Archive | May 2013

The Smokin’ Hot Wives Club

Photo by Nyki M

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.”

“Sure.”

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?”

“All right.”

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.

“Wait!”

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.”

“Yeah.”

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.”

“C’mon, Jeff—”

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.

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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Sermons

This story was inspired both by something a rather infamous Seattle-based pastor said about nagging wives and by these two cartoons by Naked Pastor.  Please don’t blame NP; he’s a really nice guy, and it’s not his fault his artwork made my mind go there.

Terrie snagged the mail on her way into the house. She threw it on the table and grabbed herself a glass of water before returning to the dining room to sift through the pile of magazine offers and take-out menus. The postcard halfway into the pile caught her attention and she set it aside to show Bill when he came home from work.

At dinner, Terrie passed her husband the postcard. He examined it thoughtfully. “Well,” he said before pausing to take a bite of his chicken. “We haven’t found a church since we moved here. Maybe we should give this one a try.”

“Any church that doesn’t shy away from sensitive subjects can’t be all bad, right?” Terrie grinned at Bill.

“Definitely. We’ll keep it in mind. If we don’t find someplace else we’d prefer to try, this will probably give us the best impression of what they’re all about.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Terrie agreed.

O_o

The postcard had given Terrie the impression that there was no need to dress up, so, clad in their jeans and casual button-down shirts, she and Bill entered the angular brick building that Sunday. A well-coiffed man in khakis and an ocean blue polo greeted them at the door.

“Welcome! Glad you could join us today,” he said. When he smiled, Terrie half expected the light to glint charmingly off his very white teeth.

“Um, thanks,” Bill said, attempting a manly grin.

Terrie and Bill were swept into the sanctuary with the rest of the crowd. Apparently, a whole lot of people were just as curious as they were about love, sex, and marriage. Terrie took that as a good sign; at least they didn’t stick out as the creepy new people who just came for a lecture on keeping their private parts in check. They found seats and settled in for the service to begin.

There wasn’t anything particularly new or different about the church service.  That didn’t bother Terrie—she figured that as long as the message was good, the rest didn’t matter all that much. She’d never had any special attachment to a style of music or a form of liturgy. She relaxed, enjoying the familiarity of singing contemporary praise songs along with the rest of the congregation.

When the pastor began to speak, Terrie concentrated on his words. He was explaining that although many women did not intend to expose too much of their bodies, most did so inadvertently anyway.

The pastor said, “Ladies, when you dress like that, it’s distracting. All we can see is your body!”

Terrie squirmed a little. She had never considered the possibility that her body might be a source of struggle for anyone else. After all, wasn’t it her body? She glanced over at Bill, wondering what he was thinking. She was surprised to see that he was looking at her, a puzzled expression on his face.

She leaned in and whispered, “What’s wrong?”

He shook his head. “Uh…nothing.” He averted his gaze.

Terrie sat back in her seat. Something felt a little off to her. She shifted uncomfortably, and as she did so, she noticed that she had forgotten to fasten the top button of her shirt.  That must have been what had thrown Bill off. Discreetly, she reached her hand up to slide the button back into place. It wouldn’t budge. She risked a glance downward and saw that it was because the fabric wouldn’t draw together. Since when had this shirt been too tight? It hadn’t felt that way when she’d put it on, had it? She frowned. The shirt was brand-new; it must have shrunk in the wash. She sighed. Obviously she would have to be more careful when she washed her clothes. She turned her attention back to the pastor, who was concluding with some advice for women that they should be careful about maintaining modesty.

After one last song, everyone was dismissed. Terrie stood up and looked around. Being in a new church was always a little awkward. She never felt quite comfortable enough to introduce herself, but she also didn’t care for the feeling of being stalked for recruitment, either. It was usually better to make the first move.

Just as Terrie was about to mingle, Bill grabbed her arm. “Let’s just go,” he said.

Confused, Terrie nodded. Strangely, it seemed like a fair number of other couples were feeling the same way. Terrie followed Bill out of the sanctuary. She remembered that she was a little exposed, due to her button mishap. She felt a tingle of embarrassment creep down her scalp.

She was momentarily distracted by the people walking past her. She realized she needn’t have worried; it looked like it was the official Sunday for wearing slightly-too-tight blouses. Terrie shrugged and let Bill lead her out to their car.

Once they were home, Terrie asked Bill what had him so riled up. He coughed.

“It’s just—that outfit you’re wearing. You look really good.”

Terrie laughed. “That’s all? Hm.” She leaned in. “Maybe I should take it off.”

“Maybe you should,” Bill agreed. “I don’t know what you did differently, but I just can’t take my eyes off you.”

Still laughing, Terrie grabbed Bill’s hand and led him upstairs.

O_o

The following week, they decided to give the church another try. Terrie hadn’t been sure, but Bill had suggested they give it a few weeks before making their decision.

“I don’t know,” Terrie said. “There’s just something a little…odd, I guess, about that church.”

“Come on. Let’s just wait and see.” He thought for a moment. “It’s probably just that we feel uncomfortable with the topic. It doesn’t come up in church that often, you know?”

“Maybe you’re right. Fine, I’ll give it another shot.”

Once again, Terrie and Bill were caught up in the crowd and funneled into the sanctuary. After the worship set concluded, the pastor took his place to preach. Apparently, having addressed the women the previous week, this time the pastor was giving the men their due. He was discussing the problem of lust and explaining how it could destroy a man and his marriage.

“Guys, you are letting your thoughts control you. You need to get a handle on your lust.” The pastor thumped his fist on the lectern.

Terrie smirked a little. Apparently, men were prone to thinking about sex all the time—including in church. She was just suppressing a snicker when she caught a look at Bill out of the corner of her eye. He was shifting in his seat and looking distinctly uncomfortable. Terrie raised her eyebrows, but she said nothing. As she turned her eyes back to the pastor, she noticed that quite a lot of the men were adjusting their bodies. She felt her cheeks heat up. It was one thing to know that her own husband was finding it hard to suppress his reactions; it was entirely different to feel like she’d suddenly been deposited in a room full of thirteen-year-old boys. She concentrated harder on listening to the rest of the sermon.

By the time the band started playing, Bill was begging Terrie to leave a little early. She took in his flushed face and, with a quick peek southward, she decided it was probably for the best. The good news was that they would probably barely be in the door before they would be all over each other. Regardless of whatever else the church had to offer, attendance certainly had its perks.

O_o

When the third week rolled around, Terrie was certain Bill wouldn’t want to return to that particular church. He proved her wrong, however, by suggesting that they stick it out until the end of the series. He thought the pastor had some “interesting points,” as he put it. Terrie shrugged. She didn’t really care. The pastor wasn’t actually saying anything she hadn’t heard before; he was just doing it in a way that made people significantly more embarrassed. Or turned on; whatever.

The message was different that week. The official sex talk over with, the pastor had turned to marriage. Terrie was a little bored; it wasn’t anything new. According to this week’s sermon, men were experiencing leadership failure in their homes. They were either lax, allowing their wives to pick up the slack, or they were obsessively controlling. Terrie made a face. She and Bill didn’t seem to have any difficulty with that. As far as she could recall, they’d never even discussed it.

“Men, you lead your homes like cavemen!” the pastor shouted.

Terrie snorted. That was a decidedly silly image. She wasn’t even sure what it meant. Her mind wandered to an image of Bill dragging her by her hair and thumping things with a giant club. She stifled a giggle.

After the previous two weeks, Terrie had hoped they might stay for a bit after church. Everyone (Terrie and Bill included) always seemed to be in such a rush to escape after the service ended. Terrie was beginning to wonder if they even bothered with coffee hour. At least this time everyone’s hormones seemed to be under wraps. Terrie blamed the previous weeks on the topic; frank discussions about sex were bound to lead to at least some frantic groping, right?

As they stood around making small talk, Terrie became aware that there was something subtly off about the men. The lighting was rather dim, so she couldn’t be sure, but they all appeared to be hunched over a bit. And their faces—they just looked, well, strange, for lack of a better word. She wasn’t having any trouble carrying on a conversation with the other women, but the men were just standing around. Every now and again, one of them would grunt something she didn’t quite catch. Oddly, none of the other women seemed bothered by this.

By the time they made their way out to the parking lot, Terrie was glad to be out of there. She waited for Bill to unlock the car, but he was just standing there, seemingly incapable of figuring out what to do. Terrie huffed.

“Bill, can you open the door? I’d like to go home.”

He turned toward her, and she saw that he, too, looked wrong somehow. He said, “Huh?”

“Never mind,” she replied. “Just give me the keys. I’ll drive.” She snatched the keys out of his hands and propelled him toward the passenger side. With a shake of her head, she opened his door and waved at him to get in. She hoped whatever was wrong with Bill would wear off by the time they got home.

O_o

Terrie and Bill had agreed to stick it out at church until the end of the series. Even so, she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to. She knew Bill was having second thoughts as well, but he thought they should give it one last chance. By that point, Terrie didn’t care one way or another.

They were halfway through the sermon on wives being submissive to their husbands before the realization hit Terrie. She inhaled sharply and looked over at Bill. The same thought must have occurred to him simultaneously.

The pastor had just said, “I was listening to a fellow pastor speaking this week. He was just saying how irritating it can be when a wife constantly nags her husband, a lot like a …”

Terrie and Bill looked at each other. “We need to leave now,” she said.

Bill didn’t even question it. Quietly, they stood from their seats and slipped out of the sanctuary. When the doors had closed on whatever it was the pastor had been about to say, they both sighed with relief. They took a moment to lean against a wall and collect themselves.

“You know, Bill,” Terrie said, closing her eyes briefly, “I don’t think this is the church for us after all.”

“I think you may be right. Next week, let’s try to find one that doesn’t take everything so literally.”

He laced his fingers with hers and, swinging their joined hands between them, they left the church building.

©May 3, 2013 by ABMitchell