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Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Curious Case of Container Space

Why is it that most men, who theoretically have better spatial reasoning than women, seem to have difficulty choosing an appropriately sized container to hold dinner remnants?  My evidence is anecdotal, the pool of specimens I have observed being a delightful, admittedly narrow swathe of men with whom I have had the good pleasure of being acquainted.  Even so, small data set or not, I have seen the same progression of events at the close of a shared meal with invariable regularity.

Last year my husband and I had the privilege of living amongst a group of very close friends, all of us living in the pedestrian-friendly, university town of Fort Collins, CO.  We often referred to these folks as "the family."  I lost count of the number of people that had the key to our dilapidated, newly-wed chic, one-bedroom apartment. Dinner was a group effort most nights.  Gabe would bring over vegetables he was trying to use up, Kevin would saunter in around dinner time wondering loudly where everyone had gotten to, and my husband, by far the best cook of all of us, would produce something delicious and filling for whoever came by for dinner.  Everyone pitched in to help and I cherished those evenings watching my good friends feel so comfortable in my home that they felt free to rummage in the cupboards and help themselves to cups or drinks or anything in the fridge. 

As everyone finished and I stood to make the first move to gather up empty plates and cups and scrunched up napkins, sometimes someone would offer to help put away the leftovers.  If the friend was male, I would pay close attention, watching him stretched up tall on tip toes, peering up into the high shelves of the cupboard where all the various containers and lids were stored in teetering stacks.  I would fill the sink with warm, soapy water to start the dishes and when I had looked up after a few plates and utensils, I would inevitably see this eager helper spooning the few leftover cups of rice or sauce into a colossal, soup-tureen sized plastic vessel. 

I recall a friend telling me about her boyfriend's mother, who derived great satisfaction in finding a tub of appropriate size.  She apparently had a whole array of containers of varying progressive sizes, like plain, utilitarian Matryoshka dolls.  With a smile, my friend made a little square with her index fingers and thumbs, "Even if something was down to two bites, she'd pop it into a tiny, specially-sized container!" 

Later, staring into my jammed-full refrigerator, holding barely enough food for my husband and me to split for a scant lunch the next day, I would puzzle over this curious male tendency to misappropriate container space.  Believe me, I was still grateful for the help.

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