Culture shock creates social unease; hiding out with the help
He's as unpretentious as L.L. Bean boots and Levi's -I'm married to a meat and potatoes kind of guy. That's why I was so surprised when he attended an evening at the theater recently. Not only did he enjoy it, he's been raving about the play for weeks.
When my youngest daughter was in high school she won an art award for a beautifully executed acrylic painting of a mouth-watering slice of watermelon. We attended the award ceremony, bumping elbows with professional artists who displayed their own works and judged the amateur competition, as well as academics who presented the works. I schmoozed, drifting from painting to painting, artist to artist, reveling not only in the talent of the professionals in their mediums, but marveling at the abilities of the students as well. In the center of the room a huge table was spread with gourmet accoutrements, offering everything related to a well-purported wine and cheese party, but without the wine. Instead, punch was offered. Soft music played in the background, and it was nice to be at an event involving young people that didn't involve a lot of synchronized screaming and sports crazed parents.
My husband didn't wander among the talented; he stood against the wall by the door with his arms folded and a stern look on his face, as if he was a security guard at the Louvre Museum on alert for art thieves. He was studying the crowd. Finally, after an hour or so he said:"I've had enough culture, let's go." I figured it was an opportune time to leave; the punch bowl was empty.
It's interesting to people watch when you consider yourself an outsider to an event. I do that at home shows and Home Depot. We went to a tractor store recently and as my husband perused the tractor parts and pieces aisle I shopped the clothing department. Who would have thought that a place that sold John Deere and Carhartt would also sell baby clothes?
Finally after wandering among weed whackers, chainsaws and goat gates, I stood with my back to the seed spreaders, arms folded. I studied the crowd, looking as if I was a member of their loss prevention team, on alert for nut and bolt shoplifters. My husband walked over, and I said: "I've had enough rural let's go."
It's not like I'm a city-girl and my husband is a country boy- I've been known to dig a ditch or two and he's classy when it comes to creating anything related to the use of material associated with the cutting down of trees. I can get down and dirty, and he cleans up pretty well. It's just that when we are out of our familiar surroundings we're wallflower people-watchers.
Years ago, when I was single, young and stupid, I went to a party given by a co-worker's family at one of those giant mansions with hundreds of feet of beach frontage right on Long Island Sound. They were boater types - lime green slacks, hot pink shirts with popped collars. I never felt so out of place since the time I wandered into a men's room by mistake. I was so uncomfortable among the rich, and those pretending to be, that I ended up in the kitchen talking to the help. Comfortable among folks who swam in the same kiddie pool as me, I sat, with arms folded, on the large step-stool they used to retrieve the crystal from the high shelves in the butler's pantry. When my friend walked into the kitchen to tell the help they needed more aioli for the crudités she asked me why I was sitting in the kitchen. I told her I felt sick and wanted to go home.
I was sick alright; sick of being where I felt I didn't belong - and besides that, the punch bowl was empty. Enough said.
EMAIL CAROLYNN PIANTA AT CP.ENOUGHSAID@AOL.COM