I have an embarrassing confession. Last week I was invited to a Tupperware Party. That's not the embarrassing part.
The embarrassing part is that I went. It was an invitation I didn't dare refuse. "Go or the other nursery school moms will talk about you," my husband said. So for fear that no other woman would ever call again for a play date with my kid, I went.
"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, ladies," our hostess Nancy said, welcoming us into her beautifully remodeled split-level. I dutifully admired the sleek new state-of-the art kitchen, eyed heaping plates of pastries and slid into the dining room where Margie, the motherly Tupperware Representative, was setting up her display.
"No games," I warned her, "or I'm out of here."
"I promise, no games," she said.
"Once I was invited to a Shtupperware party," I confided to my friend Ilene. "Same concept, different wares. Very different. I won the door prize."
"What was it?" Ilene said.
"You don't want to know," I said. "And it was solid milk chocolate."
Fortified with coffee, pen and catalog, I joined Ilene on Nancy's new white sofa. "The round seals are my favorite," Tupperware Margie said. "You can enhance your table with 6-piece matching sets in popular rose and blue. See these elegant new organizers? The Signature Series with clear blue covers allows for easy identification of contents. They also snap securely when closed and remain in the open position for easy access."
"They had some clothes like that at the other party," I told Ilene.
"Shhh," she said. "I want to hear about the Maxi Cake Taker."
I kept quiet. We looked at casseroles, colanders, canisters, coasters, and condiment sets. Super Crisp Its, Jel-ette molds, Cereal Storers, Hamburger Presses, Holiday Stencils, Modular Mates and more.
"This is my personal favorite," I confided to Ilene, studying the Velveeta Keeper.
"And yes, ladies, there was a Mr. Tupper," Tupperware Margie said.
"Did he marry Mrs. Ware?" someone called out.
A heckler. I perked up.
Margie told us Tupperware was celebrating 40 years of Quality, Service, and Commitment. She had joined the company 25 years ago, when she weighed over 200 pounds. "Weight Watchers," she said. "And I've kept it off all this time." Enthusiastic applause.
"Does anyone here do Avon?" a bored voice asked.
Tupperware Margie passed out order forms. "Well, I do need some measuring cups," I said doubtfully.
Ilene was writing busily on my right; so was Mona to my left. "I guess we have to buy stuff or Nancy won't get her hostess gift, huh?" I said. I thumbed the catalog. "It says here she can qualify for Six Rainbow Snackatizer Plates," I informed them. "Well I, for one, am not impressed. The Shtupperware hostess got The Midnight Special. With attachments."
"You have an attitude problem," Mona said.
She was right. I did. I was mortified to be there. Not that I didn't like the other nursery school moms; they were bright and funny, and I'd happily go out to dinner with them anytime. I didn't mind the carpooling or even the kibitzing (though I'd be happy never to hear another labor-and-delivery horror story that concluded: "So after 43 hours, I told the doctor, 'Give me the knife, I'll do it myself!'"). But Tupperware was just a little too retro for me. I have yet to meet a man who has ever been corralled into one of these parties; yet no matter a woman's background, education or taste, each of us -- suburban or otherwise -- has been or will be invited to one of these things. I'd come buoyed only by the thought of writing about it. What would be next? If I ordered so much as one Mix-N-Stor Pitcher, I could end up with a station wagon, a sheepdog named Tramp or even... Ward Cleaver.
"Look, an Ice Tups set to make juice pops!" Mona said.
"My mother had those," I said, momentarily lost in remembrance of childhood desserts past. Nothing was ever so intensely tart and sweet as frozen lemonade-on-a-stick, swaddled in an oversized napkin. Didn't I want my sons to have the same memory years from now?
"Put me down for that," I said grudgingly. "And maybe a Spaghetti Dispenser. And the Small Spice Shaker Set's kind of cute. And maybe the large Pick-A-Deli Container for my husband. And I guess the Pop-A-Lot Toy, and how about the Li'l Tuppers School Yard..."
How had I ever managed without the microwave Stack Cooker, the Memory Mates photo container or Super Storer bulk containers? The siren call of ultimate organization lured me on.
"And it comes with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee," I said later that night to my husband, hoping to justify my moment of purchasing madness.
"And here I had figured all along you were the Waterford crystal type," he said. "Remember Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Everyone falls asleep and gets taken over by pods? You look like my wife, you even sound like her but you must have dozed off. It only takes an instant."
I thought about how no one would dream of asking my busy professional husband to do more than ante up the office pool. I thought about how whether I had a degree in cosmetology or particle physics, I'd still have spent the evening exactly as I did. And I thought how unlikely it was that I would see a man hosting a Tupperware party before the next Harmonic Convergence. I sighed.
"Pods?" I said. "You know, that makes a super storage solution."