And that reminded me of this quote I heard on Prairie Home Companion last year:

"It always shocks me to see peonies in the yards of good christian folk."



The Chinese (if I recall my Botany of Desire correctly) considered peonies to be the ultimately female flower. They bred them to have millions of tiny ruffly petals (vagina vagina vagina!) and even to smell like sweat or other body scents. I didn't like peonies at all when I started working in flowers; they were so unstructured, they fell apart after a few days, and I frequently didn't even like the scent. (Turns out every different type of peony has a different scent, and yes, some of them are not terribly appealing. Some are okay, though, or even kind of nice.) I only liked them in the bud stage, when they seemed completely ready to pop open but all I could see yet was a lot of potential energy. That felt sexy to me, that feeling of imminent explosion. But now, when I see a peony fully open, with it's bright yellow center slightly revealed and it's masses of petals all tangled together, I sometimes blush.


5 comments:

Madeleine said...

Looove peonies... Hadn't thought of them that way before (one always hears about orchids being referred to as blatantly sexual). Makes it amusing to think of all the ants that crawl around on the unopened buds, picking up that little bit of stick sap before the flower opens. Now I'll be blushing in the park as well!

Alicia Dabney said...

Wow, this is so cool. I've always liked peonies but I hadn't thought of them as sexual until now. I guess there's more than just the orchid!

ammie said...

Orchids always seem less sexy to me, because they look like aliens. Why do we code them so sexually? Do you think it's because of their tropical jungle exoticism association? I mean, sticking my fingers up inside a lily bud to pull out all the pollen feels waaaaay dirtier than any orchid I've ever seen.

Lauren said...

Well. . . .part of the dirtiness from orchids could be the fact that they are named after testicles. An orchidectomy is a testicle removal! But I agree that lillies and peonies have a more overt sexuality. I blush when I see callalillies too.

ammie said...

Which is funny because traditionally callas symbolize female purity... ;)