In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Left? Or Right? | Main | The Mencius Vision »

April 22, 2007

Sexes and Plates

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm still unpacking boxes from our move to Seattle. The process is more tedious than demanding and I have time to think -- sometimes about what I notice while unpacking.

Today I'm thinking about dishes.

For instance, I find that I've created a stack of 16 dinner plates with winter decorations around the rims. The glazing is green and the subject is alternating reindeer and fir trees.

Sixteen plates. That take up a fair amount of cupboard space. That might be used three times a year at best.

Simple male that I am, I'm thinking: Why not just use regular plates and trick things up for the holidays using seasonal paper napkins and table decorations? But apparently my wife finds a special plate collection to be much more appropriate.

Another item.

My wife is a total pushover for floral decorations on clothing, vases, plates -- you name it. Consequently, nearly all the china I find myself unpacking (those seasonal plates excepted) have flowers all over them.

Me, I'm ignorant of and indifferent to flowers even though my mother was a gardner. Were I choosing plates, I'd get very simple decorations. Perhaps only a colored band along the rim or maybe a half-inch wide design or pattern near the rim.

Is this too a male-female thing or simply another instance of personal tastes?

I suspect sex is a factor. But I have no research grant to fund a study regarding this matter of vital importance. I don't even have a classroom full of college sophomores to survey.

I do, however, have a fine blog readership that Michael has cultivated over the past nearly five years. So if you think that, once again, I'm all wet, let the comments rip.



posted by Donald at April 22, 2007


The last time my wife bought any kitchen ware with no input from me, is was these horrible, modern knives, forks and spoons with no ornamentation on them at all. And I've never stopped bitching about them. But then I am partial to neckties with scenic pictures on them, so I'm probably not typical.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on April 22, 2007 4:02 PM

Here it goes, Donald:
Dinner plates: Villeroy Boch Cortina 2000 (click on the thumbnail for the enlarged view)
Salad/Butter: Noritake Laurel
Soup/serving: solid taupe-colored glazed china w/o attribution, with raised vaguely foliage pattern on the rim to resemble dinner plates.

As you see, no cabbage roses on my table. On the other hand, no stark sterility, either.

The game is keeping textures, colors and patterns complementing each other w/o being downright obnoxious to the user.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 22, 2007 5:01 PM

I just can't imagine that many men particularly care about dinnerware patterns. it's yet another example of the male/female cultural and behavioral divide.

Posted by: Peter on April 22, 2007 5:52 PM

Plain white is pretty good. I confess a fondness for the Willow Pattern that was everywhere when I was young. Neckties are an abomination, however decorated.

Posted by: dearieme on April 22, 2007 6:14 PM

My wife and I can agree on simple white plates and mugs from Ikea. And we can both agree that we would never, ever have plates with floral patterns on them.

She did buy a set of sixteen Andy-Warhol decorated plates on sale once for a dollar each. Every time we moved (four times) I would discover them in some box and ask why we were moving them again. "I bought those for when we move to the city," she'd say.

It took us nine years to get to the city, and at last they've been unpacked. So they get stacked in the cupboards willy-nilly with the white plates and we just grab whatever's on top.

We try to use them (and only them) when we have company. Last time this happened our guests got to the bottom of their lasagna and said, "Oh, it's soup cans! Why do you have soup cans on your plates?"

"It's meant to be ironic," I said.

And my wife said, "They were on sale."

Posted by: Nate on April 22, 2007 6:31 PM

The only thing I can think of is to begin collecting plates and glasses commemorating the holidays or events you find interesting -- Superman's escape from Krypton, the Salem Witch Trials, the Centennial of Powered Flight, etc -- and let them compete for space. Then offer to put specialty dinnerware shelves in your tool shed to house all but your everyday dishes. If your wife sees this for the obvious goading it is, I suppose you'll have to try something else.

Posted by: Fred Wickham on April 22, 2007 6:47 PM

It's no accident that all male cultures are barracks cultures. Men either don't think about the decorative at all, or prefer clean and lean. Relatedly, a man, obsessively pursuing one task, like a blood hound on the scent, is happy.

Women, on the other hand, are natural multitaskers, which somehow, don't ask me how, relates to the fact that they can, and often do, live with a thousand and one tchotshkas in a confined space, and aren't unhinged by the too muchness of it all, as any sane male would be -- in a trice.

Posted by: ricpic on April 22, 2007 6:48 PM

Welcome to (back?) Seattle by the way Mr. Pittenger. It is a wonderful town, I love it passionately. The answers to your questions are as follows (so this is what it is like to be a dictator...):

The extra plates for special occasions are classy and therefore, yes, necessary. 98% of straignt American males would be eating beans and franks out of tin cans if it weren't for their wives. The taste in foral patterns is probably a personal taste (of your wife's ) and not a bad one at that. But more importantly, I think you have a first class thesis on your hands here: how many men would choose floral pattern plates over lines or geometric patterns? How many women? Why? Nature? Nurture? The oppressive male patriarchy? The gene for floral pattern soon to be discovered? Stay tuned.

And again - warm welcome to the Sunbreak City!

Posted by: Doug Anderson on April 22, 2007 7:09 PM

In my salad days, my wife and I chose a formal Wedgwood china that had been used by Teddy Roosevelt, along with Tiffany Shell and Thread silver. Gender played no role. We both wanted an elegant table. The elegance inspired our dinner guests, and the conversations went deeper and truer than modern ones. There was even cordial debate. How often have you heard dinner table debate in modern times? I don't know why the service inspired the table talk, but it did. I yearn even now for the handsome tables that once graced America. But it has all decayed into informality.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on April 22, 2007 8:32 PM

I fall in the middle between institutional white and busy body fuss floral. I like elegant and rich but clean simple, a difficult balance in decoration.

Posted by: T.W on April 22, 2007 11:33 PM

I'm not one much for florals. I love white if the plates are of an unusual curavature. Square plates are out, as are triangular ones; too hard to lay out a table without using my old geometry textbooks.

My favorite plates are ones that will hold up and, on occasion, stir up conversation. The latter activity is especially sought after with the eating platage when a mixed set of friends not familiar to each other comes over. The awkeardmess fo small talk tends to be easily broken down when one is staring at plates with cartoonish figures on them. I'm not talking Bugs, Miuckey, or even Beatrix Potter. We have some old and lovely plates from Germany that have animals cavorting on the lips of the plates. Each plate is different; each with its own interpretive story. We don't use these plates often but we are surprised each time we do as the reaction is unabashedly childlike and open.

Posted by: DarkoV on April 23, 2007 8:24 AM

ricpic -- Interesting, your "barracks culture" thought. Hmm. I spent nearly three years in barracks.

Doug -- It's back to Seattle. I was raised here and spent most of the last 32 years in not-so-far Olympia. My wife and I went to the same high school, but she's lived in California for many years. After we go married we split time between there and here, but she finally bit the bullet and sold the Hollister house.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on April 23, 2007 11:19 AM

No florals, ever.

No dishes from a bridal registry, ever--not even when I was a bride (although we used the opportunity to load up on interesting barware.)

My plates are all different, chosen in sets of twos and fours as fancy/necessity struck, as are my glasses and mugs, although I'm partial to those Duralex glasses from France. Sturdy, pretty and fit nicely in my lady-sized hands. I gave up stemmed wine glasses ages ago.

I like to think I strike a nice balance between carelessness (those vile stoneware sets available at the big box stores) and fussiness (register? for dishes?)

I set a casual table, but it is no less elegant than that set with the fussy sets of bone china I grew up with. And far less tyrannical. Putting people at ease does wonders for stimulating dinner conversation. IMHO, the trick is not in selecting the right china, but in being careful about whom one gathers around one's table.

Posted by: communicatrix on April 23, 2007 11:40 AM

Plate? What's a ...? Oh, those things the food comes on? They come in different patterns?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 23, 2007 2:03 PM

I think the prideful Spartanism of many modern men was not found in men before 1960. I'm not sure why it's seen as a virtue now.

Posted by: the patriarch on April 23, 2007 5:29 PM

Patriarch- Because instead of being seen as a sign of proper breeding, having good taste marks the modern man as a homosexual (one of Steve Sailer's better articles addresses this unfortunate development). It's a timely subject here in New York, where now that it's turned warmer, grown men are again walking around in fratboy shorts and ballcaps.

Styrofoam, that's what a REAL man eats off of.

Posted by: James M. on April 23, 2007 7:56 PM

Kman is fond of big manly plates - heavy ironstone with a nice rim that keeps food from sliding off onto the sofa while he watches "24".

I don't think he's ever noticed color or patterns.


Viva la Fiesta Ware!

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on April 23, 2007 10:12 PM

I have Rosenthal Suomi in White and with blue stripes on the serving pieces (it's sort of a squared ball shape) and English Tipt flatware and Mikasa wine glasses that echo the Tipt for formal dining.

Everyday is Taiwanese ceramic restaurant ware in white and plain Oneida stainless in a sort of Colonial Pattern. I like the food to stand as the decoration. The only time I have trouble is at Thanksgiving; the plates are too small and there are way too many brown-toned victuals served.

Posted by: Virgil K. Saari on April 24, 2007 8:31 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?