Games Ladies Play

I live in a cookie-cutter suburban house, obsess about dandelions, and drive a minivan. My son plays soccer and my daughter takes gymnastics lessons. I refrain from pointing out teachers’ spelling errors on the notes they send home. I attend candle, stamping, cooking, decorating, kitchenware, lingerie, and scrap-booking parties. I’ve joined a local “Mommy Club” and spend a couple evenings a month out with the girls, drinking lite beer and discussing Oprah. I type “lite” without fear of editorial censure.

I spend my evenings in my library (some would use this room for the other TV), working on ChiMe, wallowing in our celebration of things cerebral.

I spend most of my waking hours in the Mundane world. Like many Mensans, I often use the term “Mundane” when referring to non-Mensans. We Mensans watch Star Trek; Mundanes watch Survivor. Mensans share puns in Latin; Mundanes pass around chain letters to win money and help Bill Gates test his e‑mail tracking system. Mensans read anything from Isaac Asimov and Roger Zelazny; Mundanes read Dave Barry and Ann Landers. Mensans play chess; Mundanes play Bunko.


As a closet Mensan, I often feel ill at ease making small talk with the neighborhood ladies, waiting for our children at the playground or watching them play in the sprinkler. These are the ladies who volunteer for the PTO, plan the block parties, and lead the Girl Scout troops. Now that my kids attend the local school I feel obligated to fit in, so when a neighbor invited me to a Bunko party I accepted. I’d heard of the game: it was easy to learn and painless to play, so, I figured, what the heck.

After the game ended—before I knew what happened (my mind was numb)—the ladies agreed on the first Tuesday of the month and we signed up for hosting for the next year. Our new Bunko club’s membership list was passed around and we all promised to find subs if we couldn’t make a scheduled game. Somehow, I found myself committed to spending one evening every month rolling dice and extolling the virtues of seven-layer salad.

That night, I called a Mensan. “Quick, say a big word.”


“Oooh, say another one.”


“Thanks, I needed that. I’ve been out playing Bunko for the past three hours.”

“Playing what?”

“Bunko. It’s a dice game. It’s a notch more complex than ‘Candyland’ because you use numbers, but that’s it. We take turns rolling three six-sided dice. First we start on ‘ones.’ After time’s up, whoever got the most ones wins. Then we go on to twos. After the twos we roll for ... um ...”


“Oh right, threes. I’m new at this game.”

Last month, Bunko Night was at my house. I spent the day cleaning and polishing silverware (really). For Bunko, a minimum of eight players is necessary. Throughout the day, one after another called to say she couldn’t attend. We couldn’t scrounge up enough subs so, with a secret sigh of relief, I called the five who were available and canceled the party. The last one I called said, “But it’s Bunko Night—we’re not giving up our one night out! We’re going on a road trip for root beer floats. Wanna join us?”

Root beer floats? The last time I went on a road trip with my girlfriends, I came home with a tattoo. How could I say no?

So out we went to the local ice cream parlor, where we sipped our floats and chatted. Root beer floats don’t last too long on a July evening, so we cast about for something else to do. After all, it was Bunko Night. One thing led to another and we ended up at the riverboat in Aurora. And let me tell you, these float-drinking suburban ladies love to gamble! As we drove home (sometime after midnight), everyone agreed that Robin’s Bunko Night was the most fun they’d had in a long time.

And then the Mensan in me surfaced. I couldn’t resist pointing out that the card game they were playing on the slot machines was actually a real game called poker and that, unlike Bunko, you wouldn’t need more than four or five players to make it an evening.

With any luck, I won’t be rolling dice or drinking boxed Chablis next month.

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