A few mornings ago, I sat alone at Florentine Trattoria, pulling apart puffy pillows of bread slathered in garlic butter. I was also working on critiques that were due at my writing group. Between the reading, the thinking and the eating, I didn’t hear the horde of men at a table behind me. A sudden bolt of laughter made me turn around to take in the raucous group for the very first time.
A couple of the men met my gaze. They shrugged and stretched their arms out in that grandiose Italian way, in a gesture of pretend-guilt. “ Sorry, sweetheart,” one of them said. “Are we bein’ too loud?”
“That’s perfectly okay,” I said. “I can see you’re having a good time.”
“Hey, how about you join us too? Come on!” one of the men offered, pointing to an empty chair next to him. Another man chimed in from one end of the table. “We’re just a bunch of guys havin’ a good time while our wives are hard at work.” They laughed some more. I laughed too.
Soon I turned back to my papers. About an hour later, I got up to leave and the seven men at the trattoria wished me goodbye. Near the exit, the restaurateur apologized to me in a low voice. “Those Italian guys were being very loud. We’re sorry if it disturbed you.” I told the gentleman that I wasn’t the least bit annoyed.
What bothered me more that morning was something else altogether, that such a pack of men seemed as rare as a herd of caracals in the African Savannah. Men rarely found reasons to just talk to one another about their lives. They weren’t like us women who communed to complain. We aired our grievances in the hope that we'd find our ilk—with problems even greater than our own. We often brooded facing one another. But we found solutions. Men, on the other hand, preferred to brood in silence. Almost always, if and when they assembled, an object held them in its thrall. If it were not the television or a movie, it was a golf ball or a football or an electronic gadget or a woman on a pole. I drove back home that afternoon savoring what I believed was a rare sighting in the wilderness called civilization.
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