Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table...Image via Wikipedia

Last night we broke out the round table for guests. The round table has a long tradition. More than 40 years ago when I was still a grad student at Duke and we were living in Colonial Apartments, having splurged for the $130 a month two-bedroom unit rather than the $70 a month unit in student housing, we bought a round Knoll table made of white ... something.

Hard and durable plastic?

Quite a lovely table which fit the space at the end of the kitchen, and we enjoyed it very much without quite knowing why. It moved with us: from Durham to Raleigh to Atlanta and finally to Oakland, where we had many jolly meals with folk crammed in elbow to elbow and -- this is a warm memory -- Bodo the cat, who was intellectually curious, would come to the guest-crammed table, jump onto my lap and remain there, his own cat elbows parked on the table's rim, staring at whoever was speaking, alert and thoughtful as I stroked him.

This was on Thomas Avenue just above Broadway. Our neighbor Klay looked out her window into our window and noticed how tightly we were packed. Later that weekend, she called us over and gave us the folding table top her late husband had made back in their social days. It was two semicircles of wood hinged together, meant to be placed on a smaller round table. The result: more space and no less conviviality, one of the attractions of a round table. At a round table, it's much easier to have conversations in which all are involved.

When we moved to Paloma in late 1991, we bought a narrow rectangular table that better fit our dining area. It has two expansion leaves so we can easily fit ten when needed. But, as the years have passed and the acuity of my hearing has diminished, even with six people at the table, it's hard for me to keep track of the talk at the far end, and thus conversation tends to fragment, which is fine.

Except sometimes I really want to know why everyone is laughing and gesturing down there in the distance. The grass is always greener, the wine tastier, the mots moh-ee-ur, etc.

I was sorting out the junk in our garage in December, and I came upon Klay's folding table top, somewhat water damaged and delaminated but still intact. Well, I thought we have always talked about moving the dining room down into the so-called family room -- though E. has been hesitant to do so, since she says she gets "nervous" when serving company and is pretty sure at some point she would come tumbling down the stairs, various serving dishes and what they contained scattering around her like Aurora Borealis.

But I am more confident than she in her sure-footedness. I ordered a sturdy collapsible card table, a round one. And thus it came to pass last night that we entertained, family room temporarily transformed into dining room, and may I give a particular shout out to Gayle and Richard and Pat, who worked overtime keeping me occupied for the six weeks E. spent in Las Vegas with the pool boy in Florida nursing her 98-year-old moms.

This was the purpose of the evening to say thanks, and to welcome David and Jerry back from their latest tour of The East. (Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand this trip.)

I like the round table. I can hear everyone so much better, and it certainly is more conducive to general conversation, though I concede one of the charms of the long skinny table might be the absence of general conversation. I don't know. What do you think? (See footnote.)

And if any of you readers think, "I'd sure like to be gathered round that big fine table sometime having one of E.'s big fine meals," you have only to say, "That sounds like fun." I have this long list of people who have turned down invitations to one thing or another two or three times, and it is my understanding of game theory that two or three times means: Take the hint, brother.

But perhaps it was all a misunderstanding, and your heart yearns toward Paloma Avenue and the circle of friendship, or, at least, respectful acquaintanceship or drunken impropriety, which has its own charm.


Sharing Secrets: Disclosure and Discretion in Dyads and Triads

Ralph B. Taylor/Center for Metropolitan Planning and Research
Johns Hopkins University

Clinton B. De Soto and Robert Lieb/Johns Hopkins University

To develop a more comprehensive picture of the variables that influence disclosure patterns, the impact of group size on sharing secrets was explored. Given Derlega and Chaikin's suggestion that the existence of a closed dyadic boundary is a prerequiste for intimate self-disclosure, it was hypothesized that subjects would be more willing to disclose intimate information in a dyad than in a triad.

The results of Experiment 1, which used a role-playing methodology,
confirmed the hypothesis. The main effect of group size was observed over a range of roles and items of information. In addition to the main effect, group size interaction effects also indicated that the difference between dyad and triad disclosure rates increased with more intimate items of information and with more intimate roles. These interaction effects suggested that the importance of a closed dyadic boundary depends in part on the expected confidentiality of the interchange. In Experiment 2 the conversations of groups of acquaintances were recorded and rated for intimacy. As predicted, the conversations of dyads were more intimate than those of triads

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