On trying to find my way as western feminist in a non-western world.
This weekend Bertrand and I hosted our first dinner party for some friends of his. Essentially, his friends feed us all of the time. I get the impression that they’ve been feeding Bertrand for years. Since he’s a (somewhat less confirmed than before) bachelor, while he can then men out for drinks, he’s certainly never returned the favor by cooking. Lo and behold, he’s now got a girlfriend who happens to be an excellent cook.
We invited two of his closest friends and their wives (or future wives, whatever) over for dinner. A small dinner for six should be a simple affair, right?
This was our first dinner as a “couple,” and if you think that I could get away with anything less than perfection, oh boy, you’ve never to impress your boyfriends (pretty damn traditional) friends. Luckily, I AM a fantastic cook, and I’m perfectly capable of cleaning (even if I don’t like to do it).
Eventually everyone showed up (dressed to the nines, which was somewhat unexpected). We had hibiscus juice, ginger, and rum cocktails, followed by a salad with a home-made honey mustard vinaigrette. I thought it was delicious. My guests were split 50/50 on whether honey should ever be used in a salad dressing.
Them: Theresa, did you come up with this yourself?
Me: What, the salad? Uh, everyone eats salad, right?
Them: No, the dressing. Did you think of putting honey and mustard together yourself?
Me: Uh, no. It’s relatively normal where I come from.
Them: So it’s your Mom’s recipe.
Me: No, it’s just . . . a recipe. Like everyone here knows how to make tomato sauce, you know?
Them: Oh. It’s, um, well, it’s interesting.
The dahl went over well with just about everyone. Of course it did. Effectively, it’s beans and rice with some extra spices thrown in. How could anyone not like it?
Them: Is this Indian?
Them: Ah-hah! That’s why it’s so good.
Bertrand: Actually, it’s good because Theresa’s a really fantastic cook.
Them: Uh, right. That’s, um, that’s what we meant to say.
Pineapple and papaya for dessert is always a winner, especially when deliciously cold and fresh from the refrigerator.
I kid about the food, but things actually went pretty well. It was relatively satisfying to prove that I am, in fact, a superwoman. In everyday life, I function far more like a man than a woman. I wear pants. I look people in the eye. I don’t have time to wash clothes, do housework, or even cook on a regular basis. When I visit friends, I hang out and drink with the men, instead of joining the women in the kitchen (just as much because I’d be useless as my annoyance with the division of labor).
I see it as showing that expecting men to treat me like an equal doesn’t mean refusing traditional women’s work. It just means that I won’t be forced into it because of my sex.
I imagine our guests were just relieved that I’m actually capable of cooking, cleaning, and hosting an acceptable party. Their beloved Bertrand’s girlfriend isn’t a complete disaster after all. And they’ll never know how many hours Bertrand himself put into cooking and cleaning.