Isn’t it sensual to have the soft petals of flowers adorning your tresses? Isn’t it fabulous to pin on the scent of sugar that all the honeybees are drawn to? Ladies, I tell you, flowers are nature’s adornment, and we should wear them any chance we get! It’s been done throughout history in all different nations.
In the 1940s U.S., blossoms gave Lady Day an untouchable glamour on the stage. She always wore hers on one side––a little sassy, she was, and very feminine. She preferred white hibiscus, although she wore other kinds too. In the 1930s Mexico, Frida Kahlo, boldly creative, always wore hers right on top of her head with a part in the middle. She preferred bright, tropical blossoms. Kahlo said to her lover Josep Bartolf, “I paint flowers so they will not die.” If we pin them into our hair, we can reclaim a little youth, too, before it wilts away.
Now I’m thinking of my youth wilting away like a flower, and I’ll just indulge this bout of melancholy. Lovesick Ophelia drowned herself in the flower of her youth, for she could not turn the head of the boy who made her heart leap.
She put flowers into her long, straight tresses just before she laid herself down in the river, probably ’round the 12th century in Denmark–– fictionally speaking, of course.
“There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.”
Ophelia was a deep-thinking and poetic young girl, so she pinned the flowers for deliberate meaning. The willows stood for forsaken love; the nettles for pain; daisies for innocence; pansies for love in vain; violets for faithful chastity and death of the young; and roses round her face, for she had been called the rose of May. What a poor young girl, but smart for dressin’ up so pretty for her death bed.
Long live Ophelia and Frida and Ms. Holiday; they’ll always be remembered for the flowers in their hair.