Image: Want Some Tupperware? / RageZ / Wikimedia Commons
If you’re like me, when someone mentions Tupperware parties, you imagine the quintessential 1950s housewife – a paragon of domestication in her white gloves, skirt and stockings – and squirm.
At least, that’s how I used to think, until I went to one and saw what it’s like firsthand. As they say, the results may surprise you.
Of all the things I could’ve been doing on Saturday night, attending a Tupperware party was probably a distant last on my list. My date for the evening? My mother. She’d convinced me to tag along after assuring me it’d be an educational experience. To sweeten the deal, she told me I could pick something from the catalogue that I liked. I was sold.
When we arrived at my sister-in-law’s place, we did the usual hug-and-kiss introductions before setting down the platters we’d prepared in advance. Looking around, my suspicions were confirmed: I was the only male specimen in attendance. All the other hunter-gatherers must’ve been engaged in stereotypically manlier activities, like watching the football (Go, Cats!) or waging Warcraft campaigns.
My company was a cross-section of women ranging from their early twenties to their late forties, including a trainee teacher, an animal nurse, a lunch server, and a few retail workers. Then there was the sales rep, a blonde twenty-something who nervously informed us that she’d only been in the Tupperware game six weeks. If nothing else, it was a varied grouping.
We chatted amongst ourselves, the atmosphere pleasant and social, until the rep made a throat-clearing noise and announced that it was time to kick things off. No one heard her, so she did it again, a little louder this time. At last, we piped down long enough to make a start. Aside from one slightly awkward instance when she welcomed all the “ladies” present before shooting me a quick glance and adding “and gentleman,” we were off and running.
Our first task for the evening involved scribbling our names on scraps of paper and dropping them in a hat – well, a plastic container (naturally), but close enough. Once our names were pulled, we got to select one of three prizes up for grabs. It was kind of like pass the parcel, but a little more competitive, since we could snatch each other’s prizes if we liked what we saw.
When it was my go, I selected the Tupper-husband, so-called because its purpose was unscrewing lids. “So I don’t have to grow up to be one,” I explained. That earned me a few laughs. Unfortunately for me, the next person whose name was drawn decided they wanted it for themselves, and I was forced to surrender my spoil of Tupper-war. But all wasn’t lost: by the end of the activity, I came away with a little cupcake keyring that opened up like the snitch from Harry Potter. Neat, no?
Next on the agenda, we had a mini bake-off, the rep showing us how to make pudding with just a few cheap ingredients, including:
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 ½ tbsp caster sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp milk
- $35 microwaveable ramekin set (of course)
When the microwave beeped, she whipped out the pudding, steaming gently. Collectively, we all inhaled deeply, high on the smell of chocolate. “You can tell whether or not it’s ready by touching this bit,” she explained, pointing at the bottom of the container. “If it’s hot, that means the insides are cooked.”
At that, my fellow assorted guests murmured in appreciation of what was clearly a technological marvel, changing the face of cookery forever. “Holy shit,” I muttered. My mum shot me a don’t you start look.
A few minutes into one of the tutorials, I was struck by the sudden realisation that it was a Saturday night and I was sitting in someone’s kitchen, watching a Tupperware sales rep demonstrate in great detail how to operate plastic cooking ware. I crammed half a dozen celery sticks into my face to occupy myself.
Once it was a wrap on the activities – and we’d had our fill of chocolate pudding – the rep passed out forms in the event we decided to purchase one of the items in the catalogue. It was explained that if everyone chipped in and bought something – or several somethings – the host of the party (that’d be my sister-in-law) earned a discount and some freebies. Her haul depended on the number of sales accrued between us, so the more we shelled out, the better.
That was when I realised that situations like these relied on peer pressure to squeeze sales out of unwitting guests. No one actually wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on plastic homeware, but more often than not, they caved and did it anyway. It was diabolical.
While all of that went ahead, the conversation took a different turn. I’m not sure how it got brought up, but suddenly everyone was talking about their cycles, and sharing tips and tricks for managing their one week out of the month.
If being at a Tupperware party where the guests are talking about their menstrual cycles and sipping Moscato sounds like something out of a dude-bro’s nightmare, well, that’s because it probably is.
Towards the end of the night, though, I thought of what I knew about Tupperware parties – how in the 50s, when housewives generally couldn’t work, these get-togethers must have let them socialise with their neighbours and girlfriends, and even scrape together a bit of coin on the side.
Passive-aggressive marketing strategies aside, I’d seen the value of Tupperware parties, and the camaraderie these sorts of events cultivated, albeit from the perspective of an outsider. And it was beautiful.
Also, I bought a plastic pasta cooker.