The candles flickered. The dip was hot and bubbly. The wine was chilled. The tables were set with bowls of tasty treats, score sheets, and trios of dice. I was dressed appropriately in a trendy top, dangly jewelry and fashionable flats. Everything was ready.
Soon after the first ding-dong of the doorbell, the apartment was purring with the clink of wine glasses and the loud chatter of a dozen women out for a night of fun.
I tried to play the perfect host. I scurried around with bowls of hot potato-leek soup and crusty bacon-cheddar bread. I corked wine and capped cold beers. I kept a steady stream of hip background music on the stereo.
Stopping to take a quick breather and a sip of my drink, I observed the groups of women laughing and enjoying themselves. Thank God. I am hosting bunco and everyone is happy. What a relief.
Fifteen minutes of merriment later, the catfights began.
“That’s not bunco, that’s snake eyes.”
“But we are on ones and I got three ones. We get 21 points.”
“That’s not the way we play; three ones is snake eyes, so you lose all your points.”
The skirmish died down but not before faintly souring the jovial atmosphere of the event.
Determined to throw a successful party, I discounted the conflict as a harmless fluke.
After the first round of play, the ladies refreshed their drinks while I took the opportunity to mention a few incidental administrative details.
“Hey everyone, I’m glad you could all come tonight for our first bunco event of the year. I am going to pass around a sheet for you each to sign up to host a party,” I said rather flushed from the rigors of entertaining.
“I have a question – do we have to provide everything when we host, or can we do it pot luck?” one woman asked, presumably with a point to prove.
Debate ensued immediately, and the room was swathed in raucous banter.
The opinions of the women emanated both from their flapping gums and their body language. Alliances huddled together, with mouths facing each other and eyes glaring sideways at opposing factions.
Another disgruntled combatant shouted over the rumblings, “And why do we have to host the third Thursday of every month? My old group used to do it on Tuesdays and that works better…”
The huddles hissed.
“If anyone outside the neighborhood hosts, I’m not coming. I refuse to leave the neighborhood.”
The clusters clamored.
“Why are we doing a couples bunco? I have played bunco with men before and it is not fun.”
The mobs murmured.
“I have to tell you, I do not like these pink dice. It’s too hard to see the white dots.”
The coalitions curled their collective lips.
With that, my heart sank. What I thought would be a fun evening was on the precipice of disaster. Oh great. These women are never going to be happy. This was a bad idea.
Attempting to salvage any gaiety that may have survived the horde of disparaging downers, I directed the ladies to resume play.
Full stomachs or the sedative effect of the wine seemed to arrest the power struggle for the time being, and I was relieved to hear laughter around the room again.
At the close of play, I used my remaining energy to scoop vanilla ice cream into bowls of hot apple crisp, hoping for a sweet ending to a bittersweet event.
I was not surprised by the argument over how to distribute the prizes money. Two hours of squabbling over minutiae had prepared me, and I half expected it.
Prizes were awarded, and winners and losers alike made the move toward the door.
I said good-bye to them all – the winners, the losers, the gratified and the disgruntled – and closed the door.
While loading the dishwasher, my tired brain reflected on the night.
Why is it that men who are mortal enemies can sit down with a couple cold beverages and entertain themselves without so much as a hint of disagreement? But give a bunch of middle aged housewives a comfy room, tasty treats, plentiful beverages and a few dice, and they can’t avoid petty competition, power struggles and squabbles over inconsequential details.
Why can’t some women see the forest for the trees? Does the tedium of our daily tasks as homemakers condition us to see only details and miss the big picture? Have we damaged our brains by drinking too many Diet Cokes and inhaling too much Formula 409?
As I rinsed the last fork, I realized that, I, too, was getting lost in the minutiae. Why let a few petty squabbles spoil what was otherwise a fabulous party? Despite it all, I will always savor the monthly get-togethers with these women. I need them. They are my friends, my comrades, my confidantes.
Like hens, we relentlessly scratch and peck at each other, but we huddle together in the hen house to cackle and cluck as often as we can get away from the roosters and chicks.
Seeing the big picture, I turned out the lights and went to bed, ironically looking forward to our next bunco party.