A man rejected by a woman pops up unannounced at her workplace with roses, asking her to reconsider. Adorable or creepy? The case for creepy would seem easy to make, what with the guy’s violation of space, forcing of a private matter into a communal spectacle, and implication that love can be bought with gifts. In some cases, such a stunt can even be a tell for something more dangerous: “Showing up unannounced” is one of four things listed in an article titled “It’s Not Cute, It’s Stalking: The Warning Signs” on the website of One Love, a nonprofit “working to ensure everyone understands the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.”
Popular culture has other ideas about such gestures, though. Romantic comedies regularly broadcast the desperate-love gambit—Love Actually’s sign at the door, Say Anything...’s boom box over the head—as a rite of passage on the way to a happy ending. Usually, it is men who make the supposedly noble overture; the idea that the story might be flipped led to the subversive TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
A 2015 study at the University of Michigan found that such works really do influence viewer attitudes on how men should act. Its author, Julia Lippman, explained her findings to The Atlantic’s Julie Beck: “Maybe you’d be slightly more likely to think, ‘Oh, he showed up at my workplace with flowers, when I told him I wasn’t interested already. I’m probably just overreacting; I’m sure he was just trying to be nice.’”