I have been away from the ladies’ Sunday School class for some time. I taught the Senior High class last year, and then when I finished that, I started the busy summer and have had special music things going on and all, so I have been back only occasionally this summer.
So when I went in yesterday, I was surprised to see a man in the group.
The class isn’t really called “the ladies’ Sunday School class,” but as long as I have been there it has been all women, and mostly old women. I have always enjoyed hearing about their adventurous lives and their raucous cackling laughs have brightened my Sunday mornings.
The gentleman who joined us had an interesting effect on the group. The women would be talking about something and getting into the discussion, and the man would join in with something like, “The thread that I notice in all these stories is that all of them reflect individual attempts to embrace The Holy, and it is through these individual attempts that we create a community of faith that has the power to provide a channel of God’s love to a hungry world. I will now read Isaiah 5:8.” Throughout these perorations, the group would nod solemnly, and then at the end there would be a sort of respectful silence. The leader of the group would then read the next question for discussion and it would start again.
Later, at home, my husband was working on my car, and kept trying to involve me in it. I appreciate the fact that he is able to fix the cars. In this case, my “low coolant level” light had come on, and I figured that he could put in some coolant for me, and that would be the end of it.
No. He kept making me go out in the triple digit heat and listen to the motor. Sometimes he made me look at the belts. The lettering was red, he pointed out. What I was supposed to glean from this fact I do not know.
He had me read the car repair instruction manual. I do not recall what it said, except that the word “splines” came into it. I do not know what splines are, but I admire the word. You are supposed to clean them, if you are wondering about the context.
I was talking to my daughter at the time via IM. The boys were both here, too, and we were discussing comedy: the difference between wit and humor, I think it was. My daughter was telling me about her weekend. These were low-key conversations. The insertion of the auto repair motif did not improve them.
Both these examples seem to me to typify the problem of conversational agendas. When there is a conversational flow already in place, it is not possible to divert it. You can only stop it.
I used to work at a museum. It was the custom for all the workers to stop and eat lunch together. You may be thinking that this is kind of sweet, but it always seemed to me that it showed how unimportant our work was, that we could all stop working at the same time to eat together.
Anyway, the main topic at the table was always television.
You know that I am not knowledgeable on this topic even now, and that was in the days when I lived in the country and did not have cable TV. I knew nothing. People would say, “Did you watch ‘The Practice’ last night?” and I would think, “Oh, good, we’re talking about something else. Is it sports or music?”
I was incapable of joining in those conversations. I am also incapable of joining in any auto repair conversations. The only way I could honestly join the the discussion of The Holy that the man in Sunday School seemed to be trying to propagate would be by saying, “What exactly are you talking about?”
I’m inclined to say that the solution is just to follow the conversational flow as established (knitting directions say to follow the pattern as established, for the non-knitters who don’t recognize the reference). Or change groups and get your own conversation going.
I think it is a little sad that none of the kids turned out to be someone that my husband can discuss cars with. But the man in the Sunday School class is, I think, out of line.
2 thoughts on “Conversational Flow”
yeah, men in an all girls group alters the dynamic too much…
Back in the day, when a male nurse was a rare creature, the phenomenon you describe in the Sunday School class used to take place analogously. Any time a male nurse in one of my medical seminars spoke — usually in the fashion of the man you describe in the Sunday School class — all of the other nurses (the female ones) would do a sort of Nancy-Reagan-admiring-the-spouse routine. All sorts of respectful silence and awe. I sincerely hope that this no longer happens in medical seminars.
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