My husband and I, to his perceived misfortune, were seated at a table with six women. Jealous eyes looked on -- one man, seven women; they liked those odds.
To avoid misinterpretations, my spouse truly appreciates women. He finds their company, in brief doses, enjoyable. He flirts with skill. He can work a room of women like a raccoon working a watermelon patch.
But when involuntarily surrounded by the gentler gender through no effort of his own, he reacts like a raccoon staring into a flashlight beam and runs like someone filled his britches with buckshot, excusing himself to the bar or to the restroom or to the buffet. Because as much as he likes to make a girl laugh or fluster her or just admire her, he has no desire to loiter in the midst of multiple X chromosomes. Besides that, he doesn't understand us.
"How can you spend that long eating dinner? Five hours at one meal?" he asked after a recent girls' night out. "Five hours is almost a full work day."
"Men would pick the chicken from the bone in 15 minutes flat, eat moon pies, and be saying, 'OK, what's next?' We'd never survive in that environment," he emphatically explained.
Fate decided to teach him that for females it's not about the food.
As soon as we sat down, the woman to his right lit into a wild story about a night out with her husband that ended in, well, something entirely unexpected. While we laughed our dress straps right off our shoulders and called for wine refills, things that appeared appealing to men at neighboring tables, my beloved's eyes grew amusingly huge. He now possessed information normally reserved for an undetected voyeur. Discomfort squirmed down his spine and shifted his fanny in his seat.
But the woman to his right didn't notice. She chirped, "Oh, listen to me," and grabbed his upper arm, playfully squeezing it. "Here you are bravely sitting at a table full of girls and I go right into talking about personal things."
I doubt he could have opened his eyes any wider or held his breath any longer.
"You're such a good sport, bless your heart," she squealed, loud enough for heaven to hear.
He blanched and locked his gaze on something on the far wall. His cheek twitched.
I'm losing him, I thought. He froze like a watermelon patch raccoon panicking in the farmer's daughter's trap. I considered holding my compact mirror under his nose, but stopped when I remembered what my sports-playing sons told me: If they are down on the field but their eyes are open, I am not allowed, under any circumstance, to go out there and check on them. I figured it's the same for grown men, even on an uneven playing field; even in a watermelon patch.
Just as quickly as his heart had been blessed, the conversation curved and giggling erupted, startling him to action. Stiffly leaning toward me, he placed his napkin on his plate, told me to stay as long as I liked, and went home to reclaim his dignity in front of the television watching football.
The arrival of dessert quieted the cackling and chattering enough for my fellow females to notice my beloved's absence. "He walked home to pick a chicken from the bone and eat a moon pie," I mumbled. "I'm probably in trouble."
"Why?" everyone exclaimed.
"Well," I hesitatingly began, wanting to be truthful without hurting anyone's feelings, "he got his heart blessed ... to his face ... in public. He can't survive in this environment."
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)