I for one am fascinated by the ever-evolving dynamics of gender identity. Being a human being is quite unlike being an NFL fan—it is possible for one person to encompass aspects of male and female and everything in between, whereas it is not feasible to like both the Broncos and the Raiders in the same lifetime.
Sure, I get confused by the proper grammar behind they/them/their as an individual’s pronouns. (Do they prefer a singular verb, for instance, or doesn’t they?) But I have also learned to explore the expression of my own inner being with curiosity and openness. I, like Whitman, contain multitudes. Perhaps I can also embrace the divine feminine and the divine genderless and the divine all-gender too, no matter where I grow hair on my body.
These were fun thought experiments. Then I went to a lavender farm and realized, nope, I’m just a guy.
Now I am not saying that flowers are inherently not-guy things. I’m just saying that lavender is inherently a not-guy thing.
Other flowers are more fluid. Take roses. A ticking time-bomb of a rose rests at the center of Beauty and the Beast, a princess movie targeted directly at the mothers who need Disney to watch their children for an hour and a half. But roses are also the emblem of the Rose Bowl, an annual sporting event participated in by dozens of 18- to 23-year-old males. And have you smelled the locker room at the Rose Bowl? I haven’t either, but it would likely benefit from some actual roses.
At least that’s what non-guys might advise. Guys have largely had their olfactory nerves singed to the nubs by their own bedrooms and other EPA-regulated environments. The only times we intentionally isolate and utilize our sniffers is to take a whiff of something certain to be foul, like an expired jug of milk or an unidentified substance that our dogs rolled in. We don’t sit around and have candle-smelling parties, and we don’t buy essential oils, and we are careful only to use the word “aromatherapy” sardonically.
Yet my sisters and I took my mother to a lavender farm for a landmark birthday celebration. I like the color purple. In my past explorations of self, I have even acquired a purple T-shirt. I’m also fond of violet. The lavender farm, however, carried the pale-purple motif to an extreme that would make Sesame Street muppets say, “You know what else starts with the letter P? Pump the brakes, please.”
But it’s not the color that’s so not-guy about the lavender farm. And it’s not the farm part, even though, in lieu of tractors, they had golf carts. I don’t know what it is. So I took it upon myself to study the people at this farm as an anthropologist. All the people who did not present themselves as guys floated through the ground in a gentle, euphoric high. And us guys—sons and husbands, all resigned to our tethered fates— resisted making eye contact or conversation with each other. In this way, it was a lot like standing at the public urinal, only with a pervasive smell we found mildly offensive.
We guys get accustomed to smells, like septic seepage and armpit odor, and we stop noticing them. But lavender’s scent is like a car alarm at 3 am. We can’t tune it out. It crests on us in waves. Even in the café, where we think we can finally get a bite to eat, every item is baked or steeped in lavender.
This was too much. The non-guys lingered over their lavender scones and their lavender teas and made no signs of ever going home again. And the guys? The guys all cracked.
I could see it. Two guys at a nearby table fidgeted with their cameras, clutching tenderly to some shred of technology made of metal and plastic, eager to go shoot some rocks or carcasses or anything but more lavender more lavender more lavender. And the man at the other table, buried under his impotence in this situation, burst out so loudly in the middle of his conversation that the entire patio heard him exclaim, “Cuban anal!” Then he quietly returned to his meaningless existence.
As far as I know, us guys all made it out alive. And no one has heard from the non-guys in weeks. They are probably still there, roaming the fields, clipping their own sprigs, dining on cake and testing every lotion sampler in a three-mile radius. And I am left to contemplate my multitudinous. Can I truly embrace the diversity of my existence if I cannot stand lavender? I don’t know, but it’s a good question for my aromatherapist.
Zach Hively writes from Durango, Colo. He can be read and reached through http://zachhively.com and on Twitter @zachhively.