Mother's little cottage industries
By Kelley Cunningham
Attending these excuses for legalized extortion is part and parcel of modern suburban motherhood. There is no escape if you want to have any form of a social life, and more importantly, nurture the support network you need. So if you buy a lipstick at some mother’s Mary Kay party today, you know you can call on that mother to take your kid home from school the day you’re laid up with the flu. It’s a multi-layered structure of giving and receiving favors more complicated and nuanced than the Mafia’s.
Remember when a party meant parking your Monza behind the Gremlin belonging to some cute guy in a flannel shirt, walking down a dark street with said cute guy to someone’s freezing garage, standing around a keg shivering in your legwarmers and Jordache jeans while Foreigner blasted from the boombox? Ah, those were the days. Now it’s Kenny G, Dodge Caravans and punch, mama. And no cute guys in flannel shirts to be seen.
It’s easy to dismiss all this as the devil spawn of our mother’s Tupperware parties, but wait, not so fast. Let’s try to understand: there’s not much left for us to do now that we’re home with kids. A few talented mothers can run marathons and earn endorsement deals in between diaper changes, or get that PhD while utterly sleep deprived. The rest of us have to resort to these pre-packaged cottage industries.
Faced with a shockingly abysmal financial picture, but reluctant to go back to work and hand over 75% of our income for childcare, we have no choice but to give and attend these parties. We make the pity purchases, see the same women at every party, and try to duck out before we are forced into signing up as the next hostess.
Overpriced candles, absurdly ornate scrapbooks, needless kitchenware: I’ve been to ‘em all. I’ve been in a room with fourteen other women, all dressed in our special “afternoon away from the kids” outfits, listening to candle experts tell me more about candles than anyone has a right to know. Did you know that if you cut the wick the candle will burn more evenly? And after burning a cylindrical candle you should gently reshape it so it doesn’t sag? Well, now I know and so do you. And we’re richer for it.
While listening to this drivel I looked around, wondering if this was really happening. Was this some sort of bad dream where my feet are stuck in the mud and I’m trying to run but I can’t? Everyone was so bored we all ate whatever sour cream dip was in front of us, and then we all joined Weight Watchers the following week after we realized we outgrew our special “afternoon away from the kids” outfits.
Back in the colonial days women would get together and make a quilt. That was the way they socialized and contributed to the household economy at the same time. Now we sit around comparing knock-off handbags. Yeah, we’ve come a long way, baby.
I guess some of the stuff is useful, sort of. But some is so over the top it’s absurd. How about those baskets…what are they called? Sturm und Drang or Hockaluggie or Ich bin ein Berliner? I forget. But what in the name of all that is sacred can make a freakin’ basket cost $75.00? They look exactly the same as the baskets you can pick up at a yard sale for a buck. Oh, they have a signature on the bottom! They’re numbered so they will be collector’s items! Right. I say if you have friends that will actually sneak a peek at the bottom of your baskets looking for signatures, then you just might want to rethink those relationships.
Do you remember those Fuckerware parties from the Eighties? Friendly-looking “massagers” and crotchless panties galore. There were a lot of giggles but nobody bought anything. Or maybe just something safe like strawberry body oil (tee hee). I guess these parties have really made a comeback, especially among mothers in the Bible Belt. I’ve seen a lot of coverage about it recently. It never fails to amaze me that it’s still news when mothers admit they like having sex. Gasp.
Maybe we should brainstorm up some new ideas for house parties. Let’s use the current method for success. Take a completely ordinary household item, like a candle, and build an entire industry around it. Create a need for hundreds of related accessories that didn’t exist before, and voila! Instant cottage industry.
Let’s see...how about...a nail file? That’s it! We’ll start a home party franchise business called “I Want To Nail You” which creates a demand for monogrammed, gemstone-encrusted files you can bring with you anywhere. You really must have the cowhide caddy to carry it in, and the special mineral oil to keep it in good repair. And don’t forget the roller brush that whisks away the powdery fingernail residue from your black cocktail dress, thereby saving you from certain social death.
How about those tacky plastic push-pins you’ve been suffering with all these years? No more! Give a “Stick It!” party and learn about the wonderful world of custom devices designed to enhance your paper-adhering-to-bulletin-board lifestyle. No? Then how about a “Shove It!” party, in which that old, dirty plastic tube from the bank’s drive-in lane is replaced with custom tubes you can create yourself and make as unique hostess gifts.
“Suck It!” parties can hawk designer vacuum cleaner bags, “Take Me Out Back And Beat Me Senseless” parties sell fancy egg beaters and whisks, and “Cover Your Ass” parties hawk all kinds of adorable, must-have diaper covers.
Well, anything beats another autographed, numbered Britzkreig Basket. I say bring back the kegs, the cute guys and Foreigner and I’ll be more inclined to buy an overpriced candle.
Need more Kelley? A hefty collection of her great essays, What's the Matter With Mommy?, is now available on Amazon.com.
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.