Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunday Dinner


Church is one of those places where people of all ages gather with a common focus. It's one of the things I love about a structured church -- I've learned incredible things from sitting in "the parlor Bible study" that has run for ever and has an average age of 70, I would guess. No one has ever discredited my own experiences or thoughts because I just haven't seen enough to know what I'm talking about. They don't complain (out loud or to me) when I make the coffee too strong. These people are cut from a different cloth, and to me it feels as soft and cozy and my old Raggedy Ann bankie. There are moments, though, when things just get weird.

This Sunday I dined at the Officers Club of a local military base on the invitation of a nonagenarian with a motley crue of 9 others from the congregation. No occasion was given in the invitation, though I suspected this gathering was either called to discuss concerns about the direction of the church or to announce said nonagenarian as the GOP VP candidate. I was wrong -- it was a "thank you" brunch for those who Mr. Non and his wife felt had been contributing(= singing in the choir, sitting beside Mr. Non in services, prepping the coffee and cookie plates every week, etc). Three of us young pups were in our 30s -- everyone else, well, weren't and haven't been in some time.

The whole adventure is for another post (we almost had to smuggle someone in who forgot her ID since she refuses to carry ID on Sundays -- IDK why, people kept kind of wandering off between the parking lot and building, the people watching was pretty spectac, etc), but for now, let me just tell you that I can scarcely think of a time when I've been in a more uncomfortable social scenario for an extended period of time.

The room was very formal in a wedding-reception-hall-circa-1988 kind of way. There was a friend of Mr. Non playing the piano along with an upright bassist -- standards, of course. The buffet had all the standards, including a whole salmon, head and all. I was a big fan of all of these things. I love a little chintz -- the Grandma Veda in me.

For the first half hour, NO ONE SPOKE. People said a few words here or there about the food as they got up and returned from the buffet, but there was no conversation going on. None. In my head, I'm screaming at myself -- ask a question! Treat it like a therapy group! Say something! Seriously! But instead, I plugged away at my omelet and listened to the sound of knives scraping plates. I sipped my champagne, I tried to make eye contact to engage someone in something, but nothing happened. Scrape, scrape. No one else seemed to mind. Finally out of sheer desperation I turned to my dear friend M. beside me and said the very pithy, insightful "Man, I sweat like a pig when I drink champagne." Lead balloon.

Eventually Mrs. Non played the dutiful hostess and asked random questions or made obvious statements (my favorite was "They have a pool here", apropos of nothing). People finally started to chat about the church sound system, how good Korean food is, and the safe haven of all conversation, how bad the Redskins had played on Saturday night. T w o h o u r s l a t e r, Mr. Non pushed back from his chair and stood up to leave.

I've said it many times and I'll say it again -- I wish I could be that girl who can talk to anyone at anytime. I am not. But in this scenario, I think my limitations had a lot to do with the age gap that equalled a muddled surface level of common ground.

As the election season goes in to full swing this week with the democratic convention, the virtues of youth and of experience that comes with age with be even more front and center, not just nationally but in my own DC backyard as mayor-for-life Marion Barry fights to keep his position on the council for Ward 8 against 20-somethings, and even Cloris Leachman flexes her experiences against the youngest Dancing with the Stars contestant ever. There is common ground, I've seen it. I find it everyday with people I have no other connection to besides sitting in a room together with a common focus. I just couldn't do it on Sunday over lunch at Fort Awkward.

1 comment:

Deirdre said...

Amen. Go Bucks to you, too!