I am aghast.

I have gone through an experience of such degree of pettiness that I wish I had Twain’s writing skills to properly convey it to you. I have been going to these weekly luncheons hosted by the pettiest hostess I have ever seen in my life. In fact, I didn’t know such people existed. These luncheons are not merely for socializing, they have a humanitarian purpose to them, so you would think the hostess could have a minimum of dignity as to how she behaves. She is married and, as a couple, they have a very nice middle class standard of living, not lower middle class, mind you, this is comfortable middle class with no money issues whatsoever. The luncheons, which gather around 8 guests, are not really supposed to be a potluck meal, but the hostess is so ungenerous, she practically forced her guests to bring food or they wouldn’t eat. Furthermore, she doesn’t go through the trouble of preparing any food, she dumps some salad into a bowl, chops up some bread, and brings tap water for people to drink. This is because she is too busy with other priorities in her life, since she does not work outside the home and the kids are grown and gone, so we understand how watching reruns of “General Hospital” all day long completely takes up one’s daily schedule. Not only is her idea of hosting a luncheon shoving out a few puny food items, she then freakin’ monitors how much food people help themselves too!

Now, I come from the type of environment that is nothing less than the most exaggerated Italian or Jewish Matron stereotype. The women where I come from take the utmost pride in laying out veritable banquets any time a guest walks in the front door. Where I come from, the hostess is just delighted if you help yourself to seconds because you are telling her just how wonderful the banquet is. There is that “we are here to feed you” feeling in the air and, that clear but understated, “yes, we do show off with the quality of our food.” And should you dare to put 3 bits of lettuce and some other little thing on your plate, you can immediately see the dismay and concern on your hostess’ face. No use telling her you are on a diet, it is clear you are being way too picky, which can only mean the greatest of veiled insults: you are refusing her food, that’s how unappreciative you are. So there are never pitiful meals, nor, God forbid, shortage of food. If you are having ten guests for lunch, there is food for twenty. There isn’t just “dessert,” there are two lavish cakes, home-made pie, chocolate mousse, and all the season’s fruits. It’s those kind of women who lay out a gourmet feast and then very off-handedly, in total false modesty, drop something like, “Oh, it’s just a little something we are having.”

So here I was, sitting next to my “Mr. Burns” hostess, and the paltry meal was already two-thirds on its way, meaning everyone had already eaten for round one and theoretically it was time for seconds. Miraculously, there was a little bit of salad left. The salad had been served in this big plastic bowl and in it lay two of these two modernly designed salad serving utensils, a separate serving spoon and fork . It’s that kind of slick, modern style of design that renders the tool completely useless, because the utensils were small and flattened out to the max, so if you simply tried to scoop up some salad with the spoon, all the greens would fall off and you were left with whatever small foodstuff our hostess had grudgingly added to her salad. Since the space on and around the table was crowded, I was experiencing a bit of a tricky challenge. I was holding the bowl with one hand and trying to scoop some salad using the good-for-nothing serving spoon held in the other hand. (Parenthesis: it did dawn on me afterwards that the hostess probably picked out the most inconvenient salad instrument she could find in the store so that guests thereafter would not be able to help themselves to more than a couple of peas each.) After several tries, the grand result that lay on my plate was 5 cherry tomatoes and 3 bits of lettuce. And that’s when it happened. The hostess looked down on my plate and, with a voice loud enough to ensure that everyone would hear, adding an unmistakable vicious little undertone, she belted out, “Oh look! You’ve taken ALL the tomatoes in the salad! Are you a big tomato fan, ha ha, because you took them all,” placing a special emphasis on the “Took. Them. All.”

To my chagrin, I was so absolutely flustered and embarrassed and aghast with the degree of pettiness and the out-of-the-blue insult that I couldn’t even open my mouth to say something. I have these deeply ingrained politeness mental breaks that, even during a horrible experience, they make me not take a fly swatter and immediately thwack the offender for saying something like that. Even worse, my politeness breaks also make me not reply something that would put this horrid tomato twit in her correct place. It’s not always like this, but, unfortunately, regarding this particular couple, I have to strive to keep a diplomatic demeanour with Ms. Petty and her husband. So I just sat there and mumbled something. Oh, the injustice.

I then dreamed about walking in their house the next week with two full plastic containers of cherry tomatoes and then, very off-handedly saying, “Oh, I remembered there was so little food last time, to the point that you were counting each little tomato on our plates, that I just wanted us to be able to enjoy them today. Here you go.” Make that 3 containers. Shove those little tomatoes up your nose, you pile of pettiness.

But sadly I can’t do that. So I brought dessert. But I am dying to change my mind for next time.