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Do You Know a Boring Old Man? There's a Club for That

Illustration for article titled Do You Know a Boring Old Man? Theres a Club for That

Let's get this out of the way. There are plenty older people who have led remarkable lives. They have fought for civil rights, they have burned bras, they have seen the best minds of their generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked. They have romanced one another in beautiful ways, they have worn Beatle-cuts, they danced in the mud at Woodstock or saw someone die at Altamont. They have raised families, they have traveled, they have eaten delicious meals and survived wars. It makes sense that the more years that you've been alive, the more you have been able to experience and to share these experiences with others — whether it's to relate with peers or to educate and entertain those who are younger — is a true gift.

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This is not a story of those people. This is a story of the men who never rode the buses with the Freedom Riders, men who never went to prison for dodging the draft or ended up smoking weed at a party with Truman Capote. Or, if they have, these are the men who are sick of talking about it and would rather focus on the simpler, more gentle topics of lawn care, how they like their coffee and model airplanes. And these men, too, just like the rest of us, need a place in the world.

Enter the Dull Men's Club, a National organization of approximately 5,000 members or "good citizens who are not setting the world on fire." Local chapters meet weekly to discuss and debate the smaller things in life. "Believe it or not, we spent 2½ meetings on which way to put toilet paper on the roll, over or under," says Ken Girten, a 76-year-old member of the Pembroke, Mass. chapter. "It was pretty much tied."

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Meetings usually take place at diners during a midweek morning and can attract anywhere up to 30 members and what probably evens out to a 10% tip average.

Asks Leland Carlson, the retired tax attorney who runs the organization's website, "We're all supposed to be busy, busy, busy, but what's wrong with being ordinary?"

The Dull Men's Club has no rules or officers, but rather it serves as an effective way for men who, since retiring, have felt isolated from their friends and various social opportunities. Says Tom Grono, an 83-year-old retired crane operator, ""It just makes me feel good, like I have a lot of friends."

Elderly women in Pembroke have attempted to start their own spin-off organization called the "Not So Dull Women," but it was not successful. Says 70-year-old Joanne Tavares, "Most women already have other women they talk with."

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Area Man Joins Organization Where Nothing Much Ever Happens [WSJ]

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DISCUSSION

I think this is pretty cute. Sometimes you just want to meet new people without feigning interest in volunteer work or a particlar hobby, or feeling intimidated because everyone there seems more knowledgable than you.

And, yeah, I think there's some truth in the comment in the last paragraph, at least based on some of the volunteer work I've done with older people. A lot of men of a certain generation seem to have socialized mostly with their wives or their coworkers. When they retire or especially if their wives die, they realize they don't have much of a support system. Women of the same era tended to be the family's social director, and often have lasting relationships with sisters, neighbors and women from church. Also worth thinking about: most people these days behave more like Greatest Generation men than women. I'm guessing we'll see a lot of Dull People clubs 30 or 40 years from now.