Saturday, 3 May 2014

The butter dish test

Theresa (my cleaner) and I were having a chat over an afternoon cuppa, as you do, and the subject of 'What men do, and women don't' came up naturally.

Neither of us, I hasten to say, are feminists. We do stick up for ourselves as women, certainly as individual human beings, and we want to be heard and respected. But that's done out of a sense of fair play for all. Otherwise we have no axe to grind. Shouting provocative dogma from platforms, and insulting men on principle at all times, is not on our agenda. Basically, we share the view that men are OK - sometimes a lot, lot more than just OK - but in any event their existence is a jolly good reason for getting some make-up on, for buying nice clothes and shoes, and generally looking fantastic. But men are not gods; and any man who thinks he is one needs to be put in his place. Firmly.

And we observe. And we can't help noticing certain things. Things that sometimes seem a little odd or OCD when you think about them. Things that some men do, which are maybe typically male. And we make comparisons with how women tend to do it. All done, you understand, in the spirit of intelligent scientific enquiry - or at least as amused celebrants of difference and diversity!

Well, Theresa was mentioning how a male family member close to her deals with butter in a dish or plastic carton.

He skims a layer off the top of the slab of butter, very neatly; and then perhaps another just the same. The butter thus taken may curl up into a sort of picturesque yellow roll on the knife. Then he slowly and carefully spreads it out in a rational sort of way over the toast or French bread, or whatever. Like a craftsman would. Then - get this - he goes back to the butter dish or carton and smooths off the surface of the butter - should one say sculpts it? - with his knife, so that once this performance is over, the butter looks pristine again. As if it had melted and reformed, simply settling down at a new, lower level.

Theresa herself attacked the butter quite differently. She was generally pushed for time, and if she had a few slices of bread to spread for everyone's sandwiches, wouldn't even think of finesse, only efficiency. She'd plunge her knife in, gouge out some butter, and whizz it onto the slice in a series of rapid knife-movements. And most definitely she wouldn't bother smoothing-out the butter left in the dish or carton. It would therefore go back into the fridge looking as if it had been hit by meteorites.

At this point, I wondered what my own Lurpak Spreadable butter carton looked like. How had I left it when last used? If I showed Theresa, would we see an ice rink (smooth and male), or an Arctic pack-ice collision (jagged and pitted and female)? The challenge was on the table. I rose to it. Out came the butter carton from the fridge. I opened it, and this is what we saw:

QED, I think.

Now for God's sake, don't change your personal habits here. It's your butter, your life. There is no rule that says you must massacre your butter to qualify as a woman. Any more than you must make your handwriting all rounded and girly. Or cock your wrists. Or tie your scarf just so. Or...


  1. Oh thank goodness for that! I sometimes do it both ways!

    Shirley Anne x

  2. Sue and I are in perfect harmony, as befits a couple of women at peace with each other. We always scrape the butter from the top. But do we smooth it out afterwards? No way!


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