I read this modern epistle of 50s-style housewifery in aghast disbelief!
My inconvenient memory sometimes dredges useless debris up from the depths of its deeps, making me ponder ridiculous junk all over again. So the other day, while tidying up my house, I suddenly recalled an article I’d read in a women’s magazine probably three or four decades ago. (Yes, I actually remember this crap. God knows why. The file drawers in my steel trap of a mind hang open and unlocked.)
It was probably picking up my little granddaughter’s toys that triggered the memory. But, in any case, I recalled an article published by a woman, the theme of which was something along the lines of coping when presented with an unexpected diversion from your plans. The writer described the fact that her husband, who genuinely enjoyed spontaneous dinner parties, was in the habit of calling her at her office and announcing, “I just asked the Smiths to dinner tonight. Is that okay?”
The article continued for several paragraphs, describing the writer’s actions to prepare for the sudden invasion of this dinner-expecting couple. She wouldn’t, she explained, rush straight home from work; instead, on the way home, she’d stop at the supermarket to grab a pre-roasted chicken, a bag of apples, packaged salad, and a prefab piecrust (if, she pointed out, she didn’t already have these items on hand in the refrigerator and pantry, in expectation of just such an event). Arriving home, she’d rush into the living room and swiftly grab all their baby’s toys–hence, the likely connection my undisciplined memory made to the long ago article–to corral them in the playpen. One assumes she’d also picked up said baby on her mad dash home; the infant wasn’t further alluded to in her article. She’d make a swift run through the living room to plump cushions, pick up newspapers and remove other detritus; then sling up fresh towels in the bathroom. She’d place the chicken in a warming oven, decant the salad mix into a bowl, and throw together an apple tart with the prefab piecrust–but, she explained, without peeling the apples. (Wow! Way to skimp on effort.)
What I most recall about reading this epistle of 50s-style housewifery is my complete, utter, aghast disbelief.
I was at that time afflicted with neither a marriage, a husband, nor a baby, but I could nevertheless envision SO many better answers to the question of, “I just invited people for dinner tonight. Is that okay?”, the first of which was, “Sure, that’s fine. What are YOU serving them?” Reading further into the article, that remark might have been coupled with, “By the way, it’s your turn to pick up the baby from daycare tonight. Oh, and don’t forget to clean up all your magazines and newspapers scattered around your recliner. By the way, what time is this shindig supposed to happen? It’s been a rough day. I want to get home and take a long, hot bath first.”
Of course, other scathing answers bubbled up in my brain like gas at the surface of a swamp. “What?! I’m getting my hair done tonight. My appointment at the salon is for 6:00 p.m. I don’t suppose I’ll be home until at least 7:30.” Or, “I can’t believe you forgot that your parents are coming for dinner tonight! I can’t stretch the meal I’d planned to feed two more people!” Or perhaps, “My boss just told me I’ll need to work overtime on the big project tonight. So I suppose this depends on whether you think we can get by without my income when I’m fired.”
But, realistically, there were so many other better answers to her husband than either the ones I invented or Mrs. Non-Liberated-Woman’s unbelievable plan of action. In her situation, the first one that would have hit my tongue was, “Why would you even THINK that’s okay?” Then there would have been the straightforward and plain-spoken, “That’s a decision that should be made by both of us. You’ll have to call them back and cancel the invitation.”
Of course, the very best and clearest answer when faced with the question of, “I just invited the Smiths to dinner tonight. Is that okay?” would have been, of course, “NO!”
I’ve wondered, occasionally, over the years, how many spontaneous roast-chicken-and-apple tart dinners the writer produced during the course of her marriage, and how long she and her husband remained married. And my answers to myself are always the same: “Even one would have been too many!” and, “Not very long.”