It was morning when the email arrived, its subject line blaring like a Helvetica horn: “Emergency Book Club Meeting Tonight.” I hadn’t drained my first cup of coffee, and now I didn’t need to; there are few five-word phrases that set my adrenaline surging like this one.
It’s a laughable notion, I realize. What sort of event spurs a frantic gathering of book group members? An abominable mis-casting for the movie version of The Glass Castle? A global embargo of pinot grigio?
But the Emergency Book Club Meeting is not something to be taken lightly. In six years, our literature-loving girl gang has called just three of these urgent rallies, each time for a life-altering predicament affecting one of our members and thoroughly outraging the rest of our close-knit sisterhood.
“Ladies,” the most recent email began, “one of our own is facing a crisis situation and could use all the support and love we can offer.” The crisis: a cheating husband. More specifically, a self-involved man-child who navigated through his midlife crisis by using his wilson as a compass.
The affair was clichéd, but the pain it inflicted was fresh and crude and needed tending.
Like Wonder Woman getting a distress signal from the Justice League’s Trouble Alert computer, we sprung to action, hiring sitters, calling in sick at work, and stocking up on trusty trauma lube: pizza, wine, and ice cream. We gathered in a familiar living room where we’ve discussed Neil Gaiman and debated Roald Dahl. A room where we’ve had tea parties and baby showers.
We hugged, we poured, we sat — and we listened. Listened to the sickening When, the cruel How, and the heart-wrenching Why of the duplicity. And then the shocking Who: His wife’s close, longtime friend.
Our double-duped friend was in shock. In pain. Incensed. We empathized, nodding and blinking back tears, because that’s what women do. And then we spoke. All of us. Women who’d been cheated on, and those who some day might. Married women, single, divorced.
We made dates, filling up her calendar with promising plans. We pondered feng shui, urging her to buy new sheets and even rearrange the bedroom furniture. (It’s supposed to really help. What do we know?) We told stories of philandering fathers, and boyfriends who said they weren’t married.
“They do stupid things,” said a gal whose spouse once strayed.
There was nothing we didn’t discuss. No detail — no appendage — too small for our verbal scrutiny.
“Are they just all sucky?” I asked, exasperated, at one point.
“They’re all sucky some of the time,” replied one woman, who seemed to know what she was talking about.
We tried to be mature about the situation. We really did. We reminded her that love’s hard, but life’s long. We applauded her strength and clear thinking. And we hoped aloud that the cads’ tryst felt good enough to allay their shame when the town finds out they’re selfish twat-wads. Which we will ensure it does. (Hey, even Wonder Woman had to use her Amazonian berserker rage from time to time.)
Our book group is bound by more than a bent for best-selling fiction. We’re partners in this page-turning drama we call life — and we don’t like stories with crappy endings.
I’m not sure what will come of my friend’s marriage. For all her husband’s recent treachery, he’s a smart guy. After coming clean about his affair, he made this astute confession to a buddy:
“I’m terrified of Book Club.”