No Spice Allowed

I don’t plan to get sympathy here.  I do reflect on how something that happened almost 50 years ago made me check my own self-opinion.  I always thought that I was “good” at parties insofar as I always would bring wine or beer and drink only water.  I liked to be on the periphery and typically would start talking to the people who looked lonely/isolated/as wallflowery as me.

My husband was a graduate student at the time and I was a very young recent graduate.  He was invited to a party and took me.   They decided to make the party a permanent weekend feature and the next week I went with him.  There was a large sign affixed to the front door that read


The sign was meant for me; I had been the solitary “spouse/spice” at the previous party.   The party was simply a beer/wine/cheese/schmooze affair.  Nobody was speaking about great thoughts or theories.   That’s when I learned that all of the liberal left-wing professoriate professing to treat everyone equally have the potential for casual cruelty and crassness.  

While I can say that my contempt for them (having seen the sign) was at least as strong as their contempt for me, I would never knowingly exclude anyone in such a way.  I’ve never posted signs against any class of people.

I carry NO SPICE ALLOWED with me almost 5 decades later.  It’s not because I feel unwanted and superfluous.  It’s because I never want to be that person who thinks it’s a great pun and great fun to post signs excluding people.  For me it was a misogynistic classist signal that was in the direct line from “No Irish need apply.”  It privileged people who were mostly male and white graduate students.   It privileged female graduate students by implicitly contrasting them with the “spice”.  

I saw people laughingly read the sign and enter the party and my husband drove me home.



Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

One thought on “No Spice Allowed”

  1. You may not plan to get sympathy here but you certainly get my empathy: that cruel exclusive attitude is not only directed at woman but at anyone who is seen as or feels they are different or other. Having only recently recognised I’m on the autistic spectrum (‘neurodiverse’ is how many on the spectrum describe themselves) I’ve also recognised that ‘party animal’ persona as being an attribute of many ‘neurotypicals’. I too seek out like-minded quiet individuals, and a noisy party atmosphere is just so inimical to this approach.

    Having said which there are many neuro diverse individuals who like the loosening of inhibitions brought on by drink and noise and hysteria, but it sounds like you don’t and that’s fine. But it doesn’t necessarily heal the hurt caused by that cruel sign posting, and in an academic milieu of all places.


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