NOCTURNAL SUBMISSIONS | By Sami Zahringer
The Real Housewives of Ojai
In my capacity as Top Housewife in the Tri-Counties Competitive Housewiffery League and Winner of the Golden Egg Whisk (2002, 2010, 2012-2017) people often say to me, they say, “Sami?”And I fold my hands with the same sort of strained patience one needs when one’s grammar has been erroneously corrected on Facebook, and say, “Yes, dear?”
“How did you get your start in housewiffery?”
I smile mysteriously and tell the eager acolyte this story. Coming from a fiercely house-proud tradition in the Outer Hebrides, I early learnt the devastating power of a good scone. (I say it like that: “I early learnt…” for extra fableyness)
How the right crumb size can disarm and discombobulate a grown minister of 200-lbs and get you off the tea-club rota when you’re put on with someone whose chelsea buns you don’t want anybody mistaking for yours. (The chelsea bun scandal of 1989 centered on a few of the more Bonnie Tyler-haired ladies who would try to catch the minister’s eye with their artificially enhanced buns. It turns out they had been injecting them with silicone and the build-up in the poor minister’s tummy had rendered him near fatally constipated.
Things came to an explosive, but ultimately life-saving resolution in church during Mr. Angus MacKenzie’s reading of Acts 2:2, where the Holly Spirit descends upon the heads of the Apostles (the bit where their heads go on fire but don’t really) : “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” By God, it did.) But back to scones: How a good one can beguile and even sometimes temporarily knock the minister out given a wee pinch of Valium in the mix. This is useful for when you want to store the minister in a cupboard for a bit. You might have to do this to stop other ladies infecting his ear with propaganda about how they would be the best choice to lead the campaign to send well-ironed, previously enjoyed clothing with holy verses embroidered (somewhat) on them by the Sunday school, to Godless people in Africa and Inverness.
Five-year-old me learnt many things, blinking quietly at my granny’s tweed be-skirted knee. I knew that the skills I could learn from the housewives of the parish would serve me well on whatever path life would lead me. I resolved then to become an eager young housewife. I resolved to become formidable.
“Lesson #1 – Adaptability!” Auntie Catriona — a woman ahead of her time who spoke fluent hashtag — used to tell me. And by golly, she was right. By substituting cement for Valium in granny’s special scone recipe, in 1998, I was able to fell a runaway suitor at 30 paces, when, as I’d predicted, repeated exposure finally inured him to the effects of the Valium. I rolled him back in a wheelbarrow just in time to catch the end of “The Cosby Show.” My favorite… “Lesson Number 1 — Preparation!” Auntie Peigi-Annie, would say. And, by all that can scale a kettle, she was right as well!
One night in my teens, at a Youth Club in the Town Hall designed to keep us out of the whisky-fumed, virtue-ruining bothies, I put that same lesson into practice. Mr. Murdo Macleod, Jurassic-era elder of the parish, was sitting as usual in his corner, sleepily supervising us through eyes as rheumy as those of his antediluvian collie beside him, expending just enough energy to keep his pipe lit. Having pinched his hearing aid earlier, we young ones were therefore at perfect liberty to play loud music with impunity and, out of teacups from the kitchen, drink exotic peach schnapps from the mainland, bought or bartered from Daft Big Kenny’s older brother, Daft Wee Martin. Bartering involved either doing his homework for him (lovely, gentle fellow but he was actually Daft) — like Daft, the condition. Or talking to him about Star Wars.)
The night went on, the lights lowered, the dancers got closer. Suddenly, the lights snapped on and in roared Cathie-Mary MacFarlane, spittle-flecked spinster of the parish, wrenching couples apart left and right, neck-wattle in full swing, screaming about Sodom and Gomorrah. Poor, peaceful Mr. MacLeod came to with a start and bit right through the stem of his pipe. Everybody got into trouble of course. Except me. Having been around alarmed old people before, I was never without a full pipe-repair kit about my person. I was prepared.
So grateful was Mr. MacLeod that he pleaded my case to the Youth Club Committee at the subsequent Hearings and I Got Off.
But how can there be more than one First Rule of Housewiffery?” the sharper of my interlocutors then asks. “Oh, there are hundreds!” I say breezily. And lately that has got me thinking. There are many successful ways to wive a house! It is an art, after all, as much as a science, and it is past time that we, in the T-CLoCH, embrace diversity! We should fling open our doors to transgender housewives! Housewives of Color. (We are thus far ludicrously white in the league) Goth housewives!
Even Housewives from Oxnard!
Ones who don’t conform to the household expectations assigned to them at birth! Oh! Dear Readers, I think it’s a go! Watch this space.