I wonder where all these pastors are learning to use social media to tell the world about their sexy wives?
Note: If some of these people seem familiar, that’s because they are. We may see them again in the future.
Jeff was up, showered, dressed, and seated at the kitchen table with the newspaper when Moira entered the kitchen. He looked up and smiled at her.
“You’re up early,” he remarked.
“Mm. Didn’t you have that breakfast this morning? I figured I should be up in case the kids needed anything.” She flung herself into a chair and slouched over the table.
“Yeah. I need to leave in about ten minutes. You want me to make you some coffee first?”
“Nah, that’s okay. I can do it in a minute.” She yawned.
“All right. I’m going to go finish getting ready, then.” Jeff rose from the table and leaned over to give Moira a quick peck on the cheek. He felt her smile at his touch. “I’ll see you around ten-thirty.”
“Okay. I think the kids wanted to go see a movie today. If the rain doesn’t clear up, that’s probably a good idea.”
Jeff returned to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He thought about the men’s breakfast he’d been invited to attend. It didn’t sound too bad—just a bunch of guys sitting around talking about stuff. He remembered Doug saying something about the topic being “communication,” whatever that meant. Doug hadn’t been specific; all he’d told Jeff was to meet him at his church at eight on Saturday morning. Jeff replaced his toothbrush, tidied up the bathroom, and was ready to be on his way.
Inside the double doors at the entrance of the church was a small sign with an arrow pointing down a short flight of stairs. It read, “Men’s Breakfast.” Jeff followed the sign into a large room with a tile floor and several round tables. He looked for Doug, but he didn’t see him anywhere. Jeff hung back a bit, unsure what to do with himself.
A tall, broad-shouldered man approached him. “Are you new here?” he asked.
“Sort of,” Jeff responded. “I don’t really go to this church. I was invited here by a friend.”
“Ah. Yeah, we’ve only been here a few weeks ourselves,” the man said. He extended his hand. “I’m Bill.”
Jeff accepted Bill’s hand. “Jeff.”
“I’ve never been to one of these,” Bill said. “We were at a different church, but it was a little—let’s just say it wasn’t for us.”
Jeff didn’t press the issue; he merely nodded. “It happens.”
At that moment, Doug appeared at Jeff’s side. “Hey! Glad you could make it. We’re about to start, so let’s grab seats.”
“Uh, sure.” Jeff turned to Bill. “Want to join us?”
They took seats at one of the tables close to the front. There were already several men at the table. Jeff had been hoping to sit further back, in case he decided to leave, but Doug seemed to have other plans. No sooner had they situated themselves than a muscular man with dark hair, slightly graying at the temples, stood up.
“Good morning!” the man began in a booming voice. He hardly needed the microphone he held in his hand. “I’m Richard, and we’re starting something new in our Breakfast with the Lord series. For the next few months, we’re going to be discussing how to communicate with and about our women!”
There was raucous applause and a few whistles. Jeff made a half-hearted attempt to clap and glanced at Doug and Bill. Doug looked enthusiastic, but Bill’s expression reminded Jeff a bit of exactly how he was feeling himself—wary and confused. Jeff shook his head and tried to concentrate. He decided to keep an open mind.
“All right. Now, the first rule we have here is that what we say stays in this room. We want to create healthy boundaries, am I right?”
Jeff leaned across the man to his right to whisper to Doug, “Is this a twelve-step program of some sort?”
Doug just scowled and murmured, “Sh.”
Richard continued, “This morning, we’re going to learn about the difference between flattering women and complimenting them. We’re going to have the chance to put some of this into practice, men, so don’t get too comfortable!” He paused and looked behind him to where a few men were setting food on a long table. “It looks like the food’s just about ready, so why don’t we pray. Then you can help yourselves and we’ll get this party started. Arnie, how about you say the blessing?”
A thin, balding man stood up and offered a brief invocation. After the “amen,” men began filing up to the table to pile food on their plates. When most people had returned to their tables, Richard took to the microphone again.
“All right. Now, the first thing we’re going to do is introduce ourselves. Go ahead and get acquainted with the men at your table. Be sure you tell everyone your name, and practice giving a compliment about your wife. As we go through the exercise, the leaders at your table will give you guidance about how you talk about the most important woman in your life.”
Jeff was confused. Why on Earth were they supposed to talk about their wives? And what about unmarried men? He looked around the table; everyone appeared to be wearing wedding bands, so he decided this must only be for married men. Besides himself, Doug, and Bill, there were four others. The man to Jeff’s right looked distinctly uncomfortable.
Doug set his fork aside and addressed them. “I’ll go first, since I’m our table leader. I’m Doug, and my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. I still light up when I come home to her, even after almost twenty years.” He glanced at the silver-haired gentleman on his right. “Go ahead, you next.”
“I’m Callum, and your wife can’t be the most beautiful woman, because that honor belongs to mine.” There was a bit of nervous laughter. “She’s still the gorgeous girl I married.”
The next two were the same, and Jeff had the renewed sense that this was some kind of recovery program for men who felt guilty that they’d ever had a stray thought about another woman. He cringed at more than one reference to “girls.”
It was Bill’s turn. “Uh, I’m Bill, and my wife is one of the most intelligent and witty people I know.”
The other men just stared at Bill.
“Yes,” Doug finally probed, “but do you still find her attractive?”
Bill frowned. “Sure, I do. What does that have to do with anything?”
Doug shrugged. “How about you, Jeff?”
“Well, as Doug just said, I’m Jeff. My wife works really hard. She’s involved in some environmental—”
Doug cut him off. “I’m getting the impression that you guys don’t really know what the point of this exercise is.”
Jeff raised his eyebrows. “Well, no, I don’t, to be honest. What is the purpose?”
Doug looked like he was barely restraining an eye roll. “We’re practicing ways to talk about our wives so we can bring that home and they’ll feel appreciated.”
“I don’t understand,” Bill said. “Why wouldn’t Jeff’s wife appreciate that he notices what she’s interested in?”
“Because women in our society are admired for their bodies, and most compare themselves to the models and actresses they see. We need to undo all that damage by helping them see how sexy they are to us.”
Jeff frowned. “That doesn’t sound—”
Doug ignored him and turned to the last man at the table. “Well?”
The man flushed slightly, and Jeff felt bad for him. After he and Bill had apparently screwed up, the poor guy probably didn’t want to say something wrong.
“I, um, I’m Chad. And I don’t have a wife.”
Doug really did roll his eyes this time. “Yes, but you’re married. And basically, it amounts to the same thing.”
“It really doesn’t, and I’m not going to say some crap about how hot my husband is.” Chad pursed his lips together and furrowed his brow.
Doug looked like he might say something, but Richard had taken the microphone again, this time with a stack of papers in his hand. Jeff elbowed Chad, who looked over. Under the table, Jeff held out his fist for Chad to bump, which he did, albeit hesitantly. He looked relieved, and he offered Jeff a tentative smile.
“All right, men,” Richard said. “I hope you’ve all had a chance to practice and receive critique. I’m going to talk you through some strategies for how you can make sure your wives are feeling loved and appreciated, especially in this age of social media.” He handed the papers to one of the other men, who began distributing them around the room.
Jeff looked at his copy. By the time he had read through it, he was sure there was actual smoke pouring out of his ears. The majority of the suggestions were about using various phrases to communicate about his wife’s appearance. He didn’t see a single one that referenced intellect, sense of humor, industriousness, compassion, or virtue. The only things on there that weren’t appearance-based were related to cooking, housekeeping, and child-rearing.
He’d had enough. Jeff had no interest in staying for the rest. Before Richard could return to the microphone to introduce any more practice sessions, Jeff muttered, “I need to get out of here.” He pushed back his chair.
He barely noticed the motion on either side of him as he stood up. Without turning around, he stalked to the doors. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw men shifting in their seats to stare at him; he ignored them.
Jeff turned around slowly, not wanting to have to explain himself. He was surprised to see both Bill and Chad.
“You’re not going to convince me to stay,” Jeff told them.
“I had enough of this kind of thing at the last church my wife and I tried,” Bill said, shrugging. “I don’t think Terrie would like this very much.”
“You’re leaving too, then?” Jeff asked, turning to Chad.
“I’m pretty sure you can guess why.” Chad offered a tight smile. “I mean, I think I should have known I wouldn’t factor into their plans, but I had this notion I might actually learn something about communication.”
By that time, Doug had caught up with the three of them. Jeff closed his eyes briefly. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say to his friend. I don’t think much of your church probably wasn’t quite the right thing to tell him.
“Doug—” he began.
“Don’t. Look, I probably should have told you ahead of time, but I didn’t know much myself. I just knew Richard said he was going to be using a program designed by one of those big churches out west. A lot of their affiliates use it, and they even have one designed for leadership seminars.”
Jeff just stared at him. “Don’t play stupid, Doug. You knew. You said it yourself when we were all at the table.”
“I honestly didn’t know anything except that this was based on a men’s Bible study book.” He sighed. “All right, fine. I read the book. But I didn’t know Richard was going to jump right into it at the first session!”
“What book was it?”
Doug looked nervous. “The Smokin’ Hot Wives Club.”
“Oh, hell. You knew about that and you still thought I’d want to show up? Good God, Doug.” Jeff eyed his friend for a moment. “You actually believe this nonsense, don’t you?”
“I—” Doug folded his arms across his chest. “Maybe I do, in fact. Have you seen the response to this? Women eat it up. There’s nothing wrong with reconnecting with your wife, praising her in ways she might not be used to, and letting the world know she’s the only one for you. Do you have any idea how many men this program has prevented from committing adultery?”
Jeff let his mouth hang open briefly before closing it with a snap. “That kind of talk belongs in the bedroom, not a public breakfast or, God forbid, the Internet. Listen, do us both a favor and don’t invite me to one of these again. Or maybe do, so I can have the pleasure of saying no next time.”
Jeff ignored him and turned back to the exit. He felt something brush his arm, and when he looked to the side, he saw that Bill and Chad were flanking him. Together, they left the building.
When they reached the parking lot, Jeff glanced at his watch. “It’s only eight forty. I don’t have to be home for nearly two hours. You guys want to grab some coffee someplace else? Maybe that diner on the corner of Morton?”
“Sure, why not?” Chad said. He made a face. “Al’s spending the day landscaping with his dad and brother-in-law. Not exactly my thing.”
“I’m game. Terrie’s working this morning anyway.”
“Great. See you there,” Jeff said, sliding into his car.
As he pulled out of the parking lot, Jeff glanced back at the large, brick building. He wondered briefly if the other men were using their smartphones to send tweets about their wives at that very moment. Shaking his head, he realized that he felt sorry for anyone uncreative enough not to know how to give his spouse a genuine compliment. Putting that thought aside, he decided that he would pick up a blueberry muffin for Moira on his way out of the diner. They were her favorite because they used organic blueberries, and she always said they tasted better.