It was 1985 when my first wife and I moved from Lawrence, Kansas to Washington DC, pulling a tiny U-Haul behind our ’78 Camaro over the Appalachian hills. Serious jobs awaited us and we took to the frenetic lifestyle of Capital City like fish moving from a small tank to our oceanic native habitat.
We were a few months in when my wife asked me to attend a company dinner with her. She worked for a small marketing company with a dozen employees. Normally, I am loathe to attend any kind of function, particularly a dinner party, but I felt strong and took up the challenge.
The owner was a strange little man with wild hair and equally wild ideas. Six couples attended the dinner, including our host, a bit more intimate than I would prefer but I was determined to get through the ordeal, for my wife’s sake.
Drinks were poured as we stood around socializing. Easy enough. The owner began to tap his glass with a knife, to get our attention. “Tonight,” he said, “we’re going to turn the tables on conventionality. All the men, come with me. We’re going to prepare dinner for the ladies and then serve them.”
Now I’m as egalitarian as they come, but this struck me as strange, being invited to dinner and then asked to prepare and serve that self-same meal. And, to be fair, I had married my wife in the last stages of college, a few years before we headed east. Busy in our studies and jobs, we hardly ever saw each other and only rarely ate together. Never once in our three years of marriage had my wife prepared or served me a meal.
But I’m a sport, so I went to the kitchen with the men, where we were instructed to put on silly chef hats and aprons. Then we cut and chopped and sauteed and poured and dished and all that cooking stuff, new territory for a young man who subsisted primarily on chips and salsa.
One of the other men, a tall middle-aged bloke, worked for the State Department. When he learned that I, a youth of twenty-six, was already making as much as he was, working at the Patent Office, with nine more grades of advancement ahead of me, he lost it. The kitchen became tense. But there was no escape in sight.
So we took the meal we prepared in to serve the ladies. They ate as we stood by and watched. The owner proceeded to do a strange dance. I assume, eventually, we were allowed to join our wives and eat, but that memory is fuzzy. Perhaps we never ate. It wouldn’t surprise me. When we left, my wife promised that would never happen again.
And it didn’t.