Saturday, October 13, 2012

Just One Slice, Boys

For a minute there, I thought Emma was going to pick up the pizza slicer and go after that lady. And honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed her. I try to avoid giving in to small-minded prejudices, but I have to confess that I harbor a deep loathing for a certain variety of my own tribe – the Absolutely Correct Mom. Last week, Emma got an eyeful of one of those high priestesses in action, and the results were entertaining for me and educational for her. Finally, my daughter got a snootful of what I’ve been contending with, lo these seventeen years of the enforced volunteer-at-the-potluck servitude that is modern motherhood.

Emma had helped me drop off yet another dish at yet another team dinner, and we’d been hanging around to help out. “Help” is always a dicey term at events like this, because there are usually several women in attendance who have very, very strong opinions about the way things need to go down, and woe to those carefree souls who don’t comply. At potlucks in my past, I’ve been instructed to move the same table forward, back and a little over to the side, all by warring factions of the same group. I’ve moved the napkins to the front, no, that’s crazy, put them to the end, no, we need to find a space in the middle for them … and then I’ve just hidden in the ladies’ room for a while until the Great Napkin Controversy gets sorted through.

So there Emma and I were at the serving table, stationed right behind the pizza boxes. I’d already followed instructions to cut each slice in half, and we’d set up a couple boxes and watched the team file past and dig in. Then, our vigilance slipped, and we leaned back against the wall and began talking to each other. That’s when the lady who was spooning the Starch Surprise out of the slow cooker swooped in to set us straight. “You’re going to have to tell them that they can only take one slice,” she hissed at Emma.  My darling, rational daughter considered her demand and countered, logically, with this observation: “But there are like, ten more boxes of pizza here,” she said. “There’s plenty.”

O, you little fool, I thought. Rules always trump reality in these settings, and sure enough, the Starch Surprise lady called over the dinner’s organizer for an official opinion. Everyone talked at once about the new one-slice mandate, with a great deal of righteous indignation serving as subtext: two slices, as if. Then one of the boxes was emptied, and, as Emma moved to replace it, her new bestie offered even more advice. “You’ll need to put that cheese over there, and stop handling it so much, we want to handle it as little as possible,” she harrumphed, as if Emma had somehow missed the mandatory Pizza Serving Skills Seminar.

That’s when I got a glimpse of my darling daughter. The way her eyes were rolling in her head, I was put in mind of a crazed horse from a bad Western movie. Starch Surprise didn’t know what she was dealing with, however, and she reached around Emma to fuss, adjust and otherwise manage this ultra-complicated serving task in a manner befitting its incredible strategic importance. That’s when I noticed that Emma was tightening her grip on the pizza slicer in a manner that can only be described as menacing. 

“Look at the time!” I chirped, glancing at my watchless wrist. “We don’t want to be late for choir practice, so we’ll leave all this pizza in your very capable hands.” I linked arms with Emma and got her to the vestibule before she blew. “What the hell?” she spluttered, and I had a quick flash-forward vision of new momma Emma at the playground, the first time some other mommy tries to shame her for not having eco-friendly wooden teething rings, or organic cotton diapers, or whatever the latest mommy must-have will be in the (what I hope will be very, very distant) future.

“This is what mommies do to each other,” I told her. “They make up stupid rules about unimportant stuff and drive each other crazy.” Then I thought of Emma’s oft-voiced thoughts about a career in intelligence work, and I imagined Agent Emma drawing a bead on that self-righteous twit who is breast-feeding her seven-year-old at the Teacher Appreciation lunch.

Come to think of it, I could not imagine one potluck volunteer experience that would not have been improved through the judicious display of firearms. Good luck to you, future mommy Emma, I thought, and let me know how those other mommies fall in line when they find out that you’re packing heat.

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