A bunch of Bunko?

April 27, 2012
By the way, I lied about the post yesterday not being allegorical. But here’s my collective, direct response to the facebook discussion as well as the posted comments. THANK YOU ALL FOR COMMENTING. I THINK IT HAS BEEN GLORIOUSLY STIMULATING.


I think many of my friends who have commented have missed the most important concern that I expressed and defended, instead, a need for social contact with other women. Of course that’s true. And the strongest feelings seem to be held by those with young children. Been there.

One person was offended by a comment that BUNKO was a brain dead game. But that wasn’t the point or intent of what was commented at all. She was comparing Bunko to Bridge. Since Bunko is very easy and mostly chance, it takes no particular skill or talent or thought. Hence the GAME is brain dead. The same is pretty much true of Farkle, Yatzee and others. I agree that they’re fun, and I agree that sometimes that’s exactly the type of thing I want to do for a break. I understand that bridge is quite complicated and somewhat difficult to master. The GAME of Bridge is NOT so brain dead. But that comment has nothing to do with the people who play Bunko. So to the women who inadvertently identified themselves with the game of Bunko, I don’t think that’s really what you meant to do, nor is it accurate or relevant. Isn’t it true that ANY game or NO game, as Angie said, would do as well? I KNOW an insult to the players wasn’t the intent of the ‘brain dead’ comment at all.

I think this hit a nerve among my local sisters especially because they felt that I was implying that I had been offended. That doesn’t happen to be true. I know when the group of older women was formed, I was teaching seminary and had no extra time or thought outside of that. Many of those women have also been seminary teachers and would have known that there’s nothing left in the head after 7:00 PM anyway. It would not have hurt my feelings to be invited, as an invitation is almost impossible to take as an insult.

But respondents to the Bunko post came from all over the US. There are Bunko groups on both coasts, and in between. It doesn’t seem to have taken any hold in Utah. At least I’ve never spoken to anyone there that had even heard of it.

Of course there are different levels of exclusiveness. In many of the groups, the exclusiveness is very carefully maintained. There are some who don’t feel welcomed in certain homes. There are groups that include only one race in a mixed race ward. There are groups where the ‘stakes’ are high enough that a poor woman would be naturally excluded. Whenever there are stakes involved, that would be the case. Can we tolerate a social devision between rich and poor the Church of Jesus Christ?

Here is another point that may or may not be true, but I have found it consistent in my life experiences. I would be glad to be convinced that my experiences are unique, so if you disagree, please share your reasons. In MY EXPERIENCE, when a group of women meet together in an exclusive group or club on a regular basis, it doesn’t take long before backbiting, jealousy, criticism and gossip develops. Think carefully about this before rejecting the idea. Once women feel socially secure, they test the water by saying what they REALLY think about so and so. I have even heard it said that gossip is part of the female bonding process. I hope it isn’t true, but I think there is at least some truth in that. Gossip is like leaches on social development. It might seem like a remedy for social insecurity, but it really only makes it worse. I hope I’m wrong about that, but from what I understand from many, many women, it’s seems to be true.

I think shy people believe this more resolutely than others who are more socially secure and that idea makes it almost impossible to consider “crashing” a group where they have not been invited. I’m somewhere in the middle as far as social confidence goes, but I would never do it. I could never be sure that I had not been deliberately left out and I am far happier wondering than knowing for certain that it’s true. The shyer the person, the stronger that fear seems to be.

I suppose the main issue that I wrestle with and hope to help all of us know to wrestle with was brought up by Angie. Yes, it’s good to have private parties and private invitations and private friendships. It’s not only inevitable, but a blessing of mortal life. BUT when it is a STANDING invitation-only group, it is a different matter. That is called a clique. So baby showers and bridal showers and trips to the park might be invitation only, but they’re not STANDING defined groups.

That doesn’t imply that everybody in the clique values its exclusive nature or has any interest in maintaining its status. If the local Bunko group has an open invitation to EVERY woman in the ward, and that invitation is regularly repeated and extended, especially to newcomers, then the majority of my worries about it IN THAT CASE are irrelevant. But if you’re tempted to publicize those friendships or hope that others are aware of them, you do indeed have a problem. When close friendships form among Saints, it’s much better for them to be kept on the down low. The ideal that we should be reaching for is that the entire ward is united in love and friendship to the degree that we can have all things in common, including social relationships.

I’ve lived in 15 wards that I remember. In five of those wards, the cliques were obvious, well established, carefully maintained and seriously damaging to the character of the ward. The exclusiveness was so pointed in one ward, that we even moved away specifically because of it. Our subsequent ward was like coming home to the church I knew and loved. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you all the things that happened there.

I would suggest that to be safe, it would be better to substitute a different game to eliminate the element of gambling or use the same game and eliminate the wager. Gambling is a vice whether mild or serious, and should be avoided. Similarly pornography is a vice but there are a multitude of degrees of it. I tolerate the very low necks on period gowns in some of my chick flicks, but don’t want my husband or sons or anybody else’s sons to see those movies. I would be BETTER OFF to avoid them altogether. It’s BETTER not to compromise. In this wicked world we live in, you’re never wrong to err on the safe side.

(Alas, now I have to throw away Daniel Deronda and Adam Bede because of the immodesty in them. I need to put my money where my mouth is.)

As far as the nature of the get together, I think most would agree that playing games is probably the lowest common denominator. There are plenty of simple, pretty mindless activities that would take no more trouble to prepare than a Bunko hostess and participants go to, that would benefit either the participants and/or a few of the millions of needy on the earth. Didn’t you love Elder Uchtdorf’s talk on creativity being a God-given element in our natures? It helped me to know myself better and to understand some of my feminine impulses.

Perhaps that view is a function of my age. My time on earth is ever shorter and I want to use my time, whether great or small, to do something good. My sister in law has stage three plus breast cancer. That has heightened my sense of short mortality and makes me want to make every minute count. I really don’t agree that ‘anything goes, ‘as far as how we spend our time. As a covenant people, we are INDEED obligated to use our time and talents and everything else, to do good. I just don’t see any way to rationalize that. But before you take offense, please realize that I brought it up for your consideration. I don’t imply that I have a handle on it or that I don’t have my full share of shortcomings. If you’re interested in looking for shortcomings in me, you’ll have a very easy time of it.(It might be more fun than a BUNKO party!) But if nobody ever brought it up or pointed it out, how would you know that it might be a problem? How can you receive the greater happiness of broadening your reach to those who you might have heretofore overlooked, unless someone said, “There are those in our midst who feel alone and unwanted and for what ever reason (some of them entirely valid) can’t overcome it alone. They need to be RESCUED.” It’s not a theory or a conference talk, it’s a call to action. If you saw the list of flesh and blood women in that situation, that you know, I know you would see where I’m coming from. No, we’re not able to be friends with everyone, but how much better to expand our reach with open invitation events or circulating invitations rather than restricting it for our own social safety.

Would you ever have worried about Bunko as a gambling party, however mild, if someone didn’t say, “Bunko is gambling, gambling is a vice, vices are bad, therefore Bunko the game, as usually played, is bad. (Did you know that gambling is part of the temple interview in Nevada? You can’t even hold a recommend if you hold certain gambling-related jobs. ) (At least that was true the last time I asked my brother who lives in Las Vegas about it.)

So there it is, girls. I’m addressing women all over the country because I care about you collectively and individually. I’m not judging you, I’m bringing up points for your consideration. I AM judging cliques as doing far more harm than good, and games that involve gambling as an unfortunate choice. At least I know I’ve succeeded in giving you something to think about. I truly hope you have a wonderful day.

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  • Reply Anonymous April 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I read your blog today, and I thought you had some very valid points. From the standpoint of being a leader over a group of women, it is extremely hurtful when there is any kind of a group or activity that is selective in who is allowed to participate. I think as humans, sometimes we naturally group ourselves by certain qualities/characteristics/likes/dislikes/etc., and we may leave people out of that "group" because we assume that we do not have that commonality. BUNKO is just a physical representation or example of that tendency of the natural man.
    Women need activities that invite and bring closer together, not those that exclude and cause hurt. I hope those women in your ward are making an effort to reach out to the other women in different ways. We sure would miss out on a lot of wonderful people if we limited ourselves. 🙂 I don't know that the women necessarily need to give up their BUNKO games, but I do recognize that they will cause damage if they limit themselves to those groups and allow clicks to form.

    Thanks for sharing that with me – I enjoyed reading it.

  • Reply Rob and Marseille April 29, 2012 at 1:57 am

    i have a group of friends in utah that play bunko.

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