Re: Question about "dining clubs"
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2013 07:33:09 -0700 (PDT)
On Sep 17, 2013, at 9:48 AM, Racheli Gai <racheli [at]> 

> Assuming that community-wide common meals are a benefit for all is assuming 
> that we're all the same, and that our needs are all the same.  For some, 
> getting together with whoever shows up is fine.  For others, this isn't the 
> case, and one of the benefits of cohousing, IMO,  is that it affords other 
> options.  I can get together with some of the people I really care to hang 
> out with and have a meal.  Common meals always seemed to be a noisy and 
> hurried affair to me, and at this point in my life I prefer to hang out with 
> the people I have deeper relationships with, have real conversations, ...

The problem, I think, is the on and on with the same people in a place where 
you are clearly visible or known to be meeting whether it is the common house 
or not. And that people have to "ask" to join. The idea that they have to ask, 
already signals an exclusive group. 

Did you ever send invitations to everyone when there was an opening? If you 
didn't, that is another signal that some people, at least, are not even invited 
to join. 

Exclusion except on the basis of interest is an arrow in the heart of a 

We had this problem when our Soup and Simple group started on Monday nights. 
Even though the group was open to anyone who wanted to sign up for a cook team 
in the rotation, only those people who could eat the food that the other people 
cooked--totally high carb--could join. Only those who could eat or cook on 
Mondays could join. Only those who wanted to accept the terms of the meal could 

Because the Monday night dinners existed, all other meals stopped. The people 
who wanted to cook cooked on Mondays. There was no core enthusiasm left to 
initiate meals at another time. It was siphoned off.

The night chosen was also the night almost all of  our teams and the board meet 
on rotating Mondays. The meal interferes with people being on time for 
meetings, limits meeting places because the dishwasher running and the people 
talking in the kitchen make it impossible to meet in a corner of the dining 

Then the core group did unintentionally become a "cabal,"  but since they 
talked together for at least an hour every week, they talked out issues amongst 
themselves and had common understandings when they worked on teams and in 
meetings. It was like a single person trying to negotiate with a couple -- it's 
two against one. In this case 30 against a few. The group reinforces each 
other's sense of reality. Even the definitions of topic needing discussion.

I had a heated conversation with a member once who insisted we had discussed an 
issue in a membership meeting and agreed to a certain action. "WE AGREED!" The 
topic had never even been on the agenda. He finally realized that the 
"community meeting" he was remembering was the Monday night dinner. It had 
become "the" community meeting for a lot of people. He also believed that 
Membership Meetings were only for actual proposals and decisions. Discussion 
should happen elsewhere. See any relationship here?

Over time that group has been smaller and less stable. Not meeting in the 
summer. A small group in the late spring. Changing members in the winter. So 
they are less of a defined group and less of a dominate force. 

I'm sure the members of the group don't see themselves as a group or as a cabal 
but if it had continued we would have had to do something to change it. That 
doesn't mean eliminating the group but making some changes. Perhaps having 
Monday meals only from January to June, or September through November and Jan 
to May. Or Mondays in the fall and Fridays in the spring. Or low carb in the 
fall and rice, beans, bread, salad, and sugar in the spring.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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