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Steve Ouellette

Gentlemen, have you ever wondered what goes on at that book club your wife is always going to? 

In my circle of friends, it seems as if every woman belongs to one book club or another. Ostensibly, these groups select one book of deep cultural significance for everyone to read, and then assemble to discuss the “Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” (which was actually only so-so).

Seems harmless, even laudable, on the surface, but many of you are curious. When did your wife find the time to actually read all those books? Didn’t she graduate school so that she no longer had to discuss the reading assignments?

More importantly, why is it there don’t seem to be any men in the book club? Why weren’t you invited to join? You know how to read too, pretty much. You have opinions.

I’ve been as much a victim of book club discrimination as anyone. My wife has a regular book club, which I’ve never been asked to join, despite the fact that I occasionally write things myself and am an avid reader, most recently — I think it was September — having devoured “Vegas Vinnie’s Texas Hold’em Tips, Tricks and Traps.”

Come book club night, however, I’m left to care for the kids, or, when the club meets at our house, to find someplace — anyplace, as long as it’s not home — to bring myself and the children so we don’t embarrass her.

On occasion, I have snuck home early, or feigned bed-rest for a serious illness, so that I could look and listen in. Thus, I can answer a few of your questions.

Yes, the book is discussed. By law, for the club to receive certification from the national Book Club Alliance of America, the book must be talked about at some point. So, usually for about five minutes or so, the women — most of whom have not actually read the book, but may have read the synopsis on the jacket — do discuss the assigned tome.

Yes, there is drinking involved. They don’t have a keg or a case of Genny Light, but there will be wine, mojitos, martinis and the kind of umbrella drinks that you personally wouldn’t consume in public. They’re also snacking on a variety of dainty food, hors d’oeuvres, finger sandwiches, brie — nothing filling, nothing that used to graze in a field.

No, there are no pagan rituals, invoking the spirit of Chaucer, involved. I did hear someone swear at Dan Brown once, however.

No, there is no nudity. This is a common male fantasy — rooms full of literate but completely disrobed women — but unless the mojitos have been particularly strong, this never happens.

No, this isn’t just an excuse to bring in a male stripper. Book club is NOT the same as baby shower.

Yes, “Downton Abbey” will be discussed at some point, probably more than the book. No, it’s “Downton,” not “Down-Town” like I thought it was for two years. It will be talked about, even if the show totally jumped the shark when it killed off Matthew. Noble, noble Matthew. I mean, who do they think they are, “Game of Thrones”?

They may also talk about shoes, body waxing, childbirth and Miley Cyrus, but none of that is mandatory.

Yes, they are talking about you. Your flaws, your mistakes, your shortcomings. Terrible things your gender has done to them. It’s … it’s not very pretty. I have a hard time un-hearing the stuff I heard.

Women, it seems, have book clubs because they want a little time away from you and the kids. Just a brief stretch where they can hang out with other smart women and not be asked for anything more than an opinion.

For instance: “What do you think goes on at men’s poker night?”

Poker night is as much a mystery to women as book club is to us. Women are never invited, though honestly, they’re perfectly capable of playing the game; it’s not exactly rocket science.

Women seem to think all we do is play cards, drink beer, smoke cigars, eat chips and talk about football, flatulence, women and male pattern baldness.

That, however, is a total misconception. Sometimes we talk about the movie “Rounders” or how messed up the kids will be when Miley Cyrus inevitably marries Justin Bieber. Occasionally we eat pretzels, and once a year, one of those giant sub sandwiches.

So maybe we’re a little predictable.

I would like to see the walls come down and the two worlds collide. Book club meet poker night. What’s the worst that can happen? The men are force fed a little bit of culture, literature and brie. The women can swill beer and lose a little bit of money. Win win.

We wouldn’t want to do this all the time, mind you, but maybe once a season? Once a year might be better. We could even do it on giant sandwich night.

Email Steve Ouellette: ouellette1918@gmail.com

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