In June of 2017, I had a summer of fun heating up on the horizon. My boyfriend would return from Florida, I was on summer break from grad school, and I had a killer new collection of crop tops to show-off my hot rib cage with! Yowza! However, the ripe promise of June came with a rotten surprise. My boyfriend returned home, only to inform me that he had found a new life in the sinkholes of Florida (Pun intended. He sure found some holes that he liked). After being mercilessly cast aside for a southern gal, and left broken and alone in my Hudson Valley home, I spent the first month of my summer break from school carrying around a box of Kleenex, weeping like a professional mourner from Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies (2003). In June, I dressed like Queen Victoria. I mourned in black. My rib cage hidden from the world.
Then, in July, I got a hold of myself. I realized that it was unfair to my gracious friends to impose my driveling pool of gelatinous emotions upon them for another month. After recounting the fateful day that my ex-boyfriend unceremoniously kicked me to the singles curb about ninety-seven times, I took mercy upon my lovely friends and decided to create a new narrative. I had to become that better me that I always read about in self-help blogs. I decided, on July first, I would date myself. I would fall deeply, madly, inextricably in love.
So, I threw off my somber black attire and armed my new and improved romantic body with a sky-blue, off-the-shoulder maxi dress. With a bounce in my stride, I took my rapturous blue hide over to the Italian Gardens of the Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, NY. Strolling along the symmetrical pathways between the precise flower beds, I felt a semblance of control returning to me. The extravagance of Frederick William Vanderbilt and his Gilded Age home (designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White, and inhabited by the Vanderbilt family from 1895-1938) and gardens reminded me that I could indulge in a bit of decadence. In an act of pure hedonistic pleasure, I updated my beloved miniature calendar book, while resting in the shade of the pergola. God, do I know romance!
As I sensually penned dates into my itinerary for July, I was enamored by the sultry, shady ferns that surrounded me. There must be some significance in an entire garden devoted to the plant. After a bit of cursory research, I discovered a phenomenon known as Pteridomania (Aka. fern fever)! Throughout the Victorian period, there was a craze for collecting, hunting, and cultivating ferns in both England and America. Much of this craze was fostered by botanists George Loddiges and Edward Newman. Owner of one of the largest hot houses in London, Loddiges claimed that collecting ferns “showed intelligence, and improved both virility and mental health,” an assertion which his botanist buddy, Edward Newman, backed up in his mid-century masterpiece, A History of British Ferns (1840). Frederick William Vanderbilt made sure that he was associated with the noble plant, thus ensuring his image of intelligence and manly virility with his handsome fern garden. Ugh. Where are all of these fern-cultivating men in the twenty-first century!?!?
So, dear reader. As I concluded the first date with myself in the Vanderbilt Garden, I decided that I was one hell of a gal and that only a fern loving gent could take me away from me! Swoon! Also, you’ll be relieved to hear that it was time to bare my ribcage to the word, once again.