I Quit The Book Club I Started: Nobody Missed Me!
The women I had loved, laughed with and felt close to for more than two decades … ghosted me.
I started our book club in 1995 when I moved into a new neighborhood. I knew several women from my son’s kindergarten soccer team, but I was eager to know more. The idea of a book club was trending as a sort of modern take on the women’s consciousness-raising groups from the 1970s.
The idea was for one member to pick the book and host a simple dinner. We settled on the first Monday of each month.
I was the first host. The book? Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Dinner? Julia Child’s beef bourguignon.
The original group consisted of six women: myself (an author and magazine freelancer); a young, high-ranking vice president at a tech company; a 70-year-old wealthy millionaire widow who collected antique scales; an 80-year-old Pearl Harbor widow who read Proust in French, drove a tomato-red Mercedes convertible coupe and always wore wide-brimmed hats; a 30-year-old jewelry designer with an MBA; and a woman who owned a Christmas tree farm.
That night 12 bottles of Dry Creek chardonnay were consumed as we talked too much, interrupted each other and tried to show off our literary chops and deep understanding of D.H. Lawrence. We were a club. Then we became a sort of dysfunctional family. For 10 years we met faithfully once a month. Raucous evenings began with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, followed by candlelit dinners with good linen and Limoges plates. What started as a simple plan to discuss literature became a monthly competition for the freshest foie gras and hand-torched crème brûlée. We drank too much, which led to subtle insults and next-day apologies.
We ramped up the food. Cheese plates for dessert. Finger bowls after shrimp cocktails. Holiday fireside dinners, summer garden parties under the stars, an overnight to an expensive country inn. We lived through house renovations, cheating husbands, breast cancer, bankruptcy and the occasional bad book.
The only rule was we had to talk about the book for at least 10 minutes. After that, the floodgates opened. We endured months of whining from a new member who was going through a nasty divorce. We invited another new member — a rabid liberal who almost came to blows with another member over Hillary Clinton.
By 2005 — our 10th anniversary — we were reading 400-page biographies on obscure historical figures as well as classics and best sellers. In 10 years we had read 120 books; consumed 40 pounds of Janie’s pimento dip; discussed sex, movies, real estate, politics and Uggs; shrugged off Karen’s predictable last-minute calls she couldn’t make it; and moved the antique-scale collector out of her massive townhouse with 6,240 scales in the basement into an assisted living home. For the jewelry designer’s birthday we put on a Downton Abbey play, each of us portraying one of the characters. We liked silly hats, crude jokes and gossip. We vied for attention.
By 2010, red-Mercedes, hat-wearing neighbor was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Her eyesight was failing, so I used to read to her in the late afternoon when the sun was still glowing through her lace curtains. I watched as her watery blue eyes closed. And there was the dementia. I had to tell her family when I caught her cleaning the kitchen floor with turpentine. She cried when I visited her in the nursing home.
By 2018, book club had gone through three divorces, three deaths, one Arlington Cemetery burial and newer members joining and leaving. We had read a total of 276 books and drunk 1,856 bottles of wine.
Last year I had a falling out with a member whom I had been friends with for 23 years. I wrote private school recommendations for her kids; we shared 9/11 when we raced to school to pick up our kids who were on lockdown; we holidayed and worked together, and raised a Service Dog together; and we laughed so hard it left wet spots on her red sofa.
But there was a breach of trust. Hurt and resentment. Tears and blame. I couldn’t imagine eating pimento dip with her ever again.
So, I quit the book club I started. And in the coming days, I never heard a word from my fellow members.
Not. One. Word. The women I had loved, laughed with and felt close to for more than two decades … ghosted me. They’d taken her side.
The funny thing was, I was OK with that. They are still together, I believe, as I see their photos on Facebook. But sometimes it’s good to turn the page.