Burt Prelutsky

Some people simply have an affinity for groups. They are those who like attending meetings and serving on committees. They enjoy being addressed as “Ladies and Gentlemen” and can even tolerate sitting through the reading of the minutes of the last meeting. I am not one of those people.

For one thing, once you join a group, somebody or other is going to wind up speaking on your behalf. Heck, I don’t even care to have the president of the United States, whichever party he belongs to, presuming to speak on my behalf.

That’s why I don’t even identify myself as a Republican. Instead, I call myself a conservative. True, I wind up voting for Republicans, but, more often than not, that’s because Democrats are so abominable. And I’m not just referring to Barack Abominable.

Some well-meaning friends have suggested I would be happier supporting a third party candidate, but third party candidates can only be spoilers. Thus, in 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot siphoned off enough votes from the GOP to help elect Bill Clinton; and in 2000, Ralph Nader returned the favor by garnering 2.8 million votes that would most likely have gone to Al Gore.

My disinclination to join groups is not a recent development that could be attributed to the cynicism of an aging curmudgeon. Unlike my old friend, Groucho Marx, who famously rejected membership in a certain country club on the grounds that he refused to belong to any organization that would have Groucho Marx as a member, I reject all groups.

In fact, as I look back over my life, the only group I ever joined was Mensa, and that, more or less, was an accident. It happened back in my 20s. I was dating an attractive young woman at the time. Apparently wishing to prove that she had more than good looks going for her, she decided to prove her worth by passing the Mensa test. That was okay with me. If other people wish to join groups, that’s their business. The problem was that she insisted that I, too, take the test. I guess the way she saw things, it would be unbecoming for her as an official member of the big brain club to be saddled with a knuckle-dragging nincompoop.

So, one Saturday afternoon, as I recall, we took the test. As anyone the least bit familiar with life as it is depicted in movies and TV sit coms could readily predict, I passed and she didn’t. Worse yet, I don’t think she believed me when I told her I didn’t think any the less of her. However, if our positions had been reversed, she would have obviously dropped me in a New York minute, and she clearly doubted my sincerity. That was that, except that I was now a card-carrying member, and I soon began receiving invitations to Mensa events.