It was going to be a meeting of the Riverview Woman’s Club. You know, a room full of women talking about…women stuff. I was getting ready to do a presentation on the three books I’ve written about the life experiences of women (me included). I was excited about this evening because the women in this group are community leaders, creative, and fun. I knew they would be a sympathetic audience for the female oriented presentation I had planned. Then a man showed up with his female friend. About that time, I noticed my husband glance into the room. He had been nice enough to help carry my books in for my book signing later and had not left the building yet. Something told me not to do it, but I called out to my husband and asked if he wanted to join the group. What was I thinking? Allowing my husband to sit in the audience while I shared things about me…and him…and retirement.
Although the male guest sat in the very front row and my husband sat in the very back row, I sensed they had formed an unspoken bond. I stalled for time by tap dancing around my introduction as I debated with myself whether I should change my prepared remarks. Too late. My brain couildn’t recompute that quickly. So I started talking about my book of poetry and my early attempts to understand the male mentality. Funny incidents like when men ask their wives what they want for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, etc. and women say, “You don’t have to get me anything.” Why do men believe that? All the women agreed that was ridiculous…of course, women don’t mean that. At that response, the two men looked at each other, shrugged, and said, “We were just doing what you told us to do.” It was obvious that this was not going to be just another normal meeting of the Riverview Woman’s Club.
Finally, I couldn’t stall any longer. My discussion turned to retirement as I talked about why I wrote my newest book, Help! My Husband Just Retired. I tried not to make eye contact with my husband, but his body language told me he was taking in every word. Fortunately, I was not the lone ranger in the group. Oh, yes, the women had a lot to say about retired husbands. One woman said, “I made my husband go back to work.” Another jumped in,”I told my husband, ‘You cannot go to the grocery store with me, I need some time alone!’ He’s wants to do everything together.” The two guys were taking in all these less than flattering comments, and I could see a counter-offensive was brewing. I had never seen a riot at a woman’s club, but this could be a first.
The male guest sitting in the front row (who by the way was a doctor) turned around to the group of women and shared something profound. He said that men look at retirement as a chance to take a break from the “have to’s” and responsibilities they’re faced throughout all of their working years. Just to take a deep breath and know you have time to spend with a hobby or putter around the house might not seem like retirement “heaven” to a woman but sure looked great to a man. I could tell my husband was itchin’ to have his say. I figured why not…I had burned my bridges with him already.
He stood up, looked at the women. and said, ” I had a demanding career like many of your husbands. If they are like me, they probably didn’t tell you enough that we couldn’t have been as successful if you hadn’t been there taking care of things with the family and at home. So, now that we’re retired, we just enjoy being around our wives.” The women, including me, expressed a collective “Aw, that’s sweet.”
My presentation was over. As I began signing books, I noticed the doctor and my husband were the centers of attention as they shared other insights into the male mentality. Even after 45 years of marriage, I guess I don’t know him as well as I thought! Delicious ambiguity.