Re: Question about "dining clubs"
From: Diana Carroll (
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2013 08:29:43 -0700 (PDT)
Sharon, I think the problem you're describing is real and legitimate, but I
don't see how to prevent it.  I think it is natural for people to gravitate
into small clusters or "affinity groups" based on friendship, common
interests, location, activities and so on.  And in today's busy day and
age, it's natural to want to schedule get togethers rather than have them
occur spontaneously.

You dismissed my previous "best friend dinner" as an "extreme" example
inapplicable to the current discussion, but I don't think it is, because I
think it's typical of a near universal phenomenon.

The set of people in "Diana's best friends" is not an open group.  New
members are admitted rarely, and the application process is arcane
(involving some combination of margaritas, late-night bitch sessions, walks
in the woods, chocolate and a really offbeat sense of humor.)  But it so
happens that this group happens to include a few of our community's
"leader" type people...not coincidentally, because I am attracted to
leader-type personalities, and because being involved in various community
teams is part of how I get close to them.

If I were a more organized person with more free time, I would *absolutely*
love to have a regularly occurring "Diana's Besties" event -- a weekly
dessert-and-bitch session Monday nights after dinner sounds ***AWESOME***.
 (*sigh*  I wish I could make that happen!)  Given how many of my BFFs are
community members, it seems pretty much inevitable that we'd end up talking
about community stuff sometimes.  Given that some of us are in leadership
roles in the community, it wouldn't be a crazy thing to call us a "cabal".
 (I think, in fact, we have been called that.)

SO...when you say "if [the cabal] had continued we would have had to do
something to change it. That doesn't mean eliminating the group but making
some changes." all the hair on the back of my neck stands up.  We are
treading on some serious "community vs. individual" ground here.  I don't
want to live anywhere that my "freedom of association" is infringed upon!

I think to some degree it comes down to the fact that cohousing is not a
utopia, and therefore is never going to be free of the forces of good and
evil that affect all societies, large and small.  It's impossible to say
"we 34 families are going to live together in community, but with none of
that xenophobia, selfishness, gossip, factionalism, pecking order and other
negative group traits that exists in the rest of society".  And attempts to
make it into utopia through policy (official or unofficial) will turn it
into Animal Farm.


On Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 10:33 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]
> wrote:

> On Sep 17, 2013, at 9:48 AM, Racheli Gai <racheli [at]>
> wrote:
> > 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
> community.
> 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 join.
> 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 room.
> 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
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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