Feb. 2 2015 05:27 PM

And the dangers of knock-off versions


My husband’s long-articulated worst nightmare became real last week when he bit down on a piece of smothered chicken he’d made the night before and thought he’d been stuck through the tongue with a bone. But it was no bone. It was a 2-inch-long vertical shard of glass that pierced the roof of his mouth and his tongue. I tried to get him to put a little hipster chain in there with a wallet charm on it, but it was too soon.

You’re probably cringing right now because eating! glass! But that’s cherry blossoms and butterflies compared with the vivid description of an episiotomy that my friend, who’s in nursing school, shared with my family over dinner the other night. (No HIPAA provision was violated in the making of this column; my friend witnessed the deed in a training video.) Ruby was thoroughly disgusted and never wants to have babies. So, yup. I win parenting.

It took a bit of investigating to determine the source of said glass shard and the culprit was Tupperware. Or, rather, six degrees of Tupperware. It was actually a glass airtight container bought in a moment of exasperation over our Tupperware (more on that in a sec). 

In a remarkable coincidence, the NPR radio show Marketplace featured a story about Earl Tupper, the man who invented the container that’s now famous around the world, the very same week my husband nearly severed his tongue from his body. Of note: Tupper couldn’t figure out how to make people think his product was useful, but a woman with an eighth-grade education named Brownie Wise could. She’s not only credited for the Tupperware pandemic, but also for creating and popularizing the Tupperware Party (and, by extension, the Pampered Chef Party and probably the more risqué Passion Party, too). According to journalist Gigi Douban, Wise gained wide acclaim with her marketing savvy, and “people knew her by her first name the same way people know Beyoncé.” Naturally, Tupper got jelly, fired her, sold the business for $16 million and gave the brains behind his success a parting gift of $35,000. I hope she told E-Tup to go munch on some glass.

While eating glass is disconcerting, it’s not my worst nightmare. It doesn’t even rank among my top three worst nightmares, which are, in descending order: being eaten by a shark, simultaneously tumbling from stilettos and a New York high rise and being shoved from a train platform into an oncoming—you know, I just can’t finish the sentence. Bad juju. All I’ll say is I knew Zoe Barnes’ fate from the moment she made her way down the escalator to meet Frank Underwood

I’ll also say this: For godsake, stand behind the yellow line! Who are you people who saunter and pace and meander without a care along the yellow tactile paving? 

What is on my Top Ten Worst Nightmares list is the overwhelming fear of haphazardly stored and mismatched Tupperware—which is to say my nightmare is a reality. Just going to the drawer to get a container for leftovers requires emotional preparation not unlike an arachnophobe clearing away the carcass of a cellar spider. 

All the various lids stacked precariously, some upright, some pancaked on top of others—but not evenly because they don’t stack evenly. God forbid there be a recycled yogurt container or several mixed in because while these things stack neatly, they do not match. I just—I can’t even. And oh, the exasperation I feel when packing a lunch and there’s nary a lid among the many lids for my salad dressing. When faced with such a situation, I always attempt Saran Wrap (its own nightmare) and a rubber band, hoping the thing doesn’t tip over in my lunch bag and always pissed when it does. Tupperware-party-havers: Just shove me off a subway platform, already. 

And then, who doesn’t microwave their Tupperware? Even though you’re not supposed to, nobody wants to dirty another dish. So now that old, mismatched Tupperware has been nuked, and, one day, as you’re putting away what’s left of your carcinogen-leaking, incomplete set, the drawer won’t close because you haven’t properly Tetrised those airtight Tupperware containers. In a huff, you throw everything away—sure, it’s going to a landfill, but it’s the last time you’ll contribute to this particular human footprint because you are going to purchase all glass Tupperware containers! Your family will rejoice, you are certain.

This genius solution requires a trip to the second most vile store on the planet, Bloodbath and Beyond, where you try not to see, in the floor-model bathroom magnifying mirror—among the local craft beer, loofah sponges, inspirational college posters, beach towels, Essie nail polish and floor-to-ceiling displays of Corksicles—that you are turning into Andy Rooney, may he rest in bushy-eyebrowed peace. Good thing Bloodbath stocks Tweezerman products.

So. The glass, airtight Tupperware containers that I bought in a moment of environmental altruism? They might microwave for decades but they don’t stack any better than their plastic counterparts. In fact, they require an engineering degree in order to properly arrange them. And they break. Loudly if you drop them on a tile floor, but very quietly if you stack them in a drawer after washing them—so quietly that a man might not notice when a glass sliver has chipped off of one container and come to rest in the dish nested below it until his mouth is its own bloodbath.

As I finished typing this, I received a call from my husband, who was purchasing a traditional Tupperware set at Costco. And I may just buy him a barbell tongue ring to celebrate. 

Email Aaryn Belfer. Aaryn blogs at aarynbelfer.com and you can follow her on Twitter @aarynb.