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LAUGH LINES : You Said She Should Make Herself at Home


I can't wait for your holiday party. You may think I'm coming for the food (could you make those little spinach balls again?), but all I'm really interested in is beginning my annual snoop-a-thon.

I leave no stone unturned, so if you are spending hours with a toothbrush polishing tile grout, you might want to shift gears. Consider the underbelly of your couch, your medicine and bathroom cabinets.

Come on, don't act so surprised; inquiring minds want to know and dig to look for the real thing. You have no secrets.

It's because your stuff always looks better to us than our own does; it's the consumer equivalent of the Groucho Marx theory: "You never want to be in a club that will have you as a member." Likewise, another woman's mediocre grooming products are another woman's treasured loot.

I usually indulge in a hour or so of meaningless party chitchat ("Didn't Clinton look ridiculous in that batik shirt?") before I slip into the covert world of the nooks and crannies you never dreamed I'd be investigating.

Unbeknown to you, I've already checked out the fabric content of your throw pillows. (Really, you should have popped for silk.) I checked to see if your sofa was vinyl or leather (don't worry, your Naugahyde secrets are safe with me). I even peeked in the fridge after overdosing on Price Club taquitos. I ended up stashing the partially frozen one I sampled under your couch. It's smushed, resting alongside that empty Pez dispenser and your husband's dog-eared Playboy magazine.

Inside the bathroom, door locked, I usually start with innocent, seemingly helpful gestures. Such as retrieving an extra roll of paper from your cabinet. (Nevermind that the one on the spindle is new; I mean, hey, I'm just trying to help.) I might laugh at your old hair net, but this is only a warm-up.

Next stop, your medicine cabinet. I will usually count how many jars of Prozac you have, etc. If I'm feeling bold, I might steal a few of your birth control pills for my plants (did you know they make the best fertilizer?). I might peek inside the top bathroom drawer, particularly if I forgot that perfect shade of lipstick. (Don't worry about getting my germs; I travel with my own lip brush.)

If my indulgent spirit takes over, I will sneak a spritz of Chanel to combat any perspiration resulting from the requisite mingling. While I am at it, I may try that new Chanel powder you paid a fortune for that is way beyond my means.

If your party is really boring and you have more than one bathroom in your house, I might fish around for some nail polish. So when you're at the store stocking up on cashews, I'd appreciate it if you would pick up some of the vermilion Borghese tint I like so much. And some of that quick-dry spray; last time I came over you were out. Come to think of it, you were kind of low on cotton balls too.

Don't think for one minute that this is a sport with only one player. Nosiness is a national pastime. One friend of mine who has a Hitchcockian "Psycho" phobia cannot use the facilities without peeking behind the shower curtain first for any possible Norman Bates incarnations. By the way, you might want to wash your shower curtain to get that nasty mildew off, or at least use a little Tilex on it. And for those of you who hire baby-sitters, be advised: When I was 13 years old, I read "The Sensuous Woman" out of a seemingly private drawer.

Most adult snoops, however, impose some boundaries when it comes to domestic espionage. I would never brush my teeth with your brush, you may be relieved to know.

Likewise, I would never go into a person's dresser drawers or closet. Underwear drawers are verboten too, but apparently Woody Allen has other ideas. In "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex," Allen included a vignette about a male dinner guest who sneaks into the hostess's bedroom to slip into her clothing and unmentionables.

And you thought your underwear needed to be clean only in case of a car accident.

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