Last week, I felt like doing something risky, crazy, and completely out-of-character. I ruled out shark-diving because I wasn’t about to ruin the cute new swimsuit I just got this year. Skydiving and bungee-jumping were obviously out of the question since they’d both require me to re-flat-iron my hair afterward. So I did something even more adventurous. I went to my first-ever book club meeting.
Those of you who know me, especially my former students, understand that the use of the term “death-defying” would not be an exaggeration in describing the precariousness of this bold act. My mere attendance meant that other people might well have left the meeting broken and battered, or at the very least, dissolved into a puddle of tears. But for those of you who don’t know me, perhaps I should better explain why going to a book club meeting is something that Darla typically wouldn’t (and probably shouldn’t) ever do:
REASON ONE: With the obvious exceptions of JustFab and Stitch Fix, I’m not a club-joining kind of girl. Case in point: the Girl Scouts. Even at age eleven or so, I was discerning enough to know that their uniforms were a no-go for me, what with that pretentious beret, and all the tacky over-accessorizing with silly badge-thingees. As Thoreau once said, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” Of course, he wasn’t the snazziest dresser himself, but, hey, he spent a year hanging out with chipmunks and squirrels who aren’t exactly the most fashion-forward either, so I’m willing to cut him a break.
Speaking of Thoreau’s life in the woods — Child or not, I was also self-aware enough to know that I wasn’t cut out for those camps and retreats the Girl Scouts seemed so fond of. Huddle up in a musty sleeping bag with 100 mosquitoes, 3 ticks, 4 snakes and a bear? I think not. Bunk in with a handful of pre-teen girls who can gang up on and emotionally excoriate each other while simultaneously holding hands and singing “Kumbayah” around the campfire? I’ll just sit on that gross, mossy rock over there and stab myself in the eye with one of those pointy marshmallow sticks instead, thanks very much.
For similar reasons, as I grew up, I also also passed on joining lots of other groups; among them, college sororities (that whole sisterhood thing is Greek to me), my state teachers’ organization (groupthink by a few too many people who don’t think, at least not judging by the cringe-worthy grammar some of them use when talking to news reporters), The Junior Women’s Club (Let’s just say I’m suspicious of 40-and-50-somethings running around calling themselves “junior”), the women’s guild at church (“assessing each other’s character based upon what casserole they brought to the potluck” since 1895), and CrossFit (Judgment and burpee lunges with weights? At least one of those things has to go.)
To this day, no amount of Thin Mints in the world could make me join any of these groups. Samoas, maybe, but now I’m too old for the Girl Scouts unless they start up a new “junior” division. I’m sure some of you are probably thinking that I’m an arrogant, supercilious snob for saying all this. Well, fine. Give me my ASS membership card, and I’ll put it in my wallet. Just don’t expect me to wear their badge.
REASON TWO: In my previous life, I wasn’t just a teacher. I was an English teacher. I would have as soon worn a jean jumper appliquéd with pencils and apples to school every day as to waste one second of my after-hours time at some book club meeting. There were bound to be people there who (a) didn’t read the book at all (b) worse — skimmed the back cover and unsuccessfully tried to pretend they’d read the book (c) actually read the book but didn’t understand a damned thing about it or (d) read the book but hated it because it was slightly more complex than a Lifetime movie. In other words, going to book club meeting would be just like trying to discuss a book with my students, only with a lot of wine splashed into the mix. (Not that the wine part is necessarily a bad thing. Who knows? If I could have served up a little pinot grigio in Brit Lit, I might have stuck around for a few more years before retiring.)
Nevertheless, my appetite for danger finally motivated me to say “What the hell? I’ll show up, sit around a table with four other women I don’t know very well, and talk about a book. I’ll play well with others for once. I’ll give this group thing a try.” And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. None of those terrible things I’d feared would happen, happened. Okay, actually (a) and (b) did happen, but I’m proud of myself for not stopping the guilty parties in their tracks and ordering them to pour their glasses of merlot back into the bottle, go home immediately and never show their faces at book club again until they’d actually read the damned BOOK.
In fact, if I do say so, throughout the whole evening, I practiced incredibly admirable restraint, kept my inner teacher at bay, and was on my best book club behavior. I didn’t even administer the pre-discussion pop quiz I had brought along in my purse! (You’re welcome, ladies, because some of you would have bombed it. I mean that in a sisterliest, groupiest, clubbiest of ways.) And although it was desperately called for at times, not once did I yell out, “How about some freaking text support for that opinion? And I’m talking page, paragraph, and line numbers, bitch!” To top it off, I didn’t even hog the wine since I much prefer white.
I can honestly say that now that I’ve honed my groupwork skills and completely overcome my controlling English teacher tendencies , I’m actually looking forward to the next book club meeting. I just hope the ladies remember to double space those literary analysis essays I assigned.