Not A Good Scented Candle

More Tales from the Accidental Asshole: The Egg Lady

I don’t usually go to Halloween parties. I don’t like to dress up in a costume, and this is the part where you get to snark, “Is that because you’re usually wearing some kind of crazy outfit anyway?” to which I will say, “Yes.”

But I’m not a hater, and I don’t think it’s stupid or childish, and I like other grown-ass people having fun on Halloween. All the sexy turtles and literal interpretations of catchphrases. It’s like watching Facebook memes come to life. It’s delightful.

But that’s once a year, and that’s how it should be. (I am not a crack pot.) This is why I’m not excited when you Evite me to your Themed Birthday Party.

I don’t want to dress like we’re flappers or ninjas. I don’t want to “Come as [my] favorite book.” Your black-and-white parties make me feel like we’re having a fake wedding. When your party requires me to make a costume change to prepare for the “game portion,” again I must ask, “What time does the balloon animal guy show up? Oh, he’s right there? Okay. Nevermind. PS: you’re a grown-up. Just reminding you. And tell him to make me a bunny rabbit.”

I come to your party to celebrate you. I don’t need you to hide behind all the bells and whistles.

All of this is to say: sometime last year I had to go to a themed birthday party that was filled with musical theatre people. The theme doesn’t really matter for this story. The point is: this is where I learned nobody gets into a themed birthday party like musical theatre people.

There was joy and song and puns and jazz hands. And they were all young and happily stacked in an apartment as only the young theatre set can. I sat in the corner with my fellow old-grumps who were all on the other side of ten-plus years of Hollywood rejection, watching these young, hopeful faces sip from their red plastic cups and chat about getting new headshots. We remembered those times when we’d head from our improv show to someone’s theatre party, loudly rehashing our favorite moments from that night’s game of “Party Quirks.” [“Your human dildo was the funniest human dildo I’ve seen in a long time, Cody.”]

Let me tell you that for years, years, I was happily planted in the center of that part of the party. I loved standing in the loud group, drinking my yelling-juice, arguing about actors on Saturday Night Live. I was the person who you probably had to shove aside to get to the Doritos. I was definitely the girl breaking out into a Bonnie Tyler song for no real reason other than people laughed when I fell to my knees in passion.

It turns out after being that girl for more than a decade… you get tired. Instead of entering a party searching for the group with the kind of action you normally find at a craps table, you look for an empty chair, preferably a comfy one. You walk into the room and think, “I only have to do this for one hour and five minutes.”

The small group of similar elders I sat with chatted about the things old actors chat about, like how our knees hurt, and if they want to go through the bullshit of this year’s pilot season [“I mean, have you read what’s out there?”], and why is this wine I’m drinking from a box. We sat on folded chairs and watched the happy musical theatre people pack themselves around the table of (themed) party foods.

It got quiet for a little while in my small group, which is when I noticed there was an odd smell. Like one of our old people had eaten something that disagreed with him or her. Perhaps that’s why we all fell silent, each one wondering which one of us had sprung a leak.

Then someone started a new line of conversation. “Oh, I smelled the worst thing the other day…”

Everyone joined in and commiserated with recent bad smells. This got us to the segue we needed. The next time someone passed us by, we were all like, “Yo, that person keeps coming by and farting on us, right?”

Happy to have a scapegoat, we engaged in stranger-judging, an important part of being in the corner of the party. We were entering a third round of teasing when I realized it wasn’t any of us being stinky, it wasn’t that poor girl we’d named Fartin’ Fanny.

It was the deviled eggs.

Not A Good Scented CandleThey were in the middle of the food table, about thirty of them, right where any passersby could whip up their scent and send it soaring through the tightly packed room. As soon as I identified it, we all knew it was true. The heavy sulfur tang in the room wasn’t from someone’s butt. It was from the eggs. All the musical theatre people had their very best acting faces on, eyes widened and teary, trying to pretend they weren’t ignoring whichever one of their friends had a case of the toots.

“I’m going to put them in the kitchen,” I said, happy to play the hero.

“But we aren’t supposed to go in the kitchen,” one of my friends reminded me.

“This is an emergency.”

We weren’t supposed to go in the kitchen because this themed birthday party had a lot of themed birthday party foods and drinks and frivolity going on, and all of it came out of the kitchen, where one busy woman in a retro fifties dress was doing her very best to serve a very large party. I’m going to have to go ahead and call her the Egg Lady, because that’s what I call her in my head, even though I know her real name. This night was that traumatic.

I entered the kitchen holding the serving tray of eggs.

“Is something wrong with the eggs?” she asked, eyes wide, terrified.

I immediately knew I had done the wrong thing. “No, not. Not no, not really,” I stammered. “There’s… you know, it’s smelling like eggs out there in the room because it’s kind of packed and hot with the heater on over the eggs and all so I just thought I’d rescue them and put them right here so the room can air out.”

I believe I said all of that while putting the eggs on the counter and backing out of the kitchen.

The Egg Lady took the tray and stared at it. “I guess I’ll put them in the refrigerator,” she said, sounding absolutely heartbroken. “If these eggs do offend.”

I turned around and walked the seven steps back to my group of cranky actor friends. “I think I have to leave now,” I admitted. “I’m pretty sure I fucked up.”

“Why? It already smells so much better now.”

“I think I offended her.”

“She’s not made of eggs.”

“She’s… not happy.”

This is when I saw the birthday girl emerge from the kitchen holding the tray of eggs. She marched over to the table and set them right back in their place of honor. Not the Egg Lady, you guys. The Birthday Girl.

“Oh, no,” I said. “I really should go.”

“Because of what you did with the eggs?” asked a friend who was nowhere near me during any of the previous story.

“Yes! How did you know that?”

“It’s kind of a thing now.”

I found the birthday girl to apologize for anything that I might have done. “Is she like, mad?”

“She’s… she’s upset. I put them back out there so she would calm down. I don’t know why you had to touch anything. You don’t live here. It’s not your job. She’s made a lot of eggs and you can’t just go putting them in refrigerators or on counters like you know best.”

“Should I go… apologize?”

“It’s probably best if you stay away from her.”

For the next hour I sat in my shame seat as all my old-actor friends stretched and yawned and headed off to their early bedtimes. All I could do was worry. During the “Happy Birthday” song, the Egg Lady sang her words staring right at me with such frozen sorrow, the word “happy” sounding ironic and bitter every time it came out of her mouth.

“This is ridiculous,” I said to nobody, because I was alone with the rest of the box wine. “I was helping. I was helping the party be less farty!”

When I did find a friend, she wasn’t very helpful. “Do deviled eggs smell?” she asked. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yes! That’s why we go through this every Easter.”

“Maybe that’s it,” she said. “She’s Jewish. She probably doesn’t know eggs smell like sulfur.”

“I really don’t think I should tell her that this might all be happening because she’s Jewish.”

The party had crested and was well past one in the morning when I decided to brave the kitchen once again. I found the Egg Lady pulling another set of pigs in blankets out of the oven. I handed her an oven mitt and a serving plate.

“Thank you,” she said. Curtly.

“Hey, uh,” I started. “I just wanted to say sorry about the eggs earlier. I didn’t mean to offend you. I know you worked really hard on this party and all the food and everybody was talking about how great everything is. It wasn’t against you or the food. I mean, if anything it’s the egg’s fault for having that smell, you know?” I knew I was very close to mentioning her religion as a possible culprit, so I made myself shut up.

She tilted her head. Closed her eyes. Exhaled.

Here was the part where she’d melt, relax, and give a small chuckle. Where she’d shake her head and apologize right back for being so stressed out and for taking it out on me. Where we’d talk about how hard parties are to throw and how ungrateful everybody always is and aren’t deviled eggs just stupid, anyway? They are horrible for you and you always end up eating five or six, which you’d never do at breakfast.

But she didn’t do any of those things. Instead, she turned to me, gave this wide, weird smile and said, “I accept your apology.”


Then she added, “I was really offended at what you did, so I think it’s good that you apologized.”

I zombie-stammered out of that kitchen with my mind blown. You guys, you can apologize to someone and they can just take it, like your dead-beat ass just paid off an old loan with interest. Like I’d been pardoned. Excused!

This bothered me for a long time. Not just days. Weeks. I’d think about it and get all tied up again in knots of frustration. I didn’t mean to offend! I was trying to help! I was trying to help and ended up apologizing, and then got chastised! I’d tripped into offending the hostess when at no point was I doing something offensive. The eggs were offensive!

My outrage, however, made me a raging dick about this. I was offended that I had to apologize for accidentally offending someone who — if she had been stuck in the room filled with poot clouds — would have been thankful that someone literally cleared the air.

It was an important lesson in my life. More important than “Don’t serve deviled eggs in a crowded room of animated people.” One I will take with me forever.

Never apologize just because you’re looking for one back.

I don’t blame the Egg Lady for this uncomfortable moment in my life that will haunt me forever. Not anymore. I now blame the themed birthday party. Because it’s a bunch of stressed-out bullshit. If you are over the age of… I’m just going to go ahead and say twelve, because these themed Sweet Sixteens appear to be the cause of everything wrong with girls, then you can have a party where people bring presents and we eat cake, but you don’t get to dictate what people wear. You are not a princess. You are the birthday girl. There’s an enormous difference. If I’m buying you a present, please don’t make me also have to buy a costume. Why am I your servant of fun?

And that’s what was happening to the Egg Lady. She was trapped in the kitchen, a servant of fun, handing out tray after plate of “Quiche-a Knight-Pulliams” and “Chocolate Chip Punky BrewSTARS.” I’d have gone bonkers after twelve straight hours of that, too. I might have cut a bitch for giving me shit about some motherfucking eggs. So I don’t blame her, nor her theme-appropriate Donna Reed outfit, nor the way she went all Stepford Wife on me. Even though I’m still involuntarily holding my breath, waiting for the reciprocal apology. This is how people make up! With two people apologizing, one after the other! When will it happen? WHY WON’T IT EVER HAPPEN?! I CAN’T BREATHE!!

Before you have a themed birthday party, please think about the collateral damage you’re going to cause. You will destroy first dates. You will stress already tense friendships. You will make that one person who’s barely hanging onto a social life decide to just stay home forever. It’s enough that we’re willing to celebrate you at all. Please, please. Think of the Egg Lady, and how she totally shot me down like I was some kind of asshole and how I will never really be okay with that.

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  1. meadowgirl

    o.m.g. i’ve been this asshole. i feel so much better about the time i hula hooped into a cake. :)

    1. Pamie

      I would really like video of that offense, please.

  2. Ken Shipley

    Jeezly crow!

    (because I’m reluctant to type, “Holy fuck!”)

    Did Marc Maron write this?

    The rage was well-earned and pure and fresh-smelling and entirely delicious.

    1. Pamie

      Thanks, Ken. Flattered to be put in such illustrious rant company.

  3. Carrie Ann

    Oh man, you’ve hit on one of my pet peeves. Look, you were definitely not the asshole in this situation. You were trying to make guests more comfortable, which is the job of a host. Since the host wasn’t doing her job, you stepped in and unintentionally offended a couple of silly-sounding people.

    Can I make a little PSA? I plan events for a living and people should know: eggs, strong cheeses, and seafood can make your cute little party SMELL. Like sweaty socks, or farts, or rot. If you’re in a small and/or crowded space, you want to rethink serving those things – unless part of your theme is decay? Zombie party maybe?

    PSA the second: If you’re going to host a themed party, YOU should do all the work and your guests should not be required to do any. Costumes/theme wear need to be optional, and you shouldn’t be such a slave to the theme that you’re serving food/drinks that no one will like (or worse, making people bring something they don’t like). Is this a party, or just an excuse to make your friends put on a show for your entertainment?

    1. Dani

      I’m going to second this. Times ONE MILLION.

      I know I shouldn’t say stuff about people’s friends because then I become the asshole. “Marcy’s not LIKE that, you guys! You are totally misunderstanding it! Her feelings were super-valid!!!!”

      But what really bugs me about the story is the part where the birthday girl is like “I don’t know why you had to do that horrible thing. You stepped out of line there. Now the party planner is destroying my soul with her eyes.”

      I don’t blame her, because that party lady sounds insane, all the way up to the hilt of insanity. But like… even if what you had done was an actual party foul, it’s not cool to shame you about it.

      Like, if you had shit-talked the eggs to a stranger and it had turned out that the stranger was the egg lady, and she ran off crying, the hostess’ job is to smooth things over with both people. Not to buckle under the sheer horribleness of the psycho egg lady and blame you for what a dick the egg lady was being to the birthday girl.

      In fact, the best thing to do, as the hostess, is to be like “Egg Lady! Rein it in!” when she is a dick to you. Or, you know, write it off and then badmouth her on Yelp ;)

      I mean, I have total sympathy for the Egg Lady and the birthday girl and the people smelling the farts here. Everybody is just trying to get along in the charged party world and navigate their own egg-related insecurities. But damn, taking it out on other people – at a party! – is not cool.

  4. Jon

    Pam, you were completely in the right on this. What’s more important to a party host: the comfort of the guests or some crappy eggs? And on a side note, I frankly hate deviled eggs, so if you were to have — accidentally, wink-wink — dumped them in the trash, you would have been my hero.

  5. Katie

    Oh, my goodness, this sounds like a scene from a movie or sitcom. Wow. It’s not like you said the eggs tasted bad. They’re eggs. Eggs smell. That woman needs to get over herself.

  6. the one fan in Athens

    Ugh. Nothing ruder than pointing out someone else’s rudeness. Which you weren’t even rude. And if someone apologizes to you, you accept it and do whatever to make the person feel better. Unless they are evil and personally wronged you, then maybe there is some leeway. Birthday girl and Egg lady needed to get a grip.

  7. Helen Jane

    This thoroughly skewered all that which I find wonderful in a party (DRESS UP GAMES! DEVILED EGGS! STANK ASS CHEESES!) and yet, I neither felt bad about myself nor felt the need to defend myself on this, your internet web log.

    Pamela, is this what maturity is all about?

    1. Pamie

      And we would have had such a pretty flame war.

  8. Paul Tabachneck

    I have a lot of trouble at parties, small concerts, and basically everywhere, staying on the partygoer/listener/customer side of the experience (I’d much rather bartend a party than have to talk to anyone for more than 90 seconds), so this situation is crazy familiar to me. 9 times out of 10, people understand and appreciate the help, but the tenth is hard to let roll off the back.

  9. attica

    When I was in college and a few years after, I was the Party Hoster. All the big shindigs in my circle happened at my place. I like to think my parties were low-stress for the guests — I certainly didn’t do more than tap the keg, put out the chips and mix up some dip and rum punch. Okay, so I made some mix tapes so nobody had to dj.

    But there was a distinct moment when I was just over it. I didn’t want to play host any more. I wanted to show up, be festive, and leave on my own schedule. So I totally get your point about getting tired, having myself lived it.

    And the Egg Lady who was so ensconced in the kitchen that she had no way to know about the Egg Fail? Bad hostess. I’m sure she meant well, but she abrogated the fundamental task of contributing to the salubrity of her guests. It was nice that you were apologizing to smooth the waters, but (as you understood and she did not), you owed no apology for picking up her slack.

  10. Al Lowe

    I have so many thoughts about this. I am seriously wrestling with it and I cannot believe you didn’t tell me this story, already… though now I realize you were afraid I was going to say what I am about to say: You and the Egg Lady were both wrong. But, you were only wrong ONCE, and she was wrong TWICE.

    And you weren’t even wrong — stinky eggs at a crowded party with the heat on? That’s wrong. And, for the love of God, deviled eggs at a PARTY? That’s something that belongs on a holiday meal table and NOWHERE else. Maybe at a tailgate, if you live in Mississippi, but only in the open air. If you’re so desperate to be 50s, stick a toothpick in a meatball and call it a day.

    Plus, you were trying to salvage something out of the goodness of your heart. The thing to do would have been to fake an illness and leave, since the party was already lame and required adherence to a theme and you were sort of a hero for going at all. Where the Egg Lady and the birthday girl failed was in 1) reacting with anything less than grace at your egg intervention. And, 2) then going cold on the apology? That is the worst and she was megarude. Rise above, Egg Lady, coo coo ca-damn-choo.

    1. Paul Tabachneck

      Word. I hope Egg Lady reads this and calls you to apologize.

      1. Pamie


        1. Paul Tabachneck


        2. Egg Lady

          TOO LATE!

          1. Paul Tabachneck


  11. soobs

    As someone who is cursed with a good sense of smell, I applaud your actions.

  12. Heather

    “You will make that one person who’s barely hanging onto a social life decide to just stay home forever.”

    So much truth. This would be my reaction.

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. I think you handled it the only way you could when backed into an unforunate situation.

    Next time, I’m with Al — make up an excuse and go home.

    I am super guilty of doing drivebys at parties and making the excuse that I’m “double-booked for the evening but just wanted to drop by” (usually armed with a bottle of wine as my exit fee ;).

    P.S. Points to attica. I had to look up salubrity.

  13. dgm

    Hand to god, there have been many times I’ve wanted to serve deviled eggs at a party and then decided not to PRECISELY because deviled eggs smell farty. And I’m not even a catering professional! Who doesn’t know deviled eggs will smell farty in an enclosed space? And then people eat them and breathe farty smell on each other. Ew.

    I once made a delicious Mediterranean rub for a roast I was serving at a dinner party, and when I passed some guests after taking the meat out of the oven, at least three people sniffed and said, effectively, “Whoa! Someone’s got some serious b.o.!” Never again.

    All of which is to say I think you were in the right by removing the eggs. I think the Egg Lady and Birthday Girl would have felt worse if they later heard that everyone was talking and laughing bout how smelly the eggs were.

  14. Jessi

    Hello, I’m not sure I should leave this comment because I know that people usually only leave comments when they agree with the person and want to root for him or her or when they want to say nasty things. I have neither intention. I’ve read your blog for years and have so appreciated your and your friends’ sharing your lives with me because I find them very entertaining and real. Not everyone is so open and persona-less on the Internet. (I even sent you a book of poetry you said you liked autographed by the author!)
    Maybe I can offer a different point of view. For many years, during the summers I worked as a waitress in different restaurants (ages 14-19. Yes, 14 and 15, I worked illegally, but had my parents’ permission). Whenever I had to return food to the kitchen, the cooks always took it very personally. I know you didn’t return the eggs to the kitchen because you had a problem with their taste. However, I bet the first thought that popped into her head was, “I have spent all this time planning, shopping, preparing and cooking and now someone, a party guest, dislikes my food so much, she is returning it to the kitchen.” From what you have written, I know what your intention was, but I believe if I were in her shoes, I would have thought that this guest was ungrateful, and possibly speaking for many other guests, who were also ungrateful.
    The hostess should not have corrected you, though, nor made you feel uncomfortable. (That is the height of rudeness as a host/ess.) If the egg lady was the hostess, then shame on her for doing so. If, however, she was a friend of the birthday girl, I understand why she would have wanted an apology. And I understand why she would simply accept the apology.
    I still think you sound like a wonderful person though.

    1. Dani

      LOL. It’s true… people in the food world tend to take their creations Very Seriously and kind of freak out if people don’t like them. But it’s business! I guess I don’t know for sure that Egg Lady was doing this professionally, but it sounded like it – and I know that cooks are. Even if people DON’T always rein it in and remember that food returns aren’t a personal attack… they are supposed to. Because… food returns are not a personal attack.

      1. Pamie

        Not business — just a stressed out friend of the birthday girl.

  15. Judi

    “drinking my yelling-juice”

    BRILLIANT. I will probably think of you every time I drink now.

    My apologies, but this blog seriously made me want a theme party. And Donna Reed! “Oh my god, I just noticed the pearls!”

    I loved this, and how open you are about your anxiety about the whole thing. FWIW, I’m on your side! Who wants to be at a party that smells like farts?

  16. Irene

    “If these eggs do offend” are the words of a crazy person. On the other hand, don’t apologize expecting an apology in return? Wisdomy.

  17. Gwen

    Pamie, I’m sorry. You were right, I was stressed out and taking it out on you. I didn’t mean it, and let’s face facts: these eggs are called deviled for a reason.

    There. Breathe.

    (Not the egg lady, but I know you can pretend.)

  18. Space Kitty

    Catching up on old archives and wanted to say how much I’m enjoying it!

    The thing about Egg Lady that kills me is that “I accept your apology” is the nuclear option of apology responses. It’s what you say when “take your apology, set it on fire, and shove it up your ass” isn’t an option.

    For her to bust that out over removing stanky eggs from the room is just beyond.

    Can I also just say how I love that your writing is so hilarious and relate-able that I’m still outraged on your behalf over a party foul last February?