Betty Duffy

Friday, January 2, 2009

Insulting Parlor Games

Before I have to ingratiate myself to anyone else, I need to clarify that by the term "kitchen bitch" I do not mean any particular individual ("Did she just call me a bitch?"), but rather a universal character, as in, The Kitchen Bitch. Every family has one or two or three of these people: the ones who hop up before anyone else is finished eating and begin to clear the table. While the couch slugs continue to sit around the table having a second helping, or just talking, or perhaps they have removed from the table, leaving a dirty dish in their wake--the kitchen bitch has loaded the available dishes, put leftovers into tupperware, and might even be sweeping the floor under those lazy people who never seem to find it within themselves to pitch in after a meal.

Just for the record, I go both ways. If no one else is cleaning the dishes, I'll do it, and what's more, I like to have the kitchen clean before I go to bed. In my own home, I will clean the kitchen no matter what the hour is, before tucking in. But if I am at a family gathering, and other people are faster than me, and they seem to want to clean the kitchen while blowing out a little hot air, I don't want to deprive them of their satisfaction. I'll join my husband on the couch and see what the slugs have to say (which is usually something like, "I ate too much," if they have not already dozed off).

Because I can go around in both my family, and my husband's family, and predict before every family dinner who will be in the kitchen and who will be on the couch, I think it might be useful, here, to refer to the book, "The Temperament God Gave You" or some other personality indicator. Here's a summary of the four temperaments by Wiki, and also the breakdown in my own words:

Choleric: the people who are about action, type A's, tend to be quick tempered but also high achievers (these are the kitchen bitches)

Phlegmatic: slow reactors, not highly emotional, enjoy leisure, are diplomatic, and often shy (these are the couch slugs)

Sanguine: flighty, emotional, social, and possibly a tiny bit shallow (this is the person who goes back and forth to the couch and the kitchen depending on who's having a more interesting conversation)--this is usually where I fall.

Melancholic: creative introspective types, perfectionists who tend to sit on their hurts, or be obsessed with negatives (this is the one who doesn't speak to you either because you won't help in the kitchen, or because you falsely accused her of leaving her plate out when she certainly did not)

Knowledge of the temperaments does two things: It allows you to let some of these perennial behaviors roll of your back a little, and it allows you to turn guessing each other's temperaments into a parlor game. My siblings and I spent several days playing this game:

"Dammit! I am not choleric!"

"Betty, you cannot be sanguine AND melancholic."

"You think this is a boring game because you are phlegmatic."

And if you get the temperaments figured out, and you want to kick it up a notch, you can play, "Guess the root sin" (out of pride, vanity and sensuality), and if you survive that, and you just enjoy shooting veiled insults at your brothers and sisters under the guise of "understanding each other" then you can guess what animal you would be (For instance, my sister says I am a bear because I am either hibernating or eating, and am mostly happy unless you come between me and a meal. I then call her a rodent because she scurries around munching on pellet size foods while squinting at a book or something).

And all of this is a way of saying that perhaps I did have a few people in mind when I used the term "kitchen bitch" but I hope you'll let it roll off your back because we all know it's just your temperament to want to clean the kitchen after a meal (and I also really like the repetitive "itch" in each word).


Emily said...

Nice job covering your ass, so everyone still likes you, Miss Sanguine. I know The Kitchen Bitch referred to, whether as archetype or individual in the last post, in our extended family can only be one of 3 or MAYBE 4 people, 2 of whom are in my immediate family over the age of 12 . . . so I'll stick out my tongue at you the next time I see you. I'm also wondering if there are sub- or above- conscious messages in the copy of the short story "The Depressed Person" you gave me. Hmmm. So far not feeling the love for David Foster Wallace. Have not read the story about the cruise yet.

KRousch said...

I love the term The Kitchen Bitch. I will never be a natural one and have been motivated by others opinions of me into becoming one over the years (of sorts). I like to pull my weight is some part of the meal - so if I cooked, I don't mind letting others jump to the dishes. However, if I didn't participate on the front end of a meal, I like to make sure I do my part in clean up. I enjoyed your reflections on family and faith. It was helpful to see a different perspective on extended family trials.

Betty Duffy said...

Emily, you can stick out your tongue if you want, but the whole point of this post is to say--I don't take it personally, and neither should you. big deal (bitch).

Are you saying that DFW placed subconscious messages in that story? Or that I have intended sumbliminal purpose in passing the story on to you? I assure you, my sole purpose is sensationalism--to gawk at a suicidal person's writing after they've offed themselves. No need to feel the love. I had trouble myself.

Krista, Thanks for tuning in here. I find myself, like you, going against my natural inclination so as not to tick people off. The Cooks cause such a frenzy after a meal that you can sort of just run around the island at Mom and Dad's, stuffing face and scooting dishes around to make it look like you're pitching in. I wonder if they're on to me.