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Rant #499
(published August 12, 2010)
Shunned by Polite Society
by Laura Grace Weldon
Volunteering with a non-profit will eventually force you into attending a potluck. Spouse Man and I discovered, pulling up the drive, that this event wasn't held at a house. More like a mansion. It was populated with casually well-dressed people who talked about jazz clubs, eco tourism and where to get the best cheese. Things I would probably talk about if my annual income weren't equivalent to what these folks spent on really good moisturizers.

Our smiles and greetings were completely ignored, as if we were low ranking primates walking slack-shouldered around the perimeter of alpha animals. Fine with me. That way I could do as I wished without the pressure of making conversation with strangers.

I boldly filled my plate with the most unfamiliar foods and poured a glass of organic wine. Anticipating an exiting gustatory event for my first mouthful I forked up the ugliest stuff, sure that taste would make up for appearance.

Wrong. Very wrong.

I deeply wanted to spit it out, but showed remarkable restraint. Only a grimace gave me away.

Now I know the first rule of potlucks is to utter nothing but praise for the food, but I had already determined that we were invisible in the press of people all glibly chatting about topics beyond our scope of wealth. And truly, I spoke so quietly that lip reading would have been helpful. All I did was lean toward Spouse Man, point to the smeary pile of brown on my plate and advise him lovingly, "Don't get any of this tasteless goo."

Immediately a woman materialized behind me. A tall woman with large aggressive earrings. She said (I think into a megaphone), "I made that. It's polenta."

Now I've met polenta before and this was no polenta. It was more like Cream of Spam, extra grainy.

I apologized, stammering something unintelligible about a cook's poetic license. I even shoveled more of the glop into my mouth without shuddering. She watched until the heat radiating from my fuchsia-toned face drove her away, surely toward people more polite and gracious than a potluck food slandering boor.

I slunk off to drink more organic wine near a large potted plant. From this unobtrusive vantage point I pretended to be a party version of Jane Goodall, carefully watching the behavior of my own species. Still stinging with shame after hurting the feelings of Aggressive Earring Polenta Woman, I'm sure I wasn't objective. But I did find common traits among my fellow potluckers. I observed that we humans indulge in the same expressive pouting, posturing and nit-picking found in any group of chimpanzees.

Except chimps would have thrown the food.

Laura Grace Weldon's new book is Free Range Learning.

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