Back to 1975
When I was a freshman at the University of Mississippi, I lived in New Dorm, at that time the largest dormitory on campus.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Ole Miss, it is rife with fraternities and sororities that have a chokehold on social life at school. I was a Delta Gamma pledge that first year, sans boyfriend. Even though I was in a sorority, I never felt like part of the crowd. I always felt a bit like an outsider.
I'll never forget stepping off the elevator on the lounge floor that morning and having the scent of literally THOUSANDS of flowers hitting my senses. Every girl in that darned dorm must've gotten a bouquet of flowers...except, of course, for me.
All day girls would rush up to the desk that ran the width of the front of the dorm between the two sets of double doors out front, squealing with delight that their boyfriend had sent them flowers for Valentine's. It was a depressing cap on an already depressing day.
When I got back from my first class to find even more flowers and more screaming, ridiculous girls, I'd had it. I went up to my room and pulled out my new American Express card -- the one I'd gotten only for emergencies. Well, this was an emergency, wasn't it? I dialed the florist:
"I'd like to order some flowers, please."
"How much would you like to spend?"
"Hm...let's see. How about fifty....no. Make it seventy-five bucks."
In 1975 you could get a heckuva bouquet for $75.
"What would you like on the card?"
"To my darling, sweet beautiful Elodie from your secret admirer."
I left that stupid bouquet down in the lobby for two days and fielded all kinds of questions from my sorority sisters whose bouquets couldn't hold a candle to mine. It was glorious. Well, almost. I still hadn't really gotten anything from anyone.
It wasn't long before I realized that the reason I felt like such an outsider was because I wasn't the kind of girl who squeals out loud when some kid sends her flowers because it's Valentine's day and he's supposed to walk the walk. I wasn't the kind of girl who enjoys spending hours discussing what color material we were going to choose for our rush outfits the next year. Don't get me wrong; that's fine for some people, really fun stuff. Just not for me.
So I turned in my little anchor pin, put on a peasant skirt and joined the counterculture in Oxford, Mississippi, working at The Gin and The Hoka Theater, and enjoying it immensely.
If I had it to do over, I'd not have joined that sorority, but I gotta admit, I really did think it was a stroke of genius to buy those flowers and watch while those women chewed on the mystery of my secret admirer.
*In order to be truly Southern, I tried to find a photo of a heart-shaped red-velvet cake for this post, but alas, I couldn't. Hope you like the flower.
*Photograph by Elodie Pritchartt