Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a “group dinner” with three other couples who we’ve known forever. You can imagine the scene: eight people seated at a table in an Italian restaurant. The women are together at one end of the table, the men at the other end. A bottle of red. A bottle of white. Blah, blah, blah. We used to go to dinners like this all the time when we were younger, and I loved them. But then people started having kids, they didn’t have sitters, schedules became harder to coordinate, and the group dinners happened more and more infrequently. So, recently, we decided to make more of an effort. We planned months in advance, got a date on our calendars, made a reservation. We did it. And now I never want to do it again. I think this snippet of conversation from the ladies’ end of the table may help explain why:


Is your son sleeping in underwear yet? Because my son is still in pull ups and I’m starting to think that something is wrong with him.


I wouldn’t worry about it. My pediatrician said that some kids are just deep sleepers, and it takes them longer.


Who is your pediatrician? Do you go to Dr. Bob? Because I interviewed him when I was pregnant, and something about him rubbed me the wrong way, but now everyone I know goes to him, and I’m wondering if I made a mistake because I’m not that happy with my pediatrician anymore.


I’m reading the best book right now. It’s about this writer who spends an entire year following the bible literally. It’s really funny. (Long pause as everyone stares at me).


Oh, my God, have you guys been to the shoe sale at Neiman’s yet? I got the best pair of boots.


Okay, so forgive me for generalizing here, but when did women become so boring? I know, I know, they’re not all boring. I said I was generalizing. It’s just that, I have to say, I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the number of children my friends have and their ability to talk about anything interesting. Not that kids and shopping and pediatricians aren’t interesting. It’s just that, they’re only interesting for a finite amount of time. Ten minutes: interesting. Ad nauseum: not so interesting.


When I couldn’t take hearing about Wife #3’s problems with her decorator any longer, I let my ear wander over to the men’s end of the table for a little while, where they were talking about the economy, about Obama, about an interesting study reported in the New York Times. Ah, I thought. That’s what I’m talkin’ bout. I scooted my chair closer to them and joined the conversation, abandoning the other wives all together.


My firm is representing a school board against a group of parents who are suing the district for not including intelligent design in the science curriculum. Can you believe that?


You know there’s a museum somewhere that is dedicated to intelligent design. They have huge exhibits of men riding dinosaurs.



I completely related to your story! My husband and I go out with a couple friends for dinner (once a month or so) and this is exactly the conversation the women have (for the men, it's sports, sports, sports, so no relief there). I think everyone is a little braindead from working and taking care of the children and because we don't keep abreast of the news like we used to. Even with 4 kids, my monthly subscription to Vanity Fair and Newsweek are my 'brain escapes' - I couldn't give them up even if I have no outlet for discussion. I do have a bookclub gang that helps me get out of the 'mommy rut'. I typically just have to find time to hang out with the couple of friends who, like me, couldn't give these things up once we had children. But I still want to maintain my other friendships so I'll keep going to these dinners and hope, within a few years, we'll be on to better topics! Hang in there!


I love your article and I completely agree! How much conversation needs to be devoted to sippy cups????? I don't know why this has happened. Being an attentive parent is important, but being obsessed with the minute details of one's child is not optimal!


I think you should be respectful of their new priorities and find some friends who are more likely to stimulate you intellectually. Perhaps the "boring" friends can meet you for coffee or something a little more casual than dinner. I know I always worry about being the boring one who goes on and on about the kids and their shenanigans, so I think I can relate to both sides.


Um, maybe you need some new friends. Or maybe a new seating arrangement: it sounds like the gender-division seating chart isn't working. Really. Decorators? Pull ups? At dinner? With wine? Men with more conversational moxie than the women? Did you know these women before they had kids? Did you like them then? Yikes.
Going out to dinner isn't a bad idea; going out to dinner with this gender stereotyped group of alpha males and Stepford wives is.


I was actually just thinking about trying to coordinate a similar dinner. The biggest issue for me though is that I'm the first of my friends to have kids (my oldest just turned 5 too, so it's been a while already), whereas others are newly married or still dating. My husband and I end up feeling like the old timers, when we're really in the middle of the pack age-wise. Since college, it's been impossible to get into a social scene that feels appropriate, but maybe someday.