American Housewife

By: Helen Ellis


Inspired by Beyoncé, I stallion-walk to the toaster. I show my husband a burnt spot that looks like the island where we honeymooned, kiss him good-bye, and tell him what time to be home for our party.

I go to the grocery store and find that everyone else has gone to the grocery store and, as I maneuver my cart through Chips and Nuts traffic, I get grocery aisle rage. I see a lost child and assume it’s an angry ghost. Fearing cold and flu season, I fist-bump the credit card signature pad.

Back home, I get a sickening feeling and am relieved to find out it’s just my husband’s coat hung the wrong way in a closet. I break into a sweat when I find a Sharpie cap, but not the pen. I answer my phone and scream obscenities at an automated call. I worry the Butterball hotline ladies are lonely. I follow a cat on Twitter and click “view photo” when a caption reads: “#YUCK.” I regret clicking that photo. I weep because I am lucky enough to have a drawer just for glitter.

I shred cheese. I berate a pickle jar. I pump the salad spinner like a CPR dummy. I strangle defrosted spinach and soak things in brandy. I casserole. I pinwheel. I toothpick. I bacon. I iron a tablecloth and think about eating lint from the dryer, but then think better of that because I am sane. I rearrange furniture like a Neanderthal. I mayonnaise water rings. I level picture frames.

I take a break and drink Dr Pepper through a Twizzler. I watch ten minutes of my favorite movie on TV and lip-synch Molly Ringwald: “I loathe the bus.” I know every word. Sixteen Candles is my Star Wars.

I hop in the shower and assure myself that behind every good woman is a little back fat. I cry because I don’t have the upper-arm strength to flatiron my hair. I mascara my gray roots. I smoke my eyes. I paint my lips. I drown my sorrows with Chanel No. 5.

At the party, I kiss my husband hello. I loathe guests who sneeze into the crooks of their elbows. I can’t be convinced winter white is a thing. I study long-married couples and decide that wives are like bras: sometimes the most matronly are the most supportive.

I feign interest in skiing, golf, politics, religion, owl collections, shell collections, charity benefits, school fund-raisers, green juice, the return of eighties step classes, the return of nineties grunge, a resurgence of bridge clubs, and Ping-Pong mania.

I say, “My breath is the Pinot Grigio-est.”

I say, “I am perfectly happy not being a Kennedy.”

I say, “I’d watch a show called Ghost Hoarders. Why is that not a show?”

I say, “You can take your want of a chocolate fountain and go straight to hell.”

I see everyone out and face the cold hard truth that no one will ever load my dishwasher right. I scroll through iPhone photos and see that if I delete pictures of myself with a double chin, I will erase all proof of my glorious life. I fix myself a hot chocolate because it is a gateway drug to reading. I think I couldn’t love my husband more, and then he vacuums all the glitter.



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From: [email protected]

Cc: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: Thank you

Date: May 6, 2015 9:24 PM

Hi neighbor! Thank you for the welcome gift basket you left outside our apartment door. My husband and I don’t eat pineapples because my life coach has us on an all-protein diet, but we appreciate the gesture. We gave the pineapples to the super, who said he’d ask his wife to ask you for your recipe for pineapple-glazed ham. Apparently you make one every Easter that makes the elevator shaft smell like a barbeque. WOW!

I’ve returned your basket to our shared mail table, which I believe is an antique toilet. Might I take this opportunity to discuss remodeling our common hallway? Here’s an idea: wainscoting!

* * *

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Re: Thank you

Date: May 7, 2015 6:25 AM

Dear Ms. Chastain-Peters,

The former resident of your apartment, Mrs. Giles Everett Preston III, and I remodeled our common area two years ago. I am sure you recognize her name from her generous endowments to public television and the Feline Rescue Society. She was a woman of impeccable taste. She imported our vintage wallpaper from France and the art and antiques were from her Pennsylvania estate.

When she passed away on your kitchen floor, she willed me the contents of our hallway. Needless to say, I am sentimentally attached to these treasures, especially to my sewing machine table that you have mistaken for a commode.

Co-op rules dictate that residents of both apartments must contractually approve common area changes. In honor of my dear departed friend, I wish to keep the hallway in its current condition.


Gail Montgomery

* * *

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Re: Thank you

Date: May 7, 2015 11:12 PM

Hi Gail! Call me Angela! Let’s do away with the formalities and antiques that 100-year-old socialite widows like Mrs. Preston held so near and dear! Just because life-size oil paintings of Biblical slaughter are framed in gold doesn’t mean they’re in good taste. Our hallway looks like a room at the Met that makes schoolchildren cry.