what club would you join?


In preparation for a gathering, I decided to play a game. Sort of a home version of the Groucho Marx line, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

And yet -- with a number of people who didn’t know each other, I was hoping the idea would help those who felt left out join a club, no matter how demoralizing it was.

I embarked on a so-called clustering exercise to help people know things about other guests they’d probably never learn, maybe didn’t want to learn, but could be helpful when it comes to finding stuff to talk about beyond how many kids you have, what’s happening in Washington, and how much soluble fiber you eat.

I wanted guests to see they had more in common even if, as Groucho said, that wasn’t necessarily a good point.

Yet in the theme of Twister or Truth or Dare -- and in the spirit of you never know until you try and besides this is my house -- I gave it a whirl.

Here were the clubs: Art, Travel, Woodworking, Yoga, Biking, The Great Outdoors,  Gourmet Foodie, Science, Gym Rat, Education, Health Care, Heart Stents (yes, we had a handful), and Opinionated Know-it-All. I tried to be thorough.

Though I didn’t list Divorce.

But I did make a last minute addition: Deep Dark Fears. A crowd pleaser I was sure.

I solicited Raybo to help. On a big poster, we put ourselves in the middle, since we knew everyone. He thought the whole thing was a bad idea, yet as an engineer, making things fit gives him the illusion all’s right with the world.

“We’re all connected in some way,” I insisted. “Wouldn’t it be nice to feel more like family?”

“Whose family?” he said. It was a good point.

Still, undeterred, I drew lines outward like the spokes of a wheel, from us to each guest. Then we drew lines from each guest to a bubble of interest or experience, connecting people like spider webs you can’t get off your face.

Yes it was risky, but how about the benefit: A new comrade in your life to enjoy, to share with.

“Who has the time?” said Raybo. Another good point.

So how’d it go?

The guests, fearing I would make them open their hearts and minds, got into it slowly. People raised their hands like caught animals when I read a category that fit them. That’s because the lines on the poster were so criss-crossed, no one could read them. The opinionated pain-in-the-ass club had something to say about that.

But they eventually caved too, asking others to join their angry, indignant group. They needed emotional support.

Everyone seemed pleased to be recognized for at least something, but because the web was so entwined -- wasn’t that the whole idea! -- and the hand raising so brief, no one remembered who went where.

Seeing the amnesia, I added a new category: Secret Hidden Past, inviting everyone to at least ask a stranger if they had one.

Eventually, people paired off in new ways, things got loud and excited, and soon all the lines became a wide circle around the outdoor fire pit so it appeared we were one big happy something. Not a family perhaps, maybe a tribe, and the night ended with a tribal dance around the fire. I made that last part up.

Years ago, Groucho also said, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

Another good point.

You can guess what club would have welcomed him.

June 2, 2019

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