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April 25, 2014

A Canuck in Kantuck: Boys at my table

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — For the past year or so, I’ve been hosting two of my husband’s best friends on a very regular basis for dinner. They’ve both recently become bachelors and are always hungry for a meal, so about once or twice a month I invite them over to get fed. Usually, they come on a Wednesday. One almost always brings me roses he picks up at Kroger on his way from work. The other brings a pack of raw salmon or a pheasant he shot that weekend. And the other day, as my husband shook martinis and they took their regular seats at the kitchen island, I realized it’s become one of my favorite things to do.

It’s rare to be the only woman at a table of men and, at first, I felt a little uncomfortable, suspecting maybe I should go into the other room so they could talk about cars and fishing — or something. But as they sipped and I cooked, they seemed comfortable enough with my presence and now I’m used to being part of the mix.

I’ve learned the differences between having men as opposed to women over are incredibly interesting. One, and I’ve struggled with how to phrase this so I’m going to say it as directly as I can: Your expectations are lower. That sounds condescending and it is condescending, though I don’t mean it to be necessarily. But, honestly, when male guests help clear a table or step in to stir a sauce or run downstairs double-time to get an ingredient I need, there is a part of me — a shockingly traditional part of me — that’s a little, well, surprised.

I realized this most clearly one day when they both showed up with the Tupperware and other dishes I sent home with them for leftovers. When it comes to women, you expect to get your stuff back. In fact, if you don’t get it back often enough, especially the Glass Lock stuff, it’s license for friendship dismissal.

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