Updated on 06.04.11

Plastic Flowers

Trent Hamm

My sister-in-law is a florist. She can take a few hands full of ditch weeds and dandelions and make them look amazing in about five seconds.

On the flip side of that coin, many department stores sell centerpieces stuffed with plastic flowers consisting of perfectly-arranged imitations of beautiful blossoms.

Sit them side by side and the arrangement of ditch weeds and dandelions looks far more impressive.

The same is true with people. I find a person whose life is full of genuine dandelions and ditch weeds to be far more compelling than the person whose life is full of plastic roses, and I’m far from alone in that conclusion.

In other words, you’re better off being proud of being a ditchweed than trying to be a rose and merely being a plastic imitation of one. Stop caring what other people think. Be passionate and proud of who you are and what you enjoy and stop spending a dime of your money or an ounce of your energy trying to be something you’re not.

You’ll find that, if you do it, there are an awful lot of people who will be right along with you for the ride.

Dress in clean clothes that appeal to you. They will make you feel more comfortable in public and more confident in who you are, making it easier for you to build the relationships that you’re in public to build (and make you feel more comfortable when you’re doing your own thing as well).

Decorate your home with the things you’re passionate about, not the things you think your guests will like. It becomes less expensive that way, you’ll enjoy the experience more, and your guests will feel that passion. I’ve been in some wonderful homes that were decorated with album covers, with D&D art, and with their own photographs, and all were amazing because the people in the homes were so clearly happy and content.

Spend your time (and money) engaged in whatever hobbies and activities fulfill you the most, no matter what the neighbors might be doing or thinking. If you’re happy and engaged and feel alive, their thoughts on the matter really have little consequence.

Be who you are. Chase your own passions. Stop spending time or money impressing others (unless it’s purely necessary for career gain, as in building a resume or dressing for an interview). You’ll find happiness down this road, as well as a lot less unnecessary spending and a lot less time spent doing things that don’t make your spirit sing.

Are you a plastic flower or a vibrant dandelion? Do you sink your money into appearances alone or into the actual content of your character?

The choice is yours.

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  1. kristine says:

    I entirely agree. The most interesting apartment anyone will ever have is the one they had in college. Pure self-expression. After that, the desire to fit in and impress others curtails that freedom quite a bit. I know several artists who do not even have their own art on their walls, for fear people will find it narcissistic. Ridiculous! If I were visiting a fellow artist- I would be most excited to see their own unique art all over the place- it would be a highlight of the visit to get a personal tour from the artist!

  2. krantcents says:

    Presentation is everything! People judge you on how you present yourself, how you speak and act. Anyone can choose how they present themselves. Success follows!

  3. Kate says:

    The cool thing about dandelions and ditch weeds is that they thrive in bad conditions as well as good conditions. :o)

  4. Amy says:

    I agree with Kristine on the apartment. My just out of college apartment was old and next to a funeral home but I remember it fondly. It was all mine and I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s tastes. My house today would look quite different if I didn’t have to take my husbands style into account! Plus when you are on your 20s you can decorate with repurposed junk and it is appreciated. When you do it in your 40s people thing you are cheap. Or crazy.

  5. NewReader says:

    Haha Amy, so true, I’m in my 40’s now and some of my family members think I’m cheap or broke (or maybe crazy?) for certain lifestyle decisions I’ve made, both decorating and otherwise — travel, transportation — these decisions are a reflection of my values, not a reflection of being broke or a cheapskate! Or, maybe, I am crazy!

  6. Kathleen says:

    Remember too that not everyone who has nice stuff had purchased said stuff to impress others.

    I have 5-bedroom home filled with Room & Board furniture because I genuinely enjoy having the space, and because I love mid-century modernism as interpreted by R&B.

    I dress in well-tailored, slightly expensive-ish (though purchased on sale) clothing, because I genuinely enjoy how it fits and makes me feel.

    When I decorated an apartment with repurposed junk, it made me unhappy… not because I feared the aesthetic consternation of others, but because the apartment didn’t have the new, warm, clean and coordinated feel that I wanted.

    Simply put ( ; -) ), some of us just like nice things and we don’t give two hoots what other people think about that.

  7. Steven says:

    Do crazy people know they’re crazy…because maybe we ARE crazy and just don’t know it!

    I’m going to do whatever makes me happy, and I don’t really give two (insert whatever floats your boat here) what anyone thinks about my life and my choices! Wouldn’t the world be even more exciting if everyone just decided to show their true colors and follow their hearts instead of trying to fit into a box defined by society, media and peer pressure? Conformity sucks!

  8. Sara says:

    When I ended my marriage I decorated my very, very small house just the way I wanted, although everything was from yard sales or acquired for free. I bought uber cheap shelving from a yard sale and lined one wall with my books, hung up my violin and framed my favorite pictures from calendars and framed family pictures with yard sale frames. I planted herbs right outside of my door. I get alot of compliments on this little shack (and it is, really, a bit of a shack!). People say they feel very peaceful here. I know that I do. Feels like a hug when I walk in the door.

  9. Vicky says:

    I decorate my house entirely in anime posters, video game posters, and photographs I take.

    And dogs. I have so many dog beds all over the place, photos of my dogs, dog statues, dog art, dog leashes, extra collars and dog toys.

    My dogs are my life, and my house reflects it. I don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks, either. It’s clean, it’s comfortable, and it’s ME.

  10. Jules says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate: what if you’re a Neo-Nazi who would like nothing than to build a shrine to Adolf Hitler in your backyard? What if your personal style hampers you from moving up in the world–what if you like parachute pants and bomber jackets, but you work at a bank? What if you love garlic but work as a sales person–at the makeup counter? WHAT IF you are a Holden-Caulfield-certified-phoney?

    There isn’t any shame in being a dandelion, if indeed that’s what you are. But there shouldn’t be any shame in aspiring to be a rose, either.

  11. marta says:

    Yeah Jules, that’s the issue when one makes blanket statements such as “Be passionate and proud of who you are and what you enjoy”. Such statements assume everyone is a decent person, when the world doesn’t work like that. I think there should be a caveat such as “as long as you aren’t harming others”…

    “Stop caring what other people think”: well, I will care if it involves my work and my employers or clients…


    I see no point in decorating one’s HOME just to impress others. It’s probably one of few areas where you can express yourself somewhat freely, whereas for many people, the clothes they wear will be restricted by their company’s dress code, and so on…

    This blog can be a bit contradictory, though: some posts will be about kissing someone’s butt (your boss, etc) and others will be like this.

  12. valleycat1 says:

    Are ditch weeds and dandelions arranged by a masterful florist really equivalent to just being your true self? Maybe ditch weeds & dandelions presented lovingly by your preschooler….

    I agree that Trent has made a basic assumption about the goodness of people. I know a few who are mean down to the bone.

  13. kristine says:


    A home where you feel happy and relaxed, and your visitors feel peaceful, is perfect. Your home sounds just lovely. :)

  14. moom says:

    You know, where I come from caring about what other people think results in spending less money, it’s embarrassing to be too extravagant. Is worrying what the neighbors think a good thing then?

  15. kristine says:

    Interesting! I think that’s what we call a good influence. Curious where that is. Any Nordic influence?

  16. Niki says:

    Excellent post.
    Many ditch weeds and dandelions are incredibly useful for nutrition and healing properties, a fact often forgotten by the commercialization of the plastic flower set.

  17. Jacque says:

    Yes but what can his sister do with star gazer lilies and alstromeria? Because that’s what my tastes are and that’s what I’m passionate about… Not everyone is relaxed and happy and peaceful with cheap things in a cheap house. I still live frugally but my frugal costs a lot (a lot!) more than Trent’s because what meets my standards for quality, form and function costs more. I’m able to afford it without sacrificing any other important things in my life (health, retirement, children, etc) so I’m lucky, and I don’t need to feel back or feel like I’ve been commercialized if my tastes differ or feel that I’m being fake or too shiny!!!

  18. Larabara says:

    Jules @ #10, has a point, but Trent’s observation on this is still valid. In cases where a person is true to whatever their passion is (in Jules example–neo-nazism, parachute pants, garlic, or phoniness), the result, as unfortunate as that may be for the aforementioned cases, still applies: You’ll find that, if you do it, there are an awful lot of people who will be right along with you for the ride.

    There will definitely have to be a change of jobs, though…

  19. coco says:

    @Vicky, i can sure relate! after my kids, my dogs are also my life. we are minimalists, but the few pieces of art on the walls are dogs or cats! some people think it’s weird, but i don’t care! also, the lack of things in our house is pretty weird too. may husband said that most people would just think we are poor because we have almost nothing in our house. don’t care about that either!

  20. JMom says:

    Whether you like to live on the downlow or or high on the hog, I think Trent’s point is to live your passion. Do what makes you happy. It doesn’t make us who like the ‘cheap’ life or those who like the ‘expensive’ life right or wrong, it’s just a difference in preferences. I for one would never be appreciate designer stuff (even if I could afford it) but I know many friends who swoon over it. I swoon over a super sinful and probably not so good for you meals :)

  21. Debbie M says:

    Like Jules and Marta, I also think it’s possible to err in the other direction–doing what you want without taking into consideration the needs or feelings of others. For example:

    Apparel – If you prefer to be nude, you will have trouble dressing like you want in public. If you prefer to be barefoot, you will have trouble getting into certain establishments.

    Home decoration – When I got my first place to myself, I made sure to get some sort of seating because even though I preferred to sit on the floor, my mom had trouble getting up from the floor. Also, some decorations are much more likely to offend people than others—I keep mine (way-too-cutsie stuff) in the private areas. And as Amy pointed out, you should probably take the tastes of any roommates into account, just as you’d like them to take your tastes into account. Finally, if you prefer not to clean, you can end up with health problems or even with your house slowly disintegrating.

    Hobbies and activities – obviously if you enjoy ax murdering, it would be a good idea to not be yourself in that way (Dexter notwithstanding).

    There is a certain bare minimum of pandering to others that is appropriate. I’d say it’s best to figure out which way you tend to err. Your advice is good for those who tend to err in the direction of trying to please others too much.

    For Steven, I especially like that there is a little effort at conformity at work. I like that I only really have to deal with someone’s work skills and habits and not so much with any other issues that don’t have to be related to work—I’m glad that no one comes on to me, that no one blasts their music all over the place, and that no one smokes. I kind of like not knowing who snores, who’s into S&M, and who likes to pee in the bushes. I even wish people would wear less smelly hand lotion (which gives me a headache). (Fortunately I work at a place where people can dress almost however they want—no bikinis, and they have to wear a shirt and something on their feet.)

    (P.S. Jules—funny about people who enjoy being phonies.)

  22. John Dove says:

    Your article today was quite evocative. When I was in elementary school, I was in a school poetry recital contest, and my pick was an old poem by Edwin Royle. Your article today could have been the Cliff Notes for this poem.

    Doan’t You Be What You Ain’t
    By Edwin Milton Royle
    [Written as a song for Marie Cahill. Music by Silvio Hein.]

    De Sunflower ain’t de daisy,
    And de melon ain’t de rose.
    Why is dey all so crazy
    To be sumpin’ else dat grows?
    Jes’ stick to the place you’s planted, and do de bes’ you knows,
    Be de sunflower or de daisy,
    Be de melon or de rose.

    De song thrush ain’t de robin,
    And de catbird ain’t de jay.
    Why is dey all a-throbbin’ to oudo each other’s lay?
    Jes’ sing de song God gave you, and let you heart be gay.
    Be de song thrush or de robin,
    Be de catbird or de jay.

    Doan’t ye be what you ain’t,
    Jes’ you be what you is.
    Ef a man is what he isn’t,
    Den he isn’t what he is.
    Ef you’s jes’ a little tadpole,
    Doan’t you try to be de frog.
    Ef you’s de tail doan’t you try to wag de dog.
    Jes’ pass de plate ef you can’t exhort and preach;
    Ef you’s jes’ a little pebble,
    Doan’t ye try to be de beach.
    Ef a man is what he isn’t
    Den he isn’t what he is;
    And as sure as I’m a’talkin’,
    He gwyne to git his.

  23. Annie says:

    I agree with Kathleen #6. I like nice things because it’s new, clean and noone has used it before but you. There is a sense of accompolishment and hard work that you saved money to buy a home and now you are going to furnish it with what you like, not expensive things just to impress family and friends but what you truly like. There are times i walk into a store and i like things that are cheap that look nice and times where i pick up things and the price tag is high, it’s all a matter of what you like and what your going to pay for it. I love to shop for nice clothes because they make me feel good, i love nice furniture because it makes your house look comfy and it shows you want to live responsibly and take care of your things. My sister and her boyfriend always used to go to garage sales and buy used furniture, plants, little things that furnished the apt, the sad thing is they were never happy with it, it was just something to use until they found great jobs to afford new things.

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