A few weeks ago I was delighted to be asked to speak to a group of older women who live in a local retirement community. The activities’ director told me it would be their first “Women Who Wine” event, with a wine-tasting, author (me) and a movie.
I know that retired folks read a lot, so I thought it would be a receptive audience. Because most of my programs are writing workshops, I prepared what I thought to be a brilliantly conceived idea of talking about all the literary heroines who influenced me, from Madeline, the little school-girl in Paris who walked with her classmates in two straight lines, to Laura of Little House in the Big Woods to the Gothic romance heroines of Victoria Holt in my teens and my introduction to Kathleen Woodiwiss in my college years.
Personally, I thought it was some of my best work.
When I arrived at the event, (half an hour early), the wine was already flowing. The women were wearing t-shirts proclaiming they were “Women who Wine” – although one participant explained to me that she thought it should be spelled “whine”…
And I noticed that for a wine tasting, the glasses were being filled up pretty full. They were starting with the whites, and the group members milled about, snacked on crackers and cheese, fruit and chocolate. I grabbed a glass and joined in, figuring one glass of wine wouldn’t hurt before speaking.
The time for my presentation came and went, as we moved from white wines to the reds, more chatting up the ladies and a fervent look around. Some of the folks were now on their third glass of wine. I suggested to the coordinator that I could start. She said they’d get through the “tasting” – which now looked like guzzling to me, before the program.
By the time she introduced me, at least 4-5 glasses, (and we’re talking full glasses) of wine had been poured. Let’s just say they were a “happy” group. Before she introduced me, the coordinator whispered, “we’re enjoying a lot of wine, because I bought a case for the party.” That explained the full glasses.
Things went pretty well until the lady at one of the tables started to pass out. First her head hit the table, the other women pulled her upright. The head went down again. I glanced at the coordinator, wondering if we should call 911. She was grinning at me and didn’t seem upset. I kept talking. Then the entire table got up and escorted the “troubled” woman outside. I still kept talking.
I hit a high note with the “Bride of Pendorric” memory, apparently I wasn’t the only Victoria Holt fan in the crowd, then segued into a review of “The Flame and the Flower” – which was the first romances to open the bedroom door on the sex scene between the hero and heroine.
It was probably the word, “sex” but the back table went into a fit of hysterical giggling, and that set the next table off. It was clear within seconds that I had lost my audience.
I know when to exit the stage, so I thanked them kindly.
I didn’t sell a single book that night, but the wine was sold out. And I learned a tough lesson — beware women who wine!