“Ladies, just a little more virginity, if you don’t mind.”
– Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Savvy was the first one to introduce me to the life-changing phrase, “muffins of judgment,” and I’ve since (with her permission) integrated it fully into my verbal arsenal of artificially created idioms. By all means, do the same! “Muffins of judgment” signifies when a person (usually female) insults, demeans, degrades, or belittles you, in the sweetest way possible. Offering you baked goods because you clearly can’t bake them for yourself, can you, you poor dear?
This phrase is most regularly deployed when discussing the antics of the more dangerous of the parish Ladies’ Aid Society queen bees. They can be difficult to spot. In the old days you could identify them by their pearls, midcalf length skirts, matching jackets, and Queen-like helmet curls (protecting a head chock full of rigidly Victorian sensibilities). In these egalitarian times this sort of scathing, high nosed charity has trickled down a bit from the disapproving aunt type and now can be seen across the grand spectrum of the Ladies’ Aid.
Historically I’ve been fairly good at fending off the Ladies’ Aid Society’s more grating members by a combination of good manners, outright avoidance, and sheer dumb luck, but my winning streak recently ran out. Our parish was combined with another and the adjustment hasn’t gone as smoothly as smiling faces and sweet words of welcome might imply. Our old parish was a decidedly younger demographic with a tendency to change, due to multiple universities in the area. Our new one is comprised entirely of families who have lived in the same area for multiple generations and elderly people. We are without question the interlopers.
I knew that there had been a wee bit of trouble integrating things and trying to reassign responsibilities more evenly, but J. and I have been out and about so much this summer that we rarely attend services at home anyway. Plus, until recently we assumed we’d both be skipping the country, so why get attached? God (or your personal divine/moral equivalent) has a tricksy sense of humor…
About a month after the integration, a pair of ladies from the parish decided to pay a call. I fell into a fit of frenzied cleaning, forced J. to do all the dishes, and hid anything resembling clutter in the back rooms. I was prepared for the worst.
When the doorbell rang (at 7pm on the dot) I answered with a smile. My two visitors looked harmless enough, one a 20-something wearing a headband with a large flower perched at a jaunty angle and an Anthropology dress, the other a 50-something in a flowy, Moroccan looking white outfit.
Promising, I thought to myself, not a bifocal or helmet curl in sight. We might have normality! Repeat, we might have normality!
“Nice to meet you,” Miss said pleasantly.
“And we’re so glad you didn’t go to any trouble cleaning up for us,” Madam joined, sailing into my flat with a gracious smile.
Headquarters, belay that last transmission.
“I hope we didn’t interrupt your dinner,” Madam continued.
“No, J. and I grabbed some dinner on the way home, it’s not a problem at all.”
“Oh, you don’t cook? How modern of you! Mind you keep an eye on your husband, then, or he’ll find someone who does!” she sounded a tinkling, pretty laugh.
Trying to hold my snorts in, I put on my best hostess face and asked them to sit down and we (or rather Madam) made small talk for a while.
“Oh are those your wedding pictures? I see your dress wasn’t white…well I’m sure you had your reasons.”
“You’re 25 and haven’t had children yet? I hope there’s nothing, you know, wrong with you. I’m sure everything will be fine when your time comes.”
“You grew up in Europe! Well, you don’t seem socialist, so that’s alright.”
When she asked me whether or not I played the piano I nearly burst out laughing.
Eventually the talk turned to the parish and a half hour or so later they left. Walking out the door Madam paused.
“I almost forgot! I made these to welcome you to our little congregation.”
From her bag she pulled, I kid you not, a bundle of perfectly wrapped muffins. Thankfully they made it out the door before I lost it completely. Muffins. Of judgment.