Friday, April 7, 2000
Carlisle Men's Groups Find Common Topic of Discussion
What do men talk about when there are no women around? Based on a variety of sources from men's groups in Carlisle, they talk about the things most important to them: work, family, God...and work.
Although there are countless "ladies only" groups in town, Carlisle has only a few groups restricted to male membership. The Carlisle Council on Aging (COA) has one, and there are men's groups at the major churches in town: the First Religious Society, the Congregational Church, and Saint Irene's. Even the Concord/Carlisle Newcomer's Group has only one male group: Men's Poker Night.
Socialization critical for men
There may be lots of things for men to talk about, but there aren't many places for them to gather. The COA men's group gathers for breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. on the second Thursday of every month in the Sleeper Room of the Village Court Housing. About fourteen members meet regularly, and the group welcomes newcomers. In addition to being male, you have to be at least 60-something.
"Women are much more active in community social activities, but guys have a hard time socializing unless they're working," said Ron O'Reilly, former COA Outreach Coordinator and facilitator of the organization's men's group. "Once they stop working, that socialization goes out the window. Our group helps them overcome the sense of isolation."
The COA men's group sits around a huge rectangular table. When the group started meeting two and a half years ago, the conversation was limited to asking someone to pass the salt, according to O'Reilly. The men made it clear that they did not want a fixed agenda that forced them to talk. As the men started to feel more comfortable, however, they began interacting more freely.
Today conversations run the gamut of topics. Nonetheless, the subject of work comes up the most often. The guys enjoy reminiscing about business issues they faced. There's a wealth of experience, and the men welcome opportunities to share their knowledge with anyone seeking advice.
Making room for diverse needs
The First Religious Society at the Unitarian Church offers two men's groups, although the second is a subgroup of the primary organization. The original group began meeting almost four years ago. It convenes at 7 a.m. for a breakfast meeting on the first Saturday of every month. The group has no fixed agenda, and exists to support fellowship at the church. About 15 to 20 men attend each time.
Reverend Eugene "Woody" Widrick helps get the meeting started. Each man introduces himself and talks about what's happening in his life. This helps kick-start discussion, and the conversation builds from there. The minister does not try to control the topics...or preach. "I have learned that if you shut up and listen to people you will learn a lot," Widrick said. "These men have a lot to share and have lots of insights."
The second group, also a breakfast meeting, gathers the third Saturday of the month. About eight to ten men attend. This group focuses on speciic agendas, and usually commences with a short presentation by one of the attendees. Recent topics have included how to buy and sell stock on the Internet and Ben Franklin's self-improvement writings. Last month the group discussed how men can be abusive to themselves. The men talked about setting unrealistic expectations and struggling with excessive pressures of work.
"I would describe these as people who are concerned about making the best of their lives," said Widrick. "They ask good questions of themselves. Why are we doing what we're doing? How does one be a good father?"
Sports active group
True to their name, The Iron Men, the men's group at the Congregational Church, follows an established structure when they gather on alternate Thursday evenings, from 7 to 9 p.m. The meeting has three regular components: prayer, group Bible study about a predefined topic and quiet sharing of weekly experiences.
According to Shawn Seitz, in charge of membership, the group took its name from a quote from the bible: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man builds up the countenance of his friend."
The men also get together for outings. They went deep-sea fishing in Maine, and upcoming events include paintball and kayaking. "It's a way for men in the church to get to know each other and network with each other," said Seitz of the group that has been gathering for the last three years. Although the socialization component is important, the focus of the group is clear. "We always spend time studying God's word."
Putting pragmatic concerns first
The men's group at Saint Irene's has met irregularly over the past five years for the primary purpose of supporting major annual church events. For example, the men helped run the Parish Picnic and the Mystery Dinner. When a major event approaches, the church calls on the membership of about 25 to 30 men. The group gathers to plan for the event. The men help out by selling tickets, event preparation and assisting at the function.
"We have thoughts about formalizing the men's group and having monthly meetings," said Reverend Donohoe, "We hope to do that in the future."
Newcomers address old concerns
Ladies belonging to the Concord/Carlisle Newcomer's Club gather regularly to have lunch, visit a museum, discuss books or play bridge. Although there are several couples groups to promote socialization in the context of dining, gourmet cooking and wine tasting, the only exclusively male activity is Men's Poker Night. Claude Cicchetti, the interest group leader, said the men primarily meet to play cards, but do end up socializing as well. When pressed for the topic of conversation, Cicchetti admitted, "We tend to talk about business issues."
The membership of another Newcomer's group, Business Networking, is 90 percent male according to the interest group leader, Scott Wipper. The group gathers for breakfast once a month on the second or third Friday of the month. "I have heard from some women that meeting in the morning is difficult," said Wipper. "We may try an evening meeting."
Morning or evening, it seems likely that Carlisle men will attend. When it comes to the subject of work, men have something to say. As they grow more comfortable within their groups, other issues can more easily be addressed, as well.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito