In Yerevan (Armenia’s capital) there are 24-hour pharmacies, supermarkets, fast food restaurants. There are also 24-hour flower shops.
I can understand a situation in which you might need a painkiller at 3:00 a.m. or have a late night greasy spoon craving, but I’m having a harder time imagining a 3:00 a.m. flower emergency. Who exactly, I wondered, is giving these shops enough business that they continue to stay open through the night?
After three days in the city, I think I’ve figured it out.
My first hint came quickly, when I looked at the pedestrians around me, when I, in my flip flops and under the weight of two backpacks, walked breezily past most of the women on the street. The women here are some of the best dressed I’ve ever seen—hair perfectly coifed, attire carefully chosen, makeup applied skillfully, recently manicured and pedicured—and when standing still, they look like beautiful works of art. They tower over me in 3- or 4- or 5-inch stiletto heels. But when they walk, many of them jerk and spasm and shuffle, unsure on their feet, like a parade of new-born horses.
My friend Jo, who lives in Yerevan now after a few years of continuous travel, likes to rate the places she visits on a stiletto scale. The posher places tend to rank high in number of stilettos, while the places she prefers to frequent, like the Music Factory, have a low stiletto rating.
What did I conclude from hordes of perfectly made up, beautiful women? That perhaps a woman who never leaves the house without makeup and her 5-inch heels on, even when going to the corner market, is a woman who expects (demands?) flowers to pacify her when she is upset. If the occasion is really special, maybe only jewelry will suffice.
My second hint came at a weekly outdoor film viewing at an acquaintance’s house in Yerevan. The event, called the Screenery, shows an eclectic range of documentaries and art house films and on the night Flounder and I attended they were showing a documentary about female football (that’s soccer for the American readers) players in Armenia. The film, according to the Screenery’s organizer, is a controversial one touching on gender issues in Armenia and wielding some hefty criticism toward Armenian men.
I was excited to watch it, as I am an unabashed feminist in the sense that I believe men and women have equal value and deserve equal opportunities. I also think that women should be able to decide the trajectory of their lives. Shocking stuff, right? In many places in the world, however, these views make me a radical.
Apparently Armenia is one of those places. The female football players in the documentary lamented how difficult it was to upset gender expectations in the country. There are some activities and behaviors, they said, that are for men only. Playing football, for example, or smoking on the street. According to men interviewed in the film, women, if they want to smoke at all, should have the self-control to only do so in their homes.
‘Do men need to control themselves?’ the football players asked. The unspoken answer seemed to be no.
Gender roles are tough nuts to crack, though. One of the players spoke of getting married as a given, another of having children as the pinnacle of a woman’s existence, and a third thanked her husband for allowing her to play football even while she took care of her family.
The documentary shed light on feminism and gender issues in Armenia and gave me further insight into this 24-hour flower shop business.
Perhaps, I posited further, in a culture when women are expected to be obedient to their fathers and then their husbands, in a culture where women are expected to stick to their rigidly prescribed gender roles while men are not expected to control themselves, perhaps here flower emergencies can exist. When there are indiscretions, infidelities, forgotten birthdays and anniversaries, and an expectation of women being coddled and pampered then there will be flower emergencies.
The more I thought about it, the more I wondered where Yerevan’s 24-hour jewelry shops are.