Boys with Plants by Scott Cain sat on a novelty gift book table of Magers & Quinn. I heard it call to me: “You have many friends who like plants. And attractive men. One of them will want this for Christmas. It’s only ten dollars!”
Boys with Plants: 50 Boys and the Plants They Love is the kind of book that’s meant to be given as a gift, or displayed on a desk or coffee table. It’s a fun book, and I’m guessing many people find it a bit funny, or even buy it as a gag gift. (You know, because when women are sexualized it’s normal, but when men are sexualized? Ha ha ha.)
I’m guessing many owners of Boys with Plants never read the whole thing. Not me. I read it word for word. Cover to cover. My first Plants Are Dope book review might not be of a serious book, but I’m taking it seriously, dagnabbit. Did you think I was going to phone in my first book review? No way.
Boys with Plants surprised me. Even though I bought it, I sort of only bought it because I succumbed to the constant consumerist pressure that surrounds us all. I didn’t actually expect it to be good. Well, surprise! It’s pretty good.
The “boys” are attractive, but they aren’t objectified. There are no corny Chippendale-type photoshoots going on. No fake tans and oiled up muscles, no plants positioned in provocative ways. The photos remind me of those included with really good celebrity profiles. You know, the ones that give readers a glimpse into a normally private space and allow us to see how others live.
At first, the use of the word “boys” made me cringe. Probably because I am absolutely against calling women “girls.” If she’s over eighteen, she’s an adult. Calling women “girls” feels sexist, like a way to rob young women of their power and keep them in their place. (Though it is so common that I too, even at age 38, have to stop myself from calling myself, my female friends, and women my male friends date “girls.”)
“Boys” isn’t the same as “girls.” In fact, I think it worked well to bring a softness to these men. Many of the photos in Boys with Plants display vulnerability. On the whole, this little novelty book presents a powerful new perspective on masculinity–one that is softer, gentler, and more caring. “Boys” fits.
These photos are undoubtedly of men, but they are of men who haven’t lost the compassion and empathy boys often lose as they grow older and try to fit our society’s definition of “man.” These are men who carefully water, mist, plant, and prune their vast collection of plants on a regular basis.
This book contains some solid advice. I’m happy to have been reminded that there are ways to get free plants–whether through online groups or by propagating a plant of my own or a friend. I’m curious to learn that people feed their plants ice cubes–something I’ve never known about much less tried. I’m relieved to learn that many people seemingly give away plants that don’t seem happy in their home, rather than try to force it or let them die and feel bad.
After reading Boys with Plants, I tried to decide which friend would be the lucky recipient of the book. After much thought, I decided on…you! I’m excited about my Plants Are Dope project, but it doesn’t have much of an audience yet. I figure a few giveaways will help. There’s one more day to enter a giveaway for a Yes! Magazine subscription, and stayed tuned for a giveaway of Boys with Plants.