Flowers for coworker's (and eventually more, I hope) birthday?
April 25, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I've fallen hard for a coworker. Things seems to be moving in a positive direction and I feel like I'm reaching the point where I need to make my intentions more clear. It just so happens that her birthday is coming up. Would flowers be a bad idea?

This question will probably sound absolutely precious, but I've been out in the wilderness for awhile as far as love and relationships are concerned, so I can't help but worry about screwing things up. For what it's worth, the coworker in question is available and (presumably) looking. Since we do work together, I've been taking a conservative approach up until now. However, she seems to have a fair number of platonic male friends, so I'm worried that, should I continue with the conservative approach, she'll get the mistaken impression I'm looking for a similarly platonic relationship. Right now, I feel like I've sent enough signals (and other people in the know have made enough suggestive comments) to where she must know something's up. I get the impression that she's interested - or not disinterested, at least (she's kind of hard to read, I'll admit) - and I currently have no reason to believe that things won't continue moving in a positive direction. Finally, I have already effectively asked her out and have received a positive response. However, it's for an invite-only group event at which there will be other people she knows in attendance (I received the formal invite and asked her if she'd like to go), so it's a bit more ambiguous than the standard date. Oh, and we're both in our 30s, if it helps.

Anyway, with the background out of the way...

It just so happens that her birthday falls in the interim. The date of her birthday isn't a secret, so she'll likely receive plenty of well wishes and the like from others in the office. Initially, I had planned on just giving a simple birthday card, but I got to thinking something more might be appropriate. Flowers seem like the safest bet - anything of greater value would surely be strange at this point - but I'm worried about coming off like I'm trying too hard. Note that, when I say "flowers", I mean something simple, like fresh cut tulips in a vase, smuggled in the evening before and left on her desk. No fancy arrangement or anything. I have reason to believe she might like tulips, and it's clearly a good flower for this time of year. Additionally, my thought is to remain anonymous about it all. That is, no note attached that says "From: so-and-so". That way, the gesture won't so obviously scream, "hey, look at this nice thing I did for you... DON'T YOU LIKE ME?!?!" That, and given her personality and sense of humor, I think she'd get a kick out of it. My suspicion is that she'll nonetheless figure me out fairly quickly, so I'm not too worried about the effort going to waste. And I'll admit to it if asked.

Good idea? Bad idea? Flowers good, anonymous flowers not so good? I know I'm probably overthinking a plate of beans here, but I feel like I'm at a critical juncture and I really don't want to mess things up.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Flowers at the office = bad, anonymous or not. Don't invite the whole office into your business. Flowers sent to her home with your name attached = could be good.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:30 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I sent flowers anonymously years ago, and the florist asked whether I'd like to be identified if she called. I opted for yes, because I felt awkward with my name on flowers for a girl I wasn't dating, but also wanted her to be able to respond if she liked me. Turns out the answer was no in that case, but it was definitely the softest rejection I'd ever had. We were still friends afterwards with no awkwardness at all. It was great!

I vote yes on anonymous flowers (particularly tulips), but try to give her some way of sorting out they're from you. Your intentions can't be clear if the flowers don't lead to you.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 7:39 PM on April 25, 2010

flowers are lovely, but if they're on her desk at work, she's going to spend the whole damn day feilding questions about them from everyone in the office, and that could really easily be annoying or embarasing. what about giving her something that she can keep out of view, like a box of chocolates in her desk drawer?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:59 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

First, I don't think this gesture (and similar gestures) will change how she feels about you either way, so I don't think you have to worry about messing up that aspect of things by doing this. I think if she's interested, she'll still be interested, and if she's not, she still won't be.

Since we don't know how she feels, I tried to imagine this scenario both way - what I'd think of it if I were interested, what I'd think of it if I weren't.

If I were not interested, I think I would be made extremely uncomfortable by all the hinting from you and other people, and by receiving something anonymous. I think I would kind of feel like we were back in middle school. The fact that all of this was so public and was gossip fodder would not make me very happy.

If I were interested ... I think I would probably also wonder why you didn't just come out with it.

I think you should ask her on a real date. If she says yes, send the flowers to her privately, with your name attached.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:14 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have already effectively asked her out and have received a positive response. However [...] it's a bit more ambiguous than the standard date.

You haven't asked her out on a date. You've invited her to an event that could be a date or not, and you can't know which way she's interpreting it without asking her directly. So why not just ask her out on a real date? "Hey, I'm looking forward to [event] with you this weekend, but I wondered if you'd be interested in a proper date next Friday--I'd like to take you out for dinner..."

I'm thinking of a friend of mine who received several quasi-date invitations from a coworker with whom she had interesting conversations and enjoyed spending time. Turns out, he was thinking of their lunches and movies on weekends as dates while she was thinking of them as lunch or hanging out with a friend. Awkward. Go ahead and go to this event with her, but don't think of it as a date, and don't expect it to click for her that you're interested when she sees a birthday gift from you and thinks about the party you attended together.

Send flowers to her house if you don't want to ask her on a date beforehand. Don't do mystery flowers on her desk for people to gawk at and gossip about.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:28 PM on April 25, 2010

I think you should ask her on a real date. If she says yes, send the flowers to her privately, with your name attached.

Yup. Man up, and ask her out. Not in a kinda-sorta-maybe kind of way, like you did already, but in an unambiguous "would you like to go on a date with me on Friday?" kind of way.

Yes, you will be risking rejection, and if you work somewhere that will fire you if you ask out a coworker don't do this. But rejection isn't a bad thing -- it clarifies things, so you can not waste more time and effort on an impossible situation.

In the meantime, don't do anonymous flowers, and definitely don't do them at work. And don't go tiptoeing around hinting via her friends -- give her the courtesy of an actual approach. You guys are in your 30s and hopefully by now can handle that kind of question.
posted by Forktine at 8:29 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

No. You have a lot to lose (embarrasing her at work) and nothing to gain since, as pointed out above, they won't make her start liking you if she doesn't already. Save the flowers for when you are actually dating. And ask her out on an actual date,
posted by yarly at 8:29 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why not take her to lunch for her birthday - just the two of you (even if it's not on her actual birthday). Ask her for a date if lunch goes well. Flowers will definitely cause a lot of office gossip - a nice card and a birthday lunch will be less suspicious.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:31 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I personally wouldn't go down the HR nightmare that is dating at the office in the first place, but if you must pursue this, good god, NO flowers, and especially not at work (for the reasons already mentioned). Just ask her out on a real date.

You have thought through the potential consequences of a workplace romance and/or romantic rejection, right?
posted by drpynchon at 8:41 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, unless you've, erm...done it, I think flowers are always a bad idea.
posted by sully75 at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2010

I think flowers are overkill. Ask her out. For coffee, drink after work, movie, whatever.
posted by theora55 at 8:52 PM on April 25, 2010

Unexpected flowers at work goes several ways in my experience. 1) All her girl friends will be gushing about it. 2) If it's anon, expect a circle of friends to be looking for signs of the sender. 3) while it may be unexpected, she should enjoy receiving them. 4) Are you _absolutely_ sure she doesn't have a current boyfriend. 5) If anon, and when you face up to it, make sure you don't ask her out for lunch during a blizzard.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 9:14 PM on April 25, 2010

I'm going to dissent and say that it is OK to send her flowers, as long as they aren't red roses (red roses are too romantic/sexual for someone you're not actually dating yet) or other red flowers.

Pink flowers straddle the line between romantic interest and friendliness. So pink tulips would be good.

(Yellow usually signals friends-only, and some people consider white flowers to be for funerals.)
posted by Jacqueline at 9:42 PM on April 25, 2010

No no no please no. (I say this as a single woman in an office with lots of platonic male friends. As someone who has been in this girl's position.)

The absolutely last thing i would want is the curious questions or (friendly) teasing from coworkers that would come with getting flowers, especially since there is no clear answer she could give them that would make sense. (They aren't from a friend. They aren't from someone she's dating. They aren't from someone she can admit to, if she doesn't want office gossip to start before there is even a relationship to gossip about.)

Sending her flowers that will be visible to a big group of people you both know is a public statement that you have romantic feelings for her, or that there is some kind of 'relationship' going on. But here's the thing: there's isn't a relationship. At least not a romantic one, that you have both agreed to. (Have ever seen in movies/tv, where someone makes a grand gesture to someone who is totally not interested? that could happen. at your workplace.)

On her birthday, ask if she wants to go for lunch. Or when you go on your run to starbucks (or wherever) during your workday, bring her back a latte and a brownie (or whatever). These are things that show affection without implying making a big public statement that may not be appreciated or that make cause undue pressure on a relationship that hasn't started yet.
posted by Kololo at 9:43 PM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Count me as another vote for NO on the flowers. Personally, I frown upon mixing business and personal as things can get very awkward/complicated easily, but if you really want to find out if she's into you, you're better off taking the direct approach and asking her out on a date. If she says no, then you'll have your answer and avoid making a potentially embarrassing/uncomfortable public gesture. She may already count you among her "platonic male friends" and not want anything else. But whatever you do, please don't send anonymous flowers, that could make her feel really uncomfortable as it would cause a lot of speculation at work and could really be uncomfortable for you if your coworkers/boss find out it was you that sent them.
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:48 PM on April 25, 2010

The lunch date idea is good. So is asking her on a real date. The flower idea (though I like the spirit in which you'd be doing it) is not really a good one. Flowers from an SO can be great, because in an established relationship, it's predetermined that it's a welcome gesture. Flowers from an admirer are kinda gushy and awkward. Flowers as a will-you-go-out-with-me thing* approach middle-school-dance levels of awkwardness. Moreso (if that's even possible) if left anonymously. Also, flowers will wilt and die. It's the fact that you want to date her that is of value. Take her out to lunch, or buy her a drink. Do something where you guys are together, not something where you leave something and put her in the situation of coming to find you.

* I realize that they wouldn't exactly be about that, but since you're not yet dating ... they kinda would be.
posted by salvia at 1:14 AM on April 26, 2010

I think the scale of the flowers is important here too. A massive, desk obscuring bunch of red red roses is a no, a small playful selections of say, gerberas or tulips with a noticeable "Happy Birthday" card is a sweet gesture. Something small enough to tuck into a corner and be waved off if your other co workers try to make a massive deal of it.

I'd also not send them to her home. That would creep me out, anonymous flowers at home. I like knowing who knows where I live.

Anyway, why remain anonymous? If you want to date her you'll need to let her know who you are sooner or later.
posted by Jilder at 2:31 AM on April 26, 2010

Too much waffling. Just ask her out before a more comfortable rut is formed.
posted by empyrean at 2:32 AM on April 26, 2010

Just to echo everyone else. Just ask her out. If she likes you she'll say yes.
posted by howfar at 4:50 AM on April 26, 2010

It's nice that you want to do something nice for her, but NO. No flowers. Noooooo flowers. Not at her desk, not at home. A funny or silly card would be GREAT. Do you have any inside jokes? Reference them (funnily) in the card. Make the girl laugh on her birthday. And maybe pick her up a cupcake.

Then, tell her you'd like to take her out for a birthday lunch, your treat. Doesn't have to be that same day (She may have other plans with other, closer friends) but offer it. "Hey, I know we're going to that event thingy, but I'd really like to take you out for a birthday lunch. My treat. How about this weekend?"

Good luck, man.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 7:32 AM on April 26, 2010

Another no for sending flowers, either to the office or at home. It's an innocent gesture that could potentially backfire and I don't think you're at the "sending flowers" stage yet. (And by the way, even if you do start dating, I would reconsider any gesture that reveals your relationship to the rest of the office, at least for awhile.) If you'd still like to do something for her birthday, I like the idea of asking her to lunch or treating her to Starbucks.

I think you should ask her out on a real date. It's the only way to figure out where you stand.
posted by janekate at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2010

I would find anonymous flowers to be creepy... Ask her out!
posted by ShadePlant at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2010

Anonymous flowers are never good. It has a stalker-ish feel to it. I think it would be inappropriate to send flowers in this situation at all in fact since you aren't in a relationship. Ask her out on a real date, just the two of you and see how she responds.

Sending flowers is just unsettling in this situation. If she doesn't return your affections, how is she supposed to respond? You leave flowers on her desk. Then, she will probably feel awkward and feel like she has to say, "Thanks," because it's the "polite" thing to do. This puts all the burden on her. She has to tell you should isn't interested in you and rehearse in her head what she is going to say or sit down and write an uncomfortable email. If you just ask her out, she can turn you down politely without either of you feeling too awkward.

I just don't see how any good can come out of giving her flowers. If I were in her place, I would feel like you had no concept of how I might feel about actually getting flowers and the awkwardness of dealing with the questions of coworkers. Even if I was inclined to like you, the flowers would be a huge turn off. On the other hand, getting them from someone I'm actually dating is nice.

When this type of thing has happened in my office, the guy ends up being teased behind his back and people just don't look at him the same way.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:22 PM on April 26, 2010

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