A few weeks ago, two friends and I converged on a third friend and her lovely husband for a weekend of attending plays, going to museums, and eating fabulous food. While the other women in this group have access to these sorts of activities, I do not. And still I am usually the most reluctant traveler. I wasn’t reluctant, however, because I needed it. I needed the camaraderie, the late night wine drinking, the talk of books and words, that carful of tender raging hormones as we careened from one event to another, and the humor that exists between good women friends.
Oh the humor. That is what I want to write about this morning in early April.
My friend, the one with the house open enough for three deliciously loud, funny, conversation-loving women, has a husband also open enough to welcome we three into his house. He’s a great guy, smart, funny, pleasant to look at and pleasant to have around. He can converse at length on a variety of subjects because his interests and his intellect are far ranging.
He is the welcoming sort. He can make a kick-in-the-ass Sazerac as well as the best margarita I have ever had the pleasure of gulping down as if I were dying of tequila thirst. And he cooks! When we weren’t out eating pizzas topped with mounds of fried kale, this lovely man cooked for us. For breakfast, we dined on folded omelets of sautéed carrots and greens. When we returned home from the plays, he shook up each margarita with precision and served truffle almonds one night and cashews he roasted himself with curry and pepper the next.
Oh cashews. I can’t eat them. They are too rich for my stomach, so usually I pass the bowl when it’s filled with cashews. But these cashews were different. They were savory. They were peppery. They were buttery; not buttery like a cashew, but buttery like a cashew roasted in butter. They were ridiculously, stupidly delicious. Oh, how we loved our dear friend’s husband’s nuts.
And this became a refrain. Oh my, we exclaimed to our friend, your husband has the most delectable nuts, the best nuts, nuts unlike all other nuts. Our friend was so lucky to have a husband with such lovely, salty, tasty nuts. Our friend loved how much we loved her husband’s nuts; after all, the nuts were hers. She could share them, but once we left, she would again be the sole proprietor of those delicious nuts. Oh we were bawdy and generous as we complimented that nice man’s nuts.
It was funny. It was fun, after all, what man doesn’t love having the deliciousness of his nuts bandied about by four (our friend joined in also) attractive, creative, and clever women?
After a good 24 hours of nut jokes, our friend’s husband mused:
What if three of my friends were here, and my wife cooked for us all weekend, and we commented about how delightful she was and how good she looked and finally that we all wanted more of her peaches. That my wife has the best peaches, the most succulent and moist peaches of all time? Would that be any different?
Okay, to be honest, we had been talking about women in literature all weekend too. I had been ranting and raving about the Annie Dillard comment in Poets and Writers. The one where she admitted that she didn’t read many women writers because she didn’t like to do what she was supposed to do, so our friend’s husband wasn’t just commenting on the nut jokes, he was extending our conversation to the kitchen table.
We stopped talking and wondered, too. No, it probably wouldn’t have been okay if our friend’s husband and a group of men objectified our lovely friend all weekend. In fact, it would have been grossly misogynistic. Right? At least-cringeworthy.
The cashews did indeed make me sick. So sick that I pooped my way across three states to get home. God help the poor people in those rest areas. Cashews, even delicious ones, do not sit well on my stomach.
The question posed by my friend’s husband sits funny on my stomach still. There is certainly a difference between the objectification of women and the objectification of men, and the undeniable fact of sexual violence against women in our and in all cultures. Was our joking, then, satirical? Was it a comment on the practice enjoyed by men for centuries? Or was it less subversive? Was it a bunch of women playing like boys?
To be clear, my friend’s husband played along with our banter, but his provocative questions will not leave me alone. There is a difference when this sort of joking happens among good friends in a safe environment than when it occurs out in the world where safety and boundaries are much less distinct. Could the safe environment we created in that warm open house confer the same okay for a no-holds-barred sexual objectification of a good female friend to a group of men? I don’t think so; at least I hope not.
And this continues to interest and trouble me.