visitingA big part of rural life is visiting.

Don’t get me wrong, I like getting together with family and friends – but that is not visiting. Visiting is something else entirely. It is satisfying an endless round of obligations and usually involves having to attend a birthday party for a one year-old you don’t know.

That is where I tried to draw the line a while back.

“You go enjoy yourself,” I told my wife, “but I have other things to do.”

She ignored me, so I pressed the issue.

“Why do I have to go?” I asked.

“Because,” she explained, “Fred, Lyle, Ronnie and Justin will all be there. It won’t be right if you are not.”

“None of those guys want to be there,” I argued.

“But they will be there,” she said, handing me my coat.

A few hours later, I found myself at a crowded kitchen table in a tiny starter home sulking with four other guys who did not want to be there.

To my left sat Fred, a fellow whose most articulate moment came with a grunt during Christmas diner four years ago.  Next to him was Lyle, a cheese salesmen who could only talk about cheese. At the far end of the table, filling a chair with his considerable bulk, loomed Ronnie, a fish’n, hunt’n, handgun toting mountain man. Opposite him (and I do mean opposite him) sat Justin, an unemployed environmental advocate.  While both Ronnie and Justin usually have a lot to say, they were repeatedly warned not to say it.

So there we were, destined to remain in silence for the entire afternoon while our wives cooed over a baby.

I couldn’t take it, so I chirped up. “Hey, none of us want to be here, so let’s figure out how to get disinvited from future gatherings like this.”

Fred grunted. Wow! A break-through.

The idea took hold and we mulled it over for a while before Ronnie offered the first idea. “Cigars,” he said, “We could light up cigars and stink up the place. They’d never invite us back.”

“That’s rude,” Justin snapped.

Ronnie leaned forward. I swear he was freeing the strap on his holster.

“Whoa!” I exclaimed, “That’s a great idea but Justin is right. We’d never hear the end of it.”

“We could tell dirty jokes,” Lyle suggested. Everyone glared at him. No one wanted to know how this might involve cheese.

“What ever we do,” Justin insisted, “it can’t have repercussions,”  Knowing his wife, we all understood where he was coming from.

We floated one idea after the other, weighing the merits and consequences of each and had quite an animated conversation going before Ronnie cut us off with a slashing motion. He pointed toward the living room – which had become eerily silent. Our wives had stopped their cooing and were straining to hear what we were talking about.

The dual silence boosted the tension between the two rooms.

A few moments later, Ronnie’s wife appeared. She claimed it was to retrieve a casserole but after we informed her the food was long gone, she blushed, apologized and fled back into the living room.

Our plotting resumed.

It was too much for the women to bear. Alice, Justin’s formidable wife, barged into the kitchen and with hands on hips, demanded to know what we were up to.

“Not a thing,” we told her, feigning innocence, “just guy talk.”

In the living room, heads turned, necks craned and only the gurgle of the baby broke a long uncomfortable silence – that went on and on until Lyle’s wife made up a feeble excuse and dragged him out the door. One after the other, we all left under similar circumstances.

There were no repercussions. How could there be? It was just guys talking, but it worked.

The next week brought news of another party but when I ask if I had to go, my wife got a little skittish.

“I don’t think you would like it,” she said, “none of the other guys will be there.”

Author: Almost Iowa


38 thoughts on “Disinvited”

  1. You caught a break! Some visitations can be simply excruciating. I was at a baby shower – traditional, Sicilian-yes, I did not belong there being neither–that was almost unbearable.

  2. Enjoyed this bunches, even though the men won. In general, I don’t understand women dragging men along to whatever, unless

    (1) It’s to kiddie-related events, to continually attempt to nurture any nurturing they may possess which otherwise often remains dormant, lying partially crushed somewhere at the damaged base of the broken branch of the otherwise-woulda-beena-X chromosome which is known in men as the Y.

    (2) It’s continual torture payback for women continually being inundated with messages saying men’s hobbies and toys (male-dominated sports and cars, and updates and movies about same) are of equal importance to actually noteworthy matters and news.

    Either way, I’ve never dragged a man clothes shopping. Too cruel. I would drag him to the ballet, but I’d expect some quid pro quo. Like, he gets to experience the pleasure of my company. Maybe I’ll even let him see how much my face lights up when he presents me with the tickets.

    1. I wouldn’t say the men won. It’s an opportunity cost thing, the time they saved sitting around a kitchen table is now spent on honey-do’s.

      1. That is men winning, too. Those do’s are usually things for the family that need doing. Someone’s gotta do ’em, and they only get worse when they’re put off.

        In the oft-quoted (by me) words of The Denzel (and likely misquoted, but the gist is right), the key to a happy marriage is “…to do what your wife ask you, and to do it the first time she asks.”

        1. Most guys don’t consider things that need doing as honey-do’s. That is just stuff you do. Honey-do’s are make work and typically involve hanging pictures or plants in places that comfortably went without such things for decades.

          the first time she asks.”

          In law, that is called setting a precedent. It always ends badly.

          1. A.I., I think both our biases speak: You believe most guys are more willing to do the things that truly need doing than I believe most guys truly are, and that many women ask for more make-work jobs than I believe they do.

            This may be because I have been partnered only with self-centered men, but based upon my own direct observations, and concrete examples provided by women of current and past acquaintance, I believe the bulk of evidence supports my “bias”.

            1. Remember Venn Diagrams from 5th grade math?

              Let A equal the things women believe need done. Let B equal the things that men believe need being done. Let C equal the narrow intersection of A and B. [Snarf]

              The same diagrams work for managers and staff.

              1. Things I and my women friends have believed needed doing:

                Hole in kitchen ceiling, please fixed with more than glued-on paper.
                Roof, once opened, please close again.
                House foundation, once opened, please close again.
                Fixer-upper house purchased without telling wife, please fixer it up now that apt. rent can no longer be paid.
                Bills you said you’d be responsible for paying, please pay.
                Exposed live wires in children’s room at toddler height, please unexpose.

                Some Venn. Big laughs.

                  1. Yes. It is bad. I think, in general, most guys suck the big one where women are concerned, and I think they’ve gotten worse since I was younger. My brother, when we still spoke, placed the scum-proportion of men at 99%.

                    1. I think it is easier for guys to think most people are decent, because more guys are more decent to guys and more women are decent to guys than women are decent to either. And that is sad.

                    2. There is, too, still a big difference between the middle of our country and its ends. Very evident when one travels. I still feel more warmth among strangers in Ohio and Illinois than I do among familiar faces in California.

  3. Love this one. I remember it or something like it. Made me think of the days when we visited with the friends of our grandparents. It was very civil. And we were well behaved.

  4. Great story, Greg. Similar memories here of great hordes of cousins, aunts and uncles gathering at someone’s farm. Now, our much smaller family gatherings are the same, yet different. In warm weather the men gather round the grill, in cold weather they gather round the tv. The women, as always, control the kitchen/dining room. The boys play in a well stocked room with cars/trucks/planes/anything with an engine. They occasionally do battle over a favorite toy and run through the house to see who will give them attention. Not much has changed, just the location. sd

  5. In the South it was called “paying a call.” There was a rigid social protocol to all of it but men were not often required to participate. If they were there, they would retreat to another room to drink bourbon and discuss politics….or whatever. Asking a man to attend a baby shower or child’s birthday party is a rare form of torture. I’m glad you guys rebelled. By the way, I think I sat next to Fred on a Mediterranean cruise once. When I asked him how he liked Pompeii, he replied “It was different.”

    1. they would retreat to another room to drink bourbon

      Ah, the missing element that would have made this party a success!

      When I asked him how he liked Pompeii, he replied “It was different.”

      For Fred that would have been a soliloquy.

      I had the misfortune of touring Seville with a stingy little Brooklynitte who did not want to be there. The tour guide was excellent but apparently she spent too much time extolling the virtues of ancient times for the little guy.

      Finally, he snapped, “But whaddya done lately.”

      1. I think he was on the other side of me at dinner. This was back in the days you had to sit with whoever the cruise ship assigned to the same table. I hear that’s no longer the case, but I still sink into despair at how hard it was to get a conversation going with people who were underwhelmed by the ancient world. Seriously, go to Disney World, will you?

        1. There are times when an interest in history can get you into serious trouble. I remember walking into the York (England) train museum and spotting The Rocket, the 1829 steam engine that launched modern railroading. I was hooked and geeked out for four hours wandering around the museum.

          Oh, did I fail to mention this was on my honeymoon? After two hours, my bride fell asleep on a bench.

            1. It was… Now whenever she heads into a quilt shop and leaves me languishing on “the guys bench”, I don’t complain. If I were to whine, she would say, “Remember……”

  6. I have many fond memories of “visiting” and “getting company.” But back in the day, the men were happy to go because they gathered around card tables playing cards, smoking cigarettes and boasting (or not) about their crops.

    The women held gurgling babies.

    As for us kids, we dashed between farm buildings playing Starlight, Moonlight. Or, if the weather was inclement, we girls played Chinese jump rope using elastic trimmed from rag box underwear and tied together.

    Those were the days. No one felt inclined to stay at home or leave early.

    1. As family members move out of neighborhoods and small communities, and adapt to the tribal cultures of work, they have less and less in common and it becomes harder and harder to keep the old traditions alive.

      Though this piece pokes a little fun at the endless round of visiting, it also says something about the dissolution of communities. The downside of cultural diversity is that we find that we have so little in common.

      1. Good point that cultural diversity/little-in-common one, which is very un-P.C. to mention.

        I say, accurately, that I grew up in a highly-culturally-diverse neighborhood for the times: Irish, Greeks, Swedes, Italians, Japanese, Jews, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Chinese, German, Czech, blacks (wow–progressive, or what?). and I can’t remember right now who-all else. Granted that I was a more oblivious child than average, but while I heard plenty of ethnic jokes, I never once heard a child comment about another due to race, religion or ethnicity (except in envy: We all envied the Jewish kids their 8 days of gifts, and their Bar/Bat Mitzvah loot).

        However: Even back then, well-assimilated and value-sharing as it seemed we all were outside our homes, although adults of the various groups made friends, and visited each others’ homes, and mingled at some social events, I do think these things happened more within each group’s more familiar circles.

        1. Research by Richard Putman, author of Bowling Alone, indicates that increased diversity results in decreased trust. Which makes a lot of sense, people are tribal and feel most trusting among their own. In the old days, diversity meant race, religion and ethnicity. Today, tribal loyalties are more often based on cultural perception. It’s what keeps Ronnie and Justin eyeing each other across the table.

          Out here in the hinterland, tribal passions are based on brands, The fastest way to start a fight is drive an F150 into a bar parking lot full of Silverados and yell, “Chevy Trucks Suck!”

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