Grin and Bear Them

Once a month some of the men of my parish meet for breakfast and discussion. The discussion centers around various “projects”; books we’re reading along together; Christian documentary films; that sort of thing. Breakfast is provided by two members who volunteer (or are volunteered if they seem to have forgotten to do so for awhile), and the details of which are worked out between them. I was one of those men at the last meeting I could attend.

The other was George; a kind man who is old enough to be my father. (In fact I am always the youngest person of the group by at least 25 years.[1]) George is always about doing things for others. He likes Habitat for Humanity, food drives, toy drives, city missions…projects with real physical results for people; the Body doing bodily things. This is an excellence in him. For that reason he was excited to prepare breakfast, and immediately had in mind breakfast burritos.

This was good news to me because I really just cannot stand eggs, and breakfast is always some egg dish. I don’t like them scrambled. I don’t like them fried. I don’t like omelets. I don’t like them in a casserole. I don’t like them on a plane. I don’t like them on a train.  Having warned him of my infirmity, we agreed to split up offerings: He would bring beef and egg along with some orange juice, and I would bring chorizo and potato to be chased with muffins. For some reason–whatever else we have–there are always orange juice and store-bought muffins; probably for people who don’t like eggs. They appear to be only and all the members under age 60.[2]

The plan was to make the burritos myself. I’d get up about 5:30am to start. It was a good plan. Satisfied that the plan was good enough as is, I slept in until nearly 7:00am.

I arrived at the church about twenty minutes to eight, and started the big cylindrical stainless steel coffee pot. The organizer was there, and he directed me to the platters and whatnot I needed to lay out the burritos and muffins. Having done that, I went outside to smoke a cigarette and wait for George to show up. A few minutes later his wife pulled up to drop him off. As he was getting out I could tell they were having a disagreement; something about how to organize their day. When he shut the car door it was hurried and relieved. It sounded like he was closing that one back closet; the one that is embarrassingly overstuffed with the things a man hates for his wife to keep, and that are all jumbled up with the things she won’t forgive him for not throwing away.

“Good morning!”

“Hey, Cane.”

We set it all up and when everyone showed we said a prayer and dug into food.

“Hey! Real muffins!”, someone exclaimed.

“Yeah, Evie made them. She loves to do that stuff.” Evie is my third daughter, and almost eleven.

“So, what are choices here?” someone else asked, wagging a finger at the two platters of burritos. George replied,

“Well, those are the ones I brought, and they’re egg and cheese. The other ones are Cane’s, and they’re…?”

“Potato and chorizo.”

“You guys made these?”

“I did, yeah.” George said.

“Mrs. Caldo made mine.”

“Really!” There were low whistles and exclamations out of each of the twenty or so men in the the room; all 60 or over.

“Yessir. I got up this morning, and found her in the kitchen. She said she had got up at 5:00am, went to the store, bought the ingredients, came back, and was cranking them out.”

“Boy, are you spoiled!” and other heckles were thrown at me, as men do.

I nodded and grinned, “She’s all right for a girl.” The room exploded in loud disbelief.

“You better not let her hear you say that!”, someone belted out.

Several others sang the harmony, “Yeah, really!”, “No kidding!”, etc.

Each of them thought I was getting away with something; that I had spoken out of turn. Some of them laughed with embarrassment, like I had told a dirty joke. Some of them suggested caution in a way that approached sincerity. For my own good, you see. A couple gave me looks of disgust. I just shrugged and again gave them the grin that so often at home had earned me a whippin’, in school had landed me in detention, and in the office had cost points on my reviews. But, look: I can’t let them get me down. Then where will they be? Eventually those grins invite people to investigate you because grins mean something. They have a way of confronting people that a smile just doesn’t. Nobody every heard of a blank grin.

By the end of that meeting I had one confederate. Ralph’s in his 80s, and his wife died this past year.

[1] To give you an idea: In January we had a diocese-wide gathering attended by about 120 men. They had us all stand up, and then sit down as our decades of age were called out: 80s, 70s, 60s, and so forth… I was one of three remaining when he called out 30s. There was one in his 20s; a priest. The gathering was a troubling experience which I would like to write about, but I am not sure what about it I want to say. Suffice it for now that I was the only person to get actually yelled at, more than once by more than one man, over the two days.

[2] In a previous post I estimated they were 55 and above, but I’ve since found out they’re all over 60.

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18 Responses to Grin and Bear Them

  1. donalgraeme says:

    Interesting story. Keeping frame can be tough, but is not only worthwhile but a duty when you think about it.

    I’ve also noticed that age discrepancy that you have observed. Surprised about your age though, thought you were at least a decade older than that.

  2. Velvet says:

    You don’t like eggs? Velly intellesting.

    Each of them thought I was getting away with something; that I had spoken out of turn.

    Do you think this is another baby boomer generational thing? My grandparents would have turned 100 this year were they living, and I can’t imagine my Grandmother doing any differently than your wife did – she often cooked for scads of men, actually, on short notice and a tight budget – but people my mothers age scoff at such a thing, I think. They would be put out to pick up an order at a restaurant much less shop and prepare a meal for her husbands group – I mean, that’s his deal, and she’s busy – even if she doesn’t work, she’s got tennis and garden club, you know – that sort of thing.

  3. Velvet says:

    Are you USEC or old school Anglican, if you don’t mind my asking? I didn’t spend enough time in the Anglican Church before I Catholic-ed up to know how older marrieds behaved there, but I would compare the general “tone” of the couples based on what you’ve described to what I experienced at our EC parish. Lots of bossy women and cowed men. I’m afraid it’s the condition of the EC now.

  4. Marissa says:

    Ooh I’d like to hear why you were yelled at. I can’t imagine you getting into any trouble, not at all.

    And what kind of crazy person don’t like eggs? Potato and chorizo is a fine choice though.

  5. lauratheringmistress says:

    My husband had a similar experience a few weeks ago at the gaming table. He mentioned that I had out my foot down about something (I think the bottle cap collection that had been intended for battle miniatures but was actually acting as caltrops in our hallway.) One of the guys said “She put you in your place, huh?”

    My husband’s reply was priceless. “No. She’s never raised her voice to me in the 17 years we’ve been together.” Dead silence. Calm.face from him. Awkward pause from everyone else. And then the conversation moved on.

    But that’s typical. They can’t figure out how a guy with 5 (soon to be 6) can get out a couple times a month to play board games out RPGs. Their wives wouldn’t let them when the children were little.

  6. Cane Caldo says:

    @DG

    Surprised about your age though, thought you were at least a decade older than that.

    You’re not alone. I married and had kids while still young, and that changes one’s perception of life; what you think about; what you don’t think about…

    @Velvet

    Do you think this is another baby boomer generational thing?

    Correlated, for sure.

    They would be put out to pick up an order at a restaurant much less shop and prepare a meal for her husbands group – I mean, that’s his deal, and she’s busy – even if she doesn’t work, she’s got tennis and garden club, you know – that sort of thing.

    I didn’t ask Mrs. Caldo to make anything, either. Had no idea. She wants to be supportive because she knows that I treat my attendance as a service and she respects that; wants to be a part of it. She sees that hanging out with 60 to 80-year olds is about as fun as it sounds. I have few common interests with them. They’re trying to sort out how to spend their retirement. Not only am I decades short of that customary time: I don’t even believe in retirement!

    But I certainly benefit from them, and it’s not all adversarial.

    Are you USEC or old school Anglican, if you don’t mind my asking?

    We are Anglican; formally recognizing ECUSA’s desire to depart from the Anglican Communion, if not Christianity. There are Anglo-Catholic elements in our diocese, but our parish is not even though we have a high church style; funny clothes, smells and bells on high feast days, etc.

    Lots of bossy women and cowed men. I’m afraid it’s the condition of the EC now.

    It is. It’s condition of all the churches I’ve attended; with the exception of one Independent Baptist we investigated, but which I would not join. St. Paul’s emphasis on women’s and men’s hair is still a worthy signal of where the leadership in a church resides.

    @Marissa

    Ooh I’d like to hear why you were yelled at.

    Because in person my public voice is aggressive, like here. (Less so in private dialogue.) Other aggressive men respond to that; which is what I want. There is a higher likelihood that if and when they are won over, they will really be so. In the meantime, I have to be patient while they think about whether what I said is good or not. I’m sure I’ll write a post about it.

    @LtRM

    One of the guys said “She put you in your place, huh?”

    The men at my church group are brimming with such “humor”. They don’t understand that it’s only funny when it’s ironic and trivial, but not when it is serious and iconic.

    Ha. Ha. Isn’t it funny
    I put up with a shrew.
    Har. Har. Laugh with me.
    I know you do it too.

  7. Bobbye says:

    “Each of them thought I was getting away with something” I wonder what your point was with this post? Maybe that the Church and/or Society have been dominated with feminist spirit much longer than people perceive?
    Questions: 1) Are there ever any meetings of men under 40 in which a significant number show up for ‘fellowship’ that does not include entertainment /music? (singing of hymns exempted) 2) Do women have meetings for ‘fellowship’ and if so what are the demographics?3) Do you perceive that large numbers of young men will in your lifetime find enough value in ‘established churches’ that the culture of said ‘established churches’ will be free from the spirit of feminism? 4) Are most of the young men in your church totally sold out for feminism?

  8. Cane Caldo says:

    @Bobbye

    I wonder what your point was with this post? Maybe that the Church and/or Society have been dominated with feminist spirit much longer than people perceive?

    This wasn’t necessarily a “point” post, but yes that is a theme.

    1) No. This meeting would be the offered meeting.

    2) There are at least three, and they are across all ages from 11 on up.

    3) I don’t know, and because my nature is to corral, I try hard not to concern myself with it. My goal really isn’t to start a revival. I’m just a dude who doesn’t think the old men should be abandoned because they aren’t cool and they aren’t women. A lot of what I do in my mind is restrain my personality so to achieve that immediate primary goal of fellowship before I’ve tackled long term goals. I don’t want to be a pastor, or even pseudo-pastor.

    4) I can’t decide on how to read this question. What do you mean by “sold out”? What type of feminism are you talking about: overt or covert?

  9. Bobbye says:

    @ Cane: ‘sold out’ would mean they agree that feminine dominance as it exist is how it should be. That would include “love the sinner, hate the sin”; “always try to be nice”; ” all sexual lifestyles are valid”; “husbands are to be servant leaders to their wives” and things like that.

  10. Cane Caldo says:

    @Bobbye

    ‘sold out’ would mean they agree that feminine dominance as it exist is how it should be. That would include “love the sinner, hate the sin”; “always try to be nice”; ” all sexual lifestyles are valid”; “husbands are to be servant leaders to their wives” and things like that.

    Ah, gotcha. As well, I just realized that you asked specifically about the younger men; while I was thinking about the older ones that actually attend the men’s group. With these things in mind, I’ll try again.

    4) Are most of the young men in your church totally sold out for feminism?

    I don’t know.

    Better? Ha!

    Unfortunately I don’t know if they are “sold out” because I only ever see them at church service. They don’t go to the men’s group because they think it is boring, and I don’t go to Sunday School because I think Sunday School is part of the problem.

    My suspicion is they, like most men, never make a formal declaration. They just accept the pattern and let it envelope them. They’re no less a part of the problem, but because they don’t know where they end and their allegiances begin, they perceive an attack on the feminism that they’ve allowed to envelope them as an attack on themselves. That’s how “conservative” get co-opted’, by lack of action. Even their defense of conservatism only goes as far as a defense of themselves.

    Conversely, if you scratch a “sold-out conservative” you’ll often find “sold-out liberal” paint beneath. The thing to look for is not whether they are conservative or liberal, but whether they are the sort of people that “sell out”; that make decisions; that are willing to stand-under something. I don’t think there are many of those. They’re cultural feminists, cradle-Feminists; about as effective as cradle-Baptists, cradle-Catholics, etc. who never really chose to be Baptist, Catholic, etc.

    That would include “love the sinner, hate the sin”; “always try to be nice”; ” all sexual lifestyles are valid”; “husbands are to be servant leaders to their wives” and things like that.

    Well, that’s an interesting mix. I agree with the first and last tropes, but despise the second and third. I am aware that “servant leader” is a bad, bad word in the Men’s Sphere, but..fuck it. When I think of the term servant leader, I’m thinking about showing my wife of the importance of serving others by me serving others. Not by serving her, per se, but others. Something like what I said above:

    I didn’t ask Mrs. Caldo to make anything, either. Had no idea. She wants to be supportive because she knows that I treat my attendance as a service and she respects that; wants to be a part of it. She sees that hanging out with 60 to 80-year olds is about as fun as it sounds.

    If she hadn’t made breakfast for the men’s group, I would not have blamed her one bit. That was a gift. But if I came home and she hadn’t made the kids breakfast (or better yet, had them make everyone breakfast) then I would have said, “Why are you lying around? Get up, get those kids breakfast, and get them to their chores. You have women’s group this afternoon.”

  11. James and the Giant Peach says:

    When I was in another city for university, there was a girl who would make me food whenever I came to Bible Study. Sometimes soup, sometimes sushi, sometimes awesome sandwiches. I just loved the spontaneity of it. You just go to Sunday service, or a meeting, or a service event and you get free food not because you did anything to earn it but because that person gave it to you as a gift (one might even call such a thing “grace”!)

    The funny thing is it inspired me to do more too. I didn’t end up in courtship with her, because I became a Christian the last year of college and I moved to back to my home city, but as a guy when you get that much hospitality you start doing stuff for the girl too. I don’t mean supplicate and buy her 1000 flowers kind of stuff. But you give her nice things once in a while because she gives you so many little nice things all the time. It also taught me there is a way to do things for people, guys or girls alike, without the fear of being seen as a supplicating weakling. We serve one another because we are all God’s creations and we want to have fellowship with the people we are running this race with.

    Cane: about the young men who only go to Sunday service but nothing else in your church. I cannot speak for all young men, but how they got me to do more things was the gradual giving of responsibility. At first I only came to Bible Studies. Then they invited me to Sunday service. And gradually they would say stuff like “Hey JatGP why don’t you pray before we begin Bible Study” “Do you want to read the announcements next Sunday?” Then slowly as I developed a foundation in faith they would invite me to harder things, for ex. they would invite me to evangelize on the streets with them. My pastor managed to do it in an encouraging way (as talking to random strangers on the street about Christ was very hard for me) and slowly I learned. I was given the responsibility in steps and it made me feel like I was accomplishing something for God (of course, one might say it is God accomplishing things through us, but anyways). I preached several times too when my pastor was out of town, or for special occasions but I do not think I was called for that. Anyways that is how they suckered me in, I saw their genuine servant leadership and they gave me an opportunity to do the same for the church.

  12. Desiderius says:

    “Eventually those grins invite people to investigate you because grins mean something. They have a way of confronting people that a smile just doesn’t. Nobody every heard of a blank grin.”

    Good on you mate.

    “My goal really isn’t to start a revival. I’m just a dude who doesn’t think the old men should be abandoned because they aren’t cool and they aren’t women. A lot of what I do in my mind is restrain my personality so to achieve that immediate primary goal of fellowship before I’ve tackled long term goals. I don’t want to be a pastor”

    Somebody’s got to.

  13. Cane Caldo says:

    @Desiderius

    Welcome.

    Somebody’s got to.

    Somebody’s got to what?

  14. Desiderius says:

    “Somebody’s got to what?”

    Take your pick.

    Both even. Billy Graham ain’t getting any younger. You’ve probably got a deeper voice than Whitefield and more charisma than Edwards.

  15. Cane Caldo says:

    @Desiderius

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Both even.

    Preaching is easy, and I do it occasionally, if unofficially. Pastoring is hard, and I think that pastoring a church is something one should be asked to do.

    I’ve seen a lot of men get defeated by a desire for revival that does not match God’s timing. A good number of those don’t realize it until much later; long after they’ve made the mistake of attributing swelling church rolls to the Holy Spirit.

  16. Desiderius says:

    “Preaching is easy’

    Heh, good luck with that.

    You’ve got the makings to be a decent one someday, but not with that attitude.

    Your cussedness, charisma, and (over) confidence would come in more handy on the pastoring end. Especially among the women folk who are standing most in need presently.

    That smirk and a twinkle in the eye will get you a lot further with them than trying to be* the second sinless human being.

    * – there is only one I Am. We’re called to become.

  17. Desiderius says:

    “I think that pastoring a church is something one should be asked to do.”

    Yeah, that’s why I’m doing it.

    “I’ve seen a lot of men get defeated by a desire for revival that does not match God’s timing.”

    Our hearts are made to yearn for the Living God. All the time.

    “attributing swelling church rolls to the Holy Spirit.”

    The first church had twelve members, then experienced a decline of nearly 10% in membership. This ain’t Facebook.

  18. Desiderius says:

    “John Bunyan had a great dread of spiritual pride; and once, after he’d preached a very fine sermon and his friends crowded around to shake him by the hand, while they expressed the utmost admiration for his eloquence, he interrupted them, saying: “Ay, you need not remind me of that, for the Devil told me before I was out of the pulpit!”.

    - Southey

    To clarify, I’m asking.

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