It is hard to say how it happened. Two of us got together and decided it would be nice if we started a men’s group. So we did. What was unpredictable was the cast of characters that would make up our group. A computer programming business owner that, for a while, referred to himself only as “thirteen.” He even decided, for a time, to make his decisions on how he spent his day by rolling the dice. We also had the unemployed middle-aged man who was reinventing himself into an actor. Another member had been an Army survivalist in Vietnam and a teacher at our local wildlife center. He was a craggy older man now on oxygen with COPD. There were others: an accordion player, an ex-millionaire now on Social Security disability, a government lawyer and me.
We had some people who were short timers. One man saw we were sponsored by the Unitarian Universalists and decided he needed to convert us to the one true faith. The usually taciturn lawyer, upset by the interloper’s dogmatism and critique of our faith, threatened him physically and with his lawyerly verbal prowess. It took a moment to calm him down.
Another short-timer was a banker whose wife felt he needed to get in touch with his feelings and coerced him to come for a season. We alternated hosting the meetings and whoever’s home we were in was to supply a topic to be discussed usually spiritual. When it came his turn instead he brought cards and toothpicks to play poker. I am not sure that is what his wife had in mind. But it was one of our more spiritual meetings.
Despite it all we continue to meet over ten years later. Visitors are fewer and seldom now. We do not have any great ambitions of growth anymore. We hang in there. The discussions can be dynamic. Such as when the former teacher who was not gay asked everyone if they ever had their cocks sucked by a man. He said it was much better than by a woman. We were never sure if we were being propositioned or if his drugs were working extra well that evening. There were the health reports. Prostate cancer left us baffled. “How a country, that is able to put a man on the moon needed you to fast and drink putrid liquid overnight, in order to have your anus probed to see if you are developing prostate cancer, could exist in the same time\space continuum.”
The exaggerated tall tales are abundant, politics are discussed and the conundrum of women is detailed. We have written obituaries for ourselves, discussed our most formative relationships, talked about our beliefs of the afterlife, and our fathers. And sometimes a truth would come to us all. And other times we assisted each other in life’s challenges. But for the most part we met.
We have had two retreats, picnics, and ballgames together. Our retreats have been interesting. One of the members revealed he had been in jail several times for various felonies. Which left the lawyer, shocked at this revelation, and he became a little concerned about his safety in the middle of nowhere with this person. The lawyer suddenly hurt his knee although we were all sure he in part was scared to sleep in the same cabin with an ex con. He went home early. Another of our members came to the retreat after taking too many of his prescription drugs, leaving him in a semi-conscious state. The next year it rained and we were stuck inside all weekend. One of our members could not stay off his chat lines and we resorted to talking about him, as he sat there, to see if he would notice. He never did. And by midday our accordion player had come up with the ingenious plan to play a concert for two hours. He was like the EverReady bunny and was willing to go for another extended period of time. At which point five other desperate men threatened his life. So as you can understand we have not had a retreat recently.
We are getting to be an older group now. We cannot go on forever. In another five or ten years maybe someone will have died. And slowly others will follow. Unless we intentionally recruit, the group will probably die out. The problem now is our group is like an old married couple. We can finish each other’s sentences, have many inside jokes, and have heard each other’s life stories so many times we can tell them ourselves. We also can nag, fuss, sulk, and fight. Combine that with our ‘interesting’ characters we would have a hard time getting new members. We are stuck together; to leave for someone or something else is silly. We have been together too long.
The next meeting we will be talking about a retreat again. Accordions will be banned although our accordion player has long since moved away. The place must have sunny weather. Some will complain all we do now is discuss retreats, not take them. One of our members will demand we go to a place that only the younger ones can enjoy. We have had this fight so often we know who will say what and who will leave disgusted. But in the end we all know we are way too far into this marriage to turn back now.