The BYO Chair : or, Lessons From the Wine Guild

You are everything. I mean it. All. The. Things.


I am, too.


It’s a thought that is beautiful and freeing and…sobering.


We tend to think of people in broad stokes: We’ve got the shy, the boisterous, the adventurers, the homebodies, the party people and the wall flowers…we’re great at sizing people up and sliding them into the perfect box.


But those labels are never the whole story, are they?


Every day we make myriad choices, each kicking off a recalibration of possible outcome and response pairings.


I had the chance to think through our very human tendency toward the size-up-box-up heuristic in the wake of what we now call the Wine Guild Incident. My friend Virginia invited our other friend Anna and I to tag along to Wine Guild, an outdoor, bring-your-own chair tasting event at a tiny wine shop. Now, I had options on this chair. I could have gone the ultra-easy route with one of the strappy camp-style chairs already in my car. But those were low-profile seats, apt to give the impression of sitting alone at the kids’ table. I could have made an easy sprint to the shed for a taller model, but I had other ideas. Wine Guild seemed to call for something a bit classier, so I went for one of the wooden foldup chairs we keep on hand for larger gatherings that exhaust our regular seating. Wood seemed a solid choice.


Alas, we ran late, forcing a walk of shame in front of the assembled Guild, already tipping plastic vessels to their lips. We whispered apologies as we tiptoed across the lawn, stopping at an opening near the host who was holding aloft a crisp white.


My friends' chair openings were unremarkable—as silent and successful as you would expect. However, when I unfurled my chair it went to sticks—a pile of wood on the ground.


Laugher rippled through the Guild. I spread out the blanket I grabbed as an afterthought on my way out of the house and set up on the actual ground, as opposed to the space several inches above where I could have landed in the rejected low-slung chairs.


But far from embarrassing, the blooper kicked off a really fun evening—not just among our group, but with the strangers around us. And going for classy but winding up as the class clown—totally on brand for me. That’s it, that’s who I am.


And if there are lessons in stories like these, I would have bet that was the one: know who you are and hang with people who love you anyway.


And it’s true, but so is what Anna said in response to my take-away. According to someone somewhere, Anna explained, there are three types of people and you can sum them up by their response to the following scenario. You’re heading to a party. On the way, you trip, rip your clothes and dump your pot-luck casserole. The first kind of person goes home, showers, changes and remakes the casserole. The second type of person heads straight to the party but goes in hot, wildly explaining their disheveled, empty-handed state. The third brand of person also heads to the party but strides in, rips and all, like nothing happened.


Immediately I wonder: am I the third person? Is that right? Maybe I was tonight, but I don’t think that’s always true.”


Before I could settle my stream of thoughts Anna finished the story: “And we’ve all been all of those people.”


Boom! That’s it. I could have packed a camp chair and blended in with the crowd. I might have grabbed a different wooden fold-up from the closet and been the person with the classy seat. Or I might have had a bad day and been really embarrassed when the chair broke. I easily could have left home without a blanket and ended up looming in the background, swirling my pinot noir awkwardly above my friends’ heads. Just one different choice could have changed how I interacted in the situation—what kind of person I appeared to be.


We’re all capable of playing an infinite number of roles. Some days we’re the rescuer and other days we need to be rescued. Sometimes we’re dependable and other times we leave people hanging. At some points we’re the betrayer and others the betrayed. In one timeline we drop the dish and scurry home to fix it all and in another we roll ahead like nothing happened. We’re all the characters; we play all the parts. And in this knowledge, I find grace and compassion and humility.




***



What is Happening with the Book?


I get that question a lot these days, and I am so glad to have some news to share. For years, it was always the same—still writing, still editing, still hoping and believing. The fact that Intersexion is going to be a real book still feels surreal.


The manuscript is currently with a copy editor—fingers crossed that all the pesky typos and inconsistencies get ferreted out. We are also working on a cover design. I had the opportunity to complete a questionnaire about my hopes and dreams for the book’s aesthetic and soon it will be in the hands of a designer. I am also working with my publisher on a subtitle—if you have any ideas I would love to hear them—really! If you’re so inclined, give the book description a fresh glance and let me know: what message or idea would you hope to take away from a story like this? What idea do you see in the description that should be up front in the subtitle? I would love input from you—my friends on the ground floor of this project!


Other Book-Adjacent News


Some of you may know that years ago I published two YA novels, The Chrysalis and Drink the Rain. Writing and promoting those books was a fun chapter in my life and one I thought was closed—but my publisher wants to give them a second life! We’re working on a low-key relaunch of these titles. In preparation, I am giving them a re-read and updating the technology references (landline calls or film photography anyone?) I am surprised by how enjoyable this task has been—it honestly feels like I am reminiscing with old friends. I am excited by the thought of these stories reaching a new generation of readers. There won’t be a strong focus on promoting them, but they’ll be visible soon on my website—along with the potential for some giveaways of vintage print copies, landline phones and all.


There are some other projects on the horizon, but I will save them for next post—stay tuned.


On the Table


Tables play a big role in my book. A lot happens around tables. Tables are also community-building hot spots and since I am all about building community, I will be sharing food/beverage/entertaining content here from time to time. So far, 2022 has been all about Dutch ovens for me. I am new to the Dutch oven but I am loving all it can do! If you are a Dutch oven enthusiast, I’d love to know how you use yours!


That’s all for now, friends. I’ll be in touch again soon!


Cynthia