As I hovered over the reviews for “ARTIFICIAL MONSTERA PLANT 60CM,” I felt a slight ickiness. But maybe it's not so bad to have something that can last foreverby Caroline O'Donoghue / June 9, 2020 / Leave a comment
Recently I realised that I have the worst-kept balcony in my whole building. I wouldn’t have minded much before, but during lockdown we had no choice but to treasure our outdoor spaces, and it was painfully revealed that I had not treasured mine. Four tiles of my balcony have been given over to a piece of AstroTurf that my dog defecates on. The rest of the space is ashtrays, a cheap table and chairs, and a half-empty bottle of Miller. Meanwhile, from the street, I admired rows and rows of balconies exquisitely tended to: ivy trellis, hammocks, and bonsai trees. Inspired, I got to work.
The garden centres were still closed, so I decided to go online and investigate artificial alternatives. As I hovered over the reviews for “ARTIFICIAL MONSTERA PLANT 60CM,” I felt a slight ickiness. A sense that this was tacky, cheating and a little shameful. To buy a fake plant when you could grow a real one is like admitting that you are incapable of nurturing something—that you’re the cold woman in a romcom who has to undergo a life-changing transformation by trading her corporate pencil skirts for jeans and throwing her phone into a river.
I became annoyed by my own indecisiveness, and even more annoyed at how much spiritual weight I was putting on something as stupid as an artificial plant. But the strange thing about plastic plants is that almost everyone seems to have weird feelings about them. A fake flower is fine on a cake or on a hairband. Fake flowers as a gift, however, are beyond strange. If someone sent you a bouquet of long-stemmed plastic red roses, you would simply call the police. It’s the “uncanny valley” of gift-giving: no one can describe how and why it’s weird, it just is.
Perhaps something in us is hardwired to think of gifts as ephemeral. Wine, cut flowers and chocolate are hits because they are expensive, aesthetic and pointless. They say “I love you so much, I’m willing to waste money on a temporary experience for you, one I myself may not even benefit from!” They say: even if you hate this, you won’t have to…