Last night was the final meeting of the dinner club for this year, and unlike the last couple of years , the meeting did not take place on the pleasant houseboat run by the organizers, but rather was at the home of our pastor and his wife. This, of course, offered an interesting sight, as well as amusement of a different kind than is common, such as the fact that I ended up with at least a day’s worth of food as a result of it, not only my own salad which was nearly untouched except by a couple of people but also almost half of a tasty pumpkin pie. And I could have easily ended up with more food had I wanted it, but I had to turn down food that there was no way I would be able to eat in time, encouraging much of it to go home with one of the only other single people there, and the only one to have stayed until the end, who has four young folks to feed still, and who needed and was able to use the leftovers far more than I did. It was a strange night in many ways, but not a bad night at all, nor even nearly an awkward night as it could have been.
Of course, in going to my pastor’s house, I could not help but be reminded of the previous time I had been there , hunting down some missing cell phones that were not there. This was a much less stressful and busy visit, and rather than looking through the entire house looking for something that wasn’t there, rather I was able to mostly enjoy sitting down and drinking iced tea and cold water while eating more food than I probably needed, and having intriguing conversations with good company. To be sure, that is the way I usually prefer to enjoy my time, although I had to note with some degree of consternation that there were few young people at all there–aside from the two daughters who are still at home of one of the members of the dinner club, one of whom was determined to go home early, and the other of whom stayed until the end and went home with other relatives, I was the next youngest person there, which proved to be a bit interesting when we were discussing the memories of Herbert W. Armstrong and the fact that the absent young people, including most of the offspring of the various members of the club, were entirely unaware of why a minister would feel the need to apologize about going back to the two trees in the beginning of Genesis. It was rare to be thought of as older than I was, and not entirely comfortable given the general context of my life.
Of course, that general context itself served as the source of a great deal of conversation. At one point, for example, I was sitting at the dinner table discussing matters of politics and political worldview with five ladies, and our pastor came in and was startled to see that particular dynamic, so much so that he thought to draw attention to it. Given that I have never married nor been particularly close to marriage, it should be well known by anyone who has ever noticed my patterns of conversation at all that the problem has not generally been an absence of an ability or interest in befriending women of all ages, but rather other problems of context and background. It is unpleasant and often unsettling to be continually reminded, and to have those around me continually reminded, of my status as a spectacularly awkward bachelor, whether that is engaging in serious conversation or trying not to take home more food than I can eat. How does one deal better with such matters–would it be more or less odd where I a happily married man who simply enjoyed the friendly company of women, and would such a wife as I would want be jealous of my comfort with feminine company, particularly the company of intelligent and well-spoken women as I tend to find myself around very often on evenings such as this? Even when a night was less stressful than it could have been, there were still matters for endless rumination, which is one of my lots in life, I suppose.
And that is a great shame. Most of the people involved in the dinner club are people who have a great deal of experience and enjoyment in hosting dinner parties, which is entirely unsurprising. These people can be recognized by the fact that they prepare too much food, enjoy company a great deal, are full of stories and enjoy long conversations and tend to linger far too long around food and dinner tables. These are no great vices, and often considerable virtues. Yet as much as it is said that there is a greater desire to encourage the participation of a broader cross section of the congregation, so long as the friendships and friendly conversations of a single person draws public scrutiny, most people in such situations, except those who are particularly stubborn and obstinate, will refuse to put themselves in a situation where their singlehood  will put them under continual risk of losing face and having their friendliness turned into awkwardness. And a pleasant dinner club meeting is far too enjoyable of a time to spend being troubled by such matters, such as whether the company that one happens to find oneself in leads to all kinds of unfriendly scrutiny when discussing matters of blindness, personal background, political realities, or family. Surely we should all be able to befriend our brothers and sisters, older, younger, or the same age, in peace. Is that too much to ask for?
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