In the kitchen of Amy Maclin, everything is garnish. Sleeves of oranges poke out of tiny glass bottles with prepackaged sand throughout. Bottles that stand with JAMAICA 2011 drizzled across, and a little matted man waving from inside with Rastafarian dreads. They line the windowsill as relics of last year’s ‘culture trip.’
“Montego Bay! Do you know it? It’s a whole n’other world.”
Amy Maclin has baskets of pot-pour-y she makes for herself while Mr. Maclin works in brokerage somewhere out beside their farm in East Texas. She is a friend of Tina Thatcher, whose husband also works in brokerage, and their swollen stovetops reflect it.
“You want anything, honey? It’s spaghetti night tonight and I’m gonna finish up here before I pick up Ethan from baseball in an hour…Just set on up over there.”
The summer I came to know Amy Maclin was the summer I came to know every Amy Maclin, Tina Thatcher, Nancy Strickland, and Mary Carter. Women that line mantle places as last year’s ‘trophy wife.’
On my résumé, I am a CUTCO Sales Representative. Knife Lady of the Neighborhood. Yankee Girl Who Can Sure Cut a Damn Penny, to the husbands who stick around. It is a very spoken part of the job description to hound stay-at-home moms like a baby suckling for the prized teet. And today, Amy provides the milk.
“I absolutely la-huv my other ones – See, I have the Homemaker block. But I need something for Bob’s daughters’ wedd’n. Do you have, like, a cute lil gift package?”
I sell knives. Onion-dicing. Penny-slicing. Efficiency. What your husband will use to play Fruit Ninja as little Ethan gets ready for baseball practice. Stainless steel, 440-A, dish-washable emblems crafted straight from our factory in Olean, New York. These are American knives. These are forever knives.
And, for Amy, I’m blueprinting a forever future.
“CUTCO offers a lifetime guarantee. You call and we’ll come up here and sharpen ‘um 20 years later!”
I start my cutlery demo according to the script. Penny – check. Rope – check. 2-3/4’’ Paring knife – check. Trimmer, butcher knife, cutting board, carving fork, turning fork, “hardly your average fork,” smile, laugh – cheeecccckkk.
Inside the Seller’s Manual
Top 4 Items for Cutco-Friendly Homes
Homemaker + 8 Set with Block = Includes essential tools for every meal. 18 slots for 16 knives you’ll never use and a free medium cutting board that shaves 20 bucks off the crippling retail price of $1,139. Also can be used as lingo for the kind of customer (homemaker) and type of sale (upwards of $1,000) every sales rep should be scoring.
Super Shears = Thermo-resin scissors marketed for the irrelevant purpose of cutting through a copper penny; (v) = to cut copper penny without hitting said customer in the eye.
Ultimate Set w/Table Knives = Includes 32 slots instead of 18. An additional cleaver will be added for wives who daydream of killing their husbands. Parmigiano cheese knife available upon request. Retail price: $2,649.
Ultimate Set w/Steak Knives = Includes 3 easy payments of $883. Brass plate to be engraved, at no charge, with “Made Especially for a House Without a Home.” Upgrade to a Homemaker when all is lost.
Amy la-huves the steak knives. She tells me about Mr. Maclin coming home on weekends, how they married after graduating from UNT, why it gets hard sometimes but it’s worth it, because Ethan plays on a traveling baseball team that gets expensive, which doesn’t mean he’ll do it professionally, and also doesn’t mean Mr. Maclin would come home if he stopped.
“It’s the sacrifice you make for all this,” Amy says, gesturing to paisley-upholstered chairs. There is a faux chandelier above us, more paisley carpet, and probably a vase with golden decorative balls somewhere. It’s the Italian Renaissance put through a trash compactor. When you sell these knives long enough, kitchens become parable crumbs. Amy’s table has four chairs—two are storage space, one is for Ethan. In Nancy’s home, there is a bar instead of a table; in Tina’s, a Mahogany Verona Trestle fit for five with one place setting. For the Maclins, it’s a dining room table reserved for special occasions because “he’s just so busy and it’s sad there’s never time together.”
Amy has a degree in Art History. Like many of the mantle women on Glenwood Drive, she graduated to graduate. That was that. Having a family is enough work – let alone adding work work. This meant she had to spend money wisely, and that she couldn’t just buy any ol’ thing.
She was sold.
* * *
“Write her up! Angela upgraded her first Homemaker! WHAT are the rest of you DOINGGGG????”
There is a gong in the CUTCO regional office of Lewisville, Texas. It is large and gold and rumored to be from the manager Robert’s ‘culture trip’ to Asia. He hits the gong for every Ultimate upgrade, new appointment, monthly competitor result, etc.
“This GONG is a SYM-BOL of what WE can DO together,” manager Robert yells, panting and pacing in front of a sales quota of $30,000 for the upcoming week.
“We are number TWO…TWWWWOOOO…! Behind those cattle fiendssss at the McKinney office!”
It’s everything you’d expect from a 5’8”, 250-pound A&M graduate when given a gong for foreplay. Robert bulges with reminders throughout the day:
In-person: “These knives are born and bred in America.”
Email: “What you sow in the lives of others, you reap in your own.” (CUTCO 3:18)
The Seller’s Manual: “If CUTCO was falling from the sky into your yard, what would you go out and grab before the neighbors could take it? :)”
For Amy, I use the third line.
“Hmmmm…that is quite the cheese knife. I guess I’d take that? Or maybe the Spatula Spreader?”
She moves toward the refrigerator, this habitat of Tupperware and supper fare, revealing one paper-plated ploy for that additional sale on the side.
“Mrs. Maclin – please, if you don’t mind – grab me that block of Parmesan and let me show you what this knife is really made of.”
I cut the cheese.
“…that’s one helluva…”
Inside the Seller’s Manual, Cont.
A Woman’s Place In the Kitchen
Family structure more aptly resembles a cutting board: flat, save for a few cracks in between. Separate beds and separate baths can seem normal. You don’t divide a kitchen. Here, in Amy’s house, it becomes just as clear as the others:
I am selling faulty loans, profiting off marriages with the promise of a Homemaker+8 specialty set. They won’t bring you help around the kitchen or produce a husband eager to stroke his Santoku-Style 8’’ Carver. But they will make things easier, effortless and provide the perfect cut.
My salary is proportional to marital misfortune. The unhappier the love, the less guilt housewives feel for using domestic capital–their husbands. This nugget of information lands me a 20 percent commission within a month of sales; babysitting their children within a week.
“Now, Mrs. Maclin, you can choose between an oak knife block with a honey or cherry finish.”
“…by the look of my cuburds, I’m thinkn’ the cherry?”
“With the pearl or classic knives?”
“Let’s go with the pearl.”
Angela Almeida lives in New York, New York, but hails from Dallas, Texas.