Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Tuppervon Aunts

One Aunt, Claudette, sold Tupperware. Aunt Edith sold Avon. And you were expected to buy them every time you went to a party. Unfortunately everyone in town was friends with everyone else, so you typically got invited to about 3 parties a year for each product.

My mother would drag us girls with her, cementing the unfairness of gender roles in my family as my brothers would make snide gestures at us while happily shooting baskets in the driveway as we pulled away. Meanwhile I’m in a skirt for god’s sake and on my way to a house that always smells like hard boiled eggs to sit with a bunch of dull woman for a few hours while they fawn over plastic containers to hold their oatmeal. Oh, joy.

The Tuppervon Aunts were, at least, no actual relation to me. They were church aunts, women around your mother’s age that you call “aunt” or “aunty” because it’s easier than remembering everybody’s name….even though they think you do it because you have such good manners. These two were, however sisters, and worked together to make sure they planned their parties around each other’s and did their bit to help out with the arrangements and to conspicuously place a large order from the other when the sales books came out. But the parties had some key differences.

Tupperware parties were all about demonstrating how completely confusing and useless a kitchen is unless stocked with these miracle gadgets. So Aunt Claudette would cater her party herself, with perfect wedges of cheese displayed on the most perfect plastic cheese plate ever, complete with perfect plastic cover and matchingly perfect knife set. Or there would be a glorious cake, on a clear plastic stand with a snap-on lid to keep it from getting stale. Another cake would make the arduous journey from kitchen to dining room in a round carrier with a lid and snap-on carrying handle, perfect for bringing your contribution to any pot-luck dinner or church bake sale. To lighten moods made heavy by rhetorical questions such as “have you ever opened a box of cookies only to have them stale the very next day?” We would play weird food-related trivia games where Aunt Claudette asked questions such as “what nation invented the Gherkin pickle?” and the winners were rewarded with little Tupperware tchoshkes such as the orange peeler that I still have or the picnic toothpick carrier which our dog promptly ate.

Avon parties were a different breed. If Tupperware was all about Donna Reed as a suburban housewife then Avon was about Laura Petrie as a suburban housewife. Donna had perfect pearls, a perfect family, so of course she needed perfect storage systems for her cornflakes and bread. Laura, however, had Capri pants and pert breasts; both things have been known to draw attention away from a cake that tilted in the box or bit of flour spilled on the counter because she didn’t have the right kind of canister.

Laura didn’t want a deviled-egg plate. She wanted “Fiji Blue” eye shadow and “Sunset Shell” pink lipstick. She wanted face creams with fake French names like “Softique” and “Parisianne Crème.”

Which was all well and good for Laura Petrie, but the ladies of Silver Creek didn’t wear Capri pants and tended to limit their cosmetics to lipstick and a bit of powder “to keep the shine off.” I never did figure out why shiny was so bad. But this cultural diversity meant that Aunt Claudette’s Tupperware parties always did better than Aunt Edith’s attempts to be the Estee Lauder of Merton’s Drive. Oh she always managed to sell lipstick and nail polish, and did ok on things like bubble bath and hand cream. But the games at her parties tended to be more like “which celebrity has the better make up” and we had to decide between Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. She made it seems like there was a right or wrong answer, not a vote. And we never did figure out how she decided who would win the prize, but someone always did. In fact one year my mother, to her great mystery, found herself going home with a bottle of Lavender Bubble bath. She was so flustered by this largesse that she ended up buying about $50 worth of skin creams, lipsticks, soaps, and other luxury items.

She gave the bubble bath to me.

It gave me hives.

1 comment:

Fo said...

I love it.