DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a business executive and I am a CEO for a nonprofit organization. His company’s leadership team is all male and socializes often, typically with dinner parties to which spouses are also invited. After dinner, the men most often retire to another area for cigars, leaving the spouses to converse until the evening is over.
The women are kind to me, but being the only one with a career and without children, I have little in common with them. Invariably, conversation quickly covers the latest fashions and television shows, followed by at least two hours discussing their children.
When I am occasionally asked about myself, I try to introduce a topic that might be of interest to all, but inevitably conversation returns to their children. I try to remain attentive, such that no one would suspect my profound boredom. Worse, I envy my husband, who is enjoying conversation about business leadership that I would find fascinating, and where I would enjoy engaging as a peer.
Our home is too small to host, so when we reciprocate, we plan a fun activity that encourages a more egalitarian social experience. While everyone professes to have had a good time, it is regarded as a one-time event and does not impact the social norm.
I want to support my husband, but I am finding these occasions increasingly excruciating. Other than “grin and bear it” or bowing out, do you have any suggestions that could help me engage or behave in a way that would make these events more satisfying for me?
GENTLE READER: Didn’t we solve this problem 50 years ago by banning business-related stag dinners? And haven’t we been trying, for just as long, to do away with the stereotype that mothers who are not in paid jobs are boring?
Well, maybe this set is. Parents do like to talk about their children.
But people tend to marry those with whom they have things in common even before they have children. If those husbands are interesting, it seems unlikely that the wives are all dullards. It is even possible that each one thinks that the others are, and restricts her conversation accordingly.
So although you do not have to attend those dinners, Miss Manners would like you to try again to draw them out. They probably have some interest in the business world, not only because of their husbands, but because so many are in it before being home with small children, and plan to reenter it. Perhaps they also do volunteer work and might be interested to hear about your nonprofit organization.
If you find even one kindred spirit, you could ask her to join you in crashing the stag party. That’s what we did in the days when that separation of the sexes after dinner was common.