A few months ago, I went for a drink with a girl. The drink went quite well and afterwards I gave her a lift back home and she invited me into her house.
As she led me into the living room, I noticed that there were a lot of plants around the place, so many in fact that I decided to comment on it.
‘I’m guessing you like plants?’ I said, expecting her to simply confirm she was, indeed, pretty fond of plants.
Instead, she said something altogether more unexpected:
‘Oh I see,’ I said, glancing around and trying not to become too concerned by the large number of plants in the immediate vicinity.
‘It makes sense if you think about it,’ the girl continued. ‘You see, at the beginning of last year, I realised I had a lot of negative people in my life that were making my personal atmosphere very toxic, like emotionally. But plants are, like, the opposite of toxic. They do all these good things for the atmosphere, like making it clean with their photosynthesis and shit. So I just thought why not have less shit people in my life and more plants?’ She shrugged. ‘That’s science for you.’
She looked at me and smiled, eyebrows raised, as if expecting me to validate the credibility of her hypothesis. I smiled back and chose not to point out that her use of the words ‘photosynthesis and shit’ to describe her theory had somewhat undermined its legitimacy as a scientific concept, conscious that doing so might deem me a toxic human primed for plant replacement.
Besides, although the way she had phrased it was slightly intense, the core idea of having less shit people and more plants didn’t seem like the unhealthiest coping mechanism in the world, so I decided to explore it further.
I moved across the room and picked a spider plant up off the windowsill.
Who’s this replacing then? I asked.
‘Oh that’s my ex Sarah’, the girl replied nonchalantly. ‘She was dead clingy, you know, wanted to hang out with me all the time, always needed to be validated.’
‘It honestly is really hard to kill,’ she continued. ‘Which is kind of ironic because Sarah was also really hard to get rid of.’
I stared at her, incredulous, momentarily fearing for my life. ‘Get rid of…?’
She laughed. ‘Don’t worry, I didn’t kill her off or anything. But I did have to break up with her like six times.’
‘Oh right,’ I said. ‘Haha. Ha. Haha. Ha.’ I placed the plant incarnation of Sarah back on the windowsill and picked up a nearby cactus.
‘Let me guess? Another one of your exes?’ I joked.
‘Yes’, she said, her face completely deadpan. She reached across and took the cactus from my hands. ‘This is one I got to replace my ex-boyfriend Chris. He was like the opposite of Sarah. Wasn’t emotionally available enough.’
She put cactus Chris down and picked up another plant.
Who’s that? I asked, slightly apprehensive of the answer.
‘My mate, Callum,’ she said, passing the plant to me.
The girl removed plant Callum from my hands and placed it back on the coffee table next to another plant with sharp pointy leaves.
I gestured towards it. ‘What’s this?’
‘Oh that’s a snake plant,’ the girl said. ‘I got it when I found out JK Rowling was a TERF and I had to get rid of all my Harry Potter books.’
I nodded, unable to fault her reasoning, and then moved over and pointed at a large plant positioned near the door.
She then proceeded to provide an extensive and incredibly detailed explanation of why, all things considered, her mother was a bit of a monster.
By this point, I was feeling quite uneasy, a feeling that persisted throughout the evening and followed me when I left her house later that night.
Although I had enjoyed the initial drink we had had together, I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if I continued to see the girl and something went wrong in our relationship. Would I be added to her horticultural museum of percieved knobheads? If so, what type of plant would I be replaced with?
I envisioned myself in flower or succulent form, perched forlornly on the windowsill with only plant versions of Sarah, Chris and JK Rowling to keep me company. The idea of ending up side by side with a plant TERF didn’t exactly appeal me.
Turns out I needn’t have worried because a few days later she sent me a message saying that, although she had enjoyed my company and the drink, she hadn’t felt a spark between us.
Overall, this was a massive relief; however, the rejection was still a slight bruise to my ego and it took almost superhuman levels of restraint not to buy a plant pot with some soil and a seed in it and drop it off outside her front door with the following message: