There's a crowd of nine of us, and we play once a month. We take turns hosting. The host provides the house, the dining room table, some poker chips -- and when we first started out the host would also supply pizza and beer and a couple of family size bags of potato chips.
Now we've been playing together for quite a few years, and slowly, over time, people have started cooking. It began about ten years ago when one of the wives decided that pizza was too low class, and she made it her job to broil up a platter of chicken legs and wings, and mix a green salad.
Eventually, one of our original players dropped out of the game, and we replaced him with another friend who turned out to be a vegetarian. His wife prepared a sophisticated vegetarian stew, preceded by appetizers featuring various cheeses, flavored hummus and European-style crackers. She also put out a bottle of wine -- for the more refined palates.
Meantime, while this gradual improvement in our culinary routine was going on, I was getting divorced, moving into a condo, and sticking resolutely to the routine of pizza, chips and beer.
But when I got together with B, and she found out about the poker game, she immediately decided that pizza wouldn't do. She would cook.
I tried to discourage her. "Really," I told her, "slaving over a hot stove for my poker group is not part of the deal. You don't have to do that."
"Oh, yes I do," she responded. "And I don't mind. I like to cook."
"Yeah, but I don't want to be the one causing you to have to do a whole lot of extra work."
"It's no big deal," she assured me. "I enjoy doing it. I'll cook a turkey, that'll be fun. I'm just wondering if I should serve hors d'oeuvres."
"A turkey?" I wondered. "Isn't that a lot of work?"
"Not really," she said. "I've got nothing else to do all afternoon anyway."
"Okay . . . I guess," I said. "But we surely don't need hors d'oeuvres. These guys expect pizza from me, nothing else.You're already exceeding expectations."
I was thinking about people's expectations and their judgments, and . . . what's good enough? In my mind, these guys were expecting to have a good time; they were not expecting a perfect meal.
"So remember," I reiterated. "These guys are expecting pizza-level food; anything better than that is a bonus."
"Why not?" I asked innocently.
"Because, like it or not, we live in a society that still judges women differently from men.You can serve pizza. I can't serve pizza."
"Well, at least let's try to keep it simple," I said, giving up, "so you don't have to do too much extra work."
"You're not making me do extra work. I want to do this. Now, I'm thinking about the hors d'oeuvres.
"Ah," I said, brightening. "Don't worry about the hors d'oeuvres. I've got it covered. I got a family size potato chips."
"Yeah, yeah," she murmured, turning away from me. "Maybe I still have time to get to the deli and buy some cheese."