These guys are part of my old crowd of about eight or nine of us who used to play golf and poker together. When we played poker we took turns hosting -- the host would provide 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.
We played together for 25 years before people started retiring and moving away, and finally the group kind of broke up -- although I know a few of the guys still get together occasionally to play golf. Anyway, slowly, over time, people started to up the ante on the evening's cuisine. 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.
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. When I got together with B, and she found out about the poker game, she immediately decided that pizza wouldn't do. She wanted to cook. I discouraged her, not wanting to prevail upon her good nature to feed my friends. We reached an impasse. She did cook for my crowd a few times. Other times, especially if she was busy with her own activities, she bowed out, and I just followed my old routine of pizza and chips.
But of course, that was then. And this is now.
When she caught wind of my plans to have the guys over, she went into overdrive in planning a menu that would impress the Queen of England.
I tried to discourage her. "Really," I told her, "you slaving over a hot stove for this group of guys is not what I was thinking about then we made these plans. 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 up some pasta primavera, make a salad. I'll bake a pumpkin pie. I'm just wondering what I should serve for hors d'oeuvres."
"No, that's too much," I protested. "It's too much work."
"No, not really," she insisted. "I've got plenty of time to get ready."
"Okay . . . I guess," I said. Then, trying to compromise, I offered, "But we don't need dessert and we surely don't need hors d'oeuvres. These guys expect pizza and potato chips, 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 playing golf and cards and joking around. They were most certainly not expecting a gourmet meal.
"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."
"But they're not bringing their wives. You don't have to impress the women. It's just the guys."
She said nothing. She just gave me a look . . . you know the look, the look that says I'm clueless but she loves me anyway.
"Well, at least let's try to keep it simple," I finally 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. "So at least let me take care of the hors d'oeuvres. I've got them covered. I'll get a family size potato chips . . . and maybe some dip too."
"Yeah, okay, get some chips," she smiled indulgently. "Now let's see," she murmured to herself, "maybe I can drive over to Altamonte's and pick up one of their special cheese plates."