Back in the swinging eighties, my mother discovered a before unnoticed love of bright hard plastic she could both freeze and microwave. ( Her microwave was white and the size of a large old-fashioned television by the way, none of your streamlined fancy schmancy brushed silver electrical goods).
Tupperware had arrived.
Enthralled by this new breed of plastic, housewives all over the region held ‘Tupperware parties’, clandestine events where mammies would do their hair, put on lip gloss and sally forth from the yard with curious ease and abandon, leaving us children behind to entertain ourselves, having made us promise to ‘be good’. Fortunately ‘being good’ back then merely meant staying alive, so we were as ‘good’ as we could be whilst getting into a much trouble as possible.
But I digress.
The Tupperware party, the hard sell of hard plastic, was also a social event and thus fraught with tricksy politics. Groups of housewives, forced to occupy space in one another’s homes, were eagle-eyed in their assessments. If one was hosting a party, one’s home had to be spick and span, dusted, vacuumed, filled with cut fresh flowers artfully placed thither and yon. The good china was taken out from the cabinet and washed, and the ‘good room’ used ( many homes of my youth had ‘good rooms’, silent spooky places where dolls from around the world sat behind locked glass, where doilies covered the arms of velvet green chairs, carriage clocks ticked and into which dust dare not venture).
The main topic of these parties – beside the plastic –was local gossip and families. And it was here ‘Tupperware Love’ was born and flourished.
What is Tupperware Love? Why the love that one holds for the children that can be used for one-upmanship of course. No matter how many children a lady might have loosed into the world, only the ones who had not shamed the family were dragged out into the Tupperware Show-ring like glittering ponies.
‘My Anthony, the doctor, was only saying to me the other day….’
‘Emma and her husband, the pilot, were driving through…’
“Well as you know Bobby is studying higher brilliance in the academy of sheer genius this year having got one hundred straight A’s in his leaving cert. He still takes the time to come to visit his mammy on the weekends though…’
Nary a black sheep was mentioned, nary a wayward child brought up. Son arrested that weekend for driving his Ford Escort Mark 4 blind drunk through a stone wall, killing one sleeping duck?
Daughter ‘carrying on’ with a separated man of suspicious ( read blow-in) origins?
Pfft, what daughter?
Child caught shop-lifting bubble-up from local shop?
What’s a shop?
Only the good children were ‘Tupperware Loved’. Everyone else was tossed over the plastic cliffs like Spartan rejects
I knew nothing of this ‘love’ until the evening K held her own Tupperware party. As I had yet to earn my black sheep badge of dishonour I was witness to their inner circle. Called upon to put out the biscuits and pour tea, I was warned not to grunt and to answer politely anyone who spoke to me. I was to keep an eye on tea levels, and to silently fill any cup that was less than one-third full.
The social construct was staggering to behold as the unspoken rule of dirty laundry held firm. Of the women there, drinking tea over acid green and burnt umber plastic, not a single one could be said to have a blemish free family (really, who does?), but to hear them talk they were the matriarchal queen bees to a spawn of world leaders and young Einsteins. The questionable offspring had been removed, wiped from the slate. Not worthy of Tupperware Love.
The parties lasted not much longer than a year if I recall. The women became tired of each other and bored of Tupperware. Yes it was useful, they supposed, you could dry lettuce quite well with it. But really, how many parties did one need to learn how to use a plastic container?
‘That one,’ K said of one of the women, ‘always going on about her bloody children. Does she think we don’t know what they get up to?’
And like that the party was over.