Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It's Not Your Average Book Club...
Just over a year ago a friend invited me to join her book club. And what a book club it is. Of course I had no idea what I had let myself in for when I agreed to join. I like to read books. I like to talk about books I have read (preferably with other people who have read more than the back cover blurb whilst standing in WHSmith waiting for a train). So it was a no-brainer decision. “I’m in!” I said, enthusiastically. “What book are you reading?”
Turns out there wasn’t a book for the first meeting, because it was the Annual Book Club Christmas Party. Well, this whole book club thing is even easier than I thought (I thought). It’s just talking. And alcohol. There’s not even any reading required. I’m definitely in.
My introduction to this particular book club was an eye-opener, that’s for sure. It wasn’t just the fact that all the women attending were impossibly gorgeous and glamourous mothers, well travelled, funny and smart. It wasn’t even the fact that the ‘party’ was a full-blown dinner party with food of cordon bleu exquisiteness. It wasn’t the fact that within 45 minutes of arriving I was as drunk as a skunk (boy, these women might be skinny but they can certainly teach me a thing or two about knocking back wine). No. My overriding memory of the first meeting was the table napkins.
Not what you were expecting?
Well, it turns out that the item rolled up at each dinner setting was not actually an industrial sized napkin, but a vintage magazine porn. See what I mean? Not exactly what I was expecting either.
The hostess had placed a 1970s copy of Playboy, Hustler, Knave, Bigboobalicious (I made that one up, but you get my drift) by every seat...well, you can imagine that it led to quite a discussion about our reading material that evening. (By the way, I will take the opportunity to say this...if there are any women reading out there who have ‘body issues’ you need to get hold of a copy of vintage porn. There are normal looking women in it - of all shapes and sizes. There are tiny boobs and wonky boobs, droopy boobs and huge boobs resembling sacks of puppies (no silicone perfection in sight). There is more than enough muff to stuff a king-sized duvet with. Your average deli would surely not contain this selection of meat flaps. And the cellulite! Oh, the cellulite!)
I finally stumbled into a cab at 1am in the morning, in a drunken state of euphoria, clutching my ‘party favour’ in a death-like grip. Roll on next book club.
The next book club was even more eventful. This time we had actually been charged with reading a book (although it appears one of the rules of belonging to this particular book club is that reading is entirely optional - there is one ‘founding’ member of the club who hasn’t read a single book yet). Again, everyone dressed to impress and an elaborate dinner is served. There is non-stop talking (although discussions about the book get easily siderailed by much more salacious gossip and real-life drama). This time the vintage porn is replaced by...real life examples of plastic surgery. Not exactly pornagraphic...but not what I would expect to encounter beyond the changing room at the gym (if I’m lucky).
I am discussing something intellectual *cough* with one of the ladies, when I sense the rest of the room go eerily quiet. I turn around to see what is going on and end up with my eye balls mere inches from the most perfect set of breasts I have ever seen in the flesh. Sensing my immediate shock the breasts are instantly covered up, with a swift apology for offending my prudish British reserve. “Oh my God, don’t be daft”, I counter, “they’re stupendous! Can I see them again? And did I just miss someone mentioning a tummy tuck scar?”
Turns out the breasts make a regular guest appearance at book club (although my breasts, being of the 1970s porn variety, stay firmly under wraps).
My, this book club just keeps getting better and better I think.
Ultimately, it was my turn to host book club. I was keen to choose a book, but the thought of hosting the evening brought me out in a cold sweat. I don’t do entertaining as a rule and only had 3 wine glasses and six dinner plates to my name. How does wine taste when served in a sippy cup? I pondered. Maybe that would be...kitsch? I wasn’t looking to up the ante, by any stretch of the imagination, but it would be nice to be in the general vicinity of the ante...and present an image of being a reasonable hostess and not a total pleb.
In the end I bought new plates and wine glasses and slaved over a carefully crafted menu. My book choice was The Other Hand by Chris Cleaves, a book I had read a few months previously. (I hadn’t anticipated liking the book much but found I just couldn’t put it down. Afterwards, I just wanted everyone I knew to read it, so I could talk to them about it. Here was my perfect opportunity.)
Of course I needn’t have worried about the evening, because it was a rip-roaring success. This had nothing to do with the food (which, despite all my hours of preparing, was a complete disaster. Note: never use parchment to line baking trays for fillo salmon...unless the intention is for your guests to be picking pieces of charred paper out of their teeth all night long.) It also wasn’t related to the book (although most had bothered to read it and it sparked quite a lively discussion).
No - it all came down to the party piece...
...a drunken group pole dancing lesson. (Did I forget to mention somewhere along the line that I have a pole installed in my house? Purely for its fitness benefits of course.)
Told you this isn’t your average book club.
Over the course of a year my friendship with these incredible women has gone from strength to strength. As well as sharing our love of reading (Ha! Deeply ironic statement) we have shared two pregnancies and two births (boy and a girl - already betrothed of course), two separations, one divorce, one International move and the birthdays of all our children. There are few stones left unturned within this tight knit group and no subject is ever regarded as too inappropriate to be discussed (honest appraisal of Anal Sex anyone?) From my initial reaction to these intimidating women (‘Blimey, I think I am a bit out of my league here’) I have found many unexpected things in common (including a slight nervousness about having things shoved up my jacksy).
The least of which is a love of the written word.
Tonight’s book up for discussion is Gang Leader for A Day by Sudhir Venkatesh. I am sure it will make for stimulating conversation...before the talk reverts back to kids, relationships and, well, your guess is as good as mine.