Lifestyle writing is all about aspiration, which is code for making people envy you and shop accordingly. In our series I Like This Bitch’s Life, the Cut bitterly admits that it’s working.
My favorite way to torture myself on the internet lately is by following a specific sort of woman on Instagram. She is preferably my age or older, say, 33–36, and is a master of a creative skill that is both tangible and photographs well. Her gig is very lucrative, ideally portable, and doesn’t give the impression of being overwhelming or too obtrusive.
It involves making a thing, something in the world you can stand back from and admire, but that does not require an Etsy shop. No trips to the post office. No existential grief or student loans. No controversy! No, this is a trade that makes the world only happier, only more beautiful. The only problem with this career is that women like me are convinced we could do it, too. We, too, could amass a following and make a name for ourselves. We, too, could live a life steeped in aesthetic pleasures and Kinfolk photo shoots and lucrative brand partnerships. We could give workshops in Los Angeles during the winter.
Would that we could all be Instagram florists. Would that we could all be Amy Merrick.
There is a lot of Instagram crossover in “flower stylist” land — the best of the best all work together and camp together and wander fields of wildflowers together for the weddings of other successful creative women with related careers (photography; textiles; artisanal condiments). It’s easy to get them confused, to conflate their tiny houses and handmade ceramics, but Amy Merrick is my personal No. 1.
I think I followed her because she was tagged in a friend’s dreamy bonfire photo or in the tablescape of a dinner party at the house of someone I admire. Hence the late-night tradition of spending hours reloading someone’s Instagram archives, looking for clues as to who she is and why she has such a perfect life. The mystery is, of course, part of the appeal.
Where does she live?
How does she make money?
WHO IS THIS WOMAN?
WHERE DID SHE BUY THAT BLANKET?
And of course it behooves you to figure this all out before you die of jealousy/book a trip to Joshua Tree/sign up for a flower-arranging workshop.
I knew Merrick was a florist, and not the grandmotherly kind. She is young and beautiful, more pop-up shop than cramped corner store. More consulting fee, speaking fee, wedding fee than hourly wage. There are no little cards with spelling errors — if there are cards it’s because she has a friend who is an illustrator and another with a printing press. It all just came together beautifully.
Or this is how I imagine it.
The Instagram florist, or my fantasy of her, rides trains, has houseplants, eats dinner outside under tasteful white lights and mismatched furniture. She drinks coffee (Chemex) from expensive ceramic mugs, but they are probably from a friend who has a kiln “out back” in a window-heavy shed somewhere, paint artfully peeling.
She has the coveted sort of flexibility that is more about spending winter in California than buying your own health insurance. There is romance in her life but it’s mysterious; ancillary. Obviously, she does not have children but she could change her mind whenever she wanted. In the meantime, her life, like her bank account, is so full.
In reality, work is work and there is nothing I’d want to do less than be responsible for a crucial aspect of someone’s wedding. Flowers die; they wilt; they do not always bend to the whims of a peony-horny bride in the middle of November.
To her credit, Merrick manages to acknowledge this in small, un-complaining ways. The work is occasionally overwhelming, the scheduling, the sourcing — not every flower she uses can be hand-clipped from some field of a friend of hers who happens to inhabit an entire island off the coast of somewhere cozy and verdant and previously unthought of. (Why are all my friends from Ohio??)
Sometime in the past year or so I have come around to flowers, generally. Once I was one of those people who tried to be, I don’t know, cavalier? I did the same thing with cooking. And babies. Real estate! I don’t know if it’s getting older or if it’s truly just Instagram, but I am slowly accumulating desire for the appurtenances of a comfortable, bourgeois existence.
And flowers are a perfect gateway drug. Cheaper than a new house! Less commitment than a cute dog! When they’re in the ground, they change all the time and you get to bear witness, to visit them and photograph them and well, I’m not going to defend flowers to you.
Look at these fucking flowers arranged by Amy Merrick.
I look at this photo and I am not sure what I want to do to it but I want to do something. Fuck it? Eat it? Moan at it and squint my eyes? Look away, then look back again and yell, “IT’S SO GOOD!”? Pace around it, lean over, and stare?
I want it, I want these flowers, and I don’t even know what that means. I want them in my home? Burned into my brain? Occurring artfully on an end table in the cabin where I spend my summers on the coast?
I knew Amy Merrick was legit when I walked into West Elm before a lunch meeting last week and saw her name on a sign, announcing that she’d partnered with the company to design a series of vases and to consult on tablescapes and floral arrangements. After poking around on her site, I learned that she has done a pop-up flower shop with Steven Alan, “weekend flower intensives” in cities around the country; has worked with BHLDN, Kinfolk, the Today show; has given a lecture to Hallmark on creativity ($$); and spent Valentine’s Day a few years ago in a room full of women with wine and glue sticks and flowers.
For some reason, the evening of wine and glue sticks really gets me. I want a friend who will walk with me through my neighborhood and be my flower Shazam. I want to go to her dinner parties and ask her where she got her linen napkins. I want us to write each other long emails between “gigs,” to ride trains together and share accountants and go camping. She’d never laugh at me when I confuse daffodils and dandelions (too good of a name for a weed, I’d like to argue, and daffodils just look dandy), and eventually she would take me on as an apprentice of sorts. We’d stride together through tall grass in perfect weather with handwoven baskets under our arms. I would turn to her as the sun sets, breaking the silence with a contented sigh.
“How lucky we are to be florists on Instagram, women at the top of our game, rich and happy and totally free!”