Every seven years, we gather with some friends for a Relationship Enrichment Seminar in the Arizona desert. It’s Day Two of the three-day retreat, and the day’s topic is “Relationship Satisfaction.”

It’s pretty obvious whose idea it was to attend this thing. All the women are giddy at the prospect of spending the afternoon sitting in a semicircle discussing their emotional needs, while the guys look like their Fruit of the Looms spent a little too much time in the dryer.

So far, the discussion has been about as informative as a refresher course on potty training. The only reason Spouser, sitting to my left, hasn’t bolted is the scenery … and maybe the fact we’re 45 miles from the nearest city.

“We’re going to start with some word associations,” Dr. Drewel (pronounced ‘drool’) says, as he passes out the workbooks.

According to Spouser, when it comes to sex there are three types of women: cats, buzzards and pet rocks. Cats are picky, buzzards will land on anything, and pet rocks never have to be fed at all.

The woman sitting across from us has buzzard written all over her. She’s got an orange fake tan and is wearing a miniskirt that’s one button away from being a figment of her imagination. Every time she crosses her legs, the guy sitting to my right has a religious experience, muttering something about mercy.

Dr. Drewel drops a workbook on my lap, and I barely have the cover open when Spouser slams his workbook closed and slaps his pencil on top of it. Grabbing it from his hands, I open it to check his answers.

“The color you associate with your personality is blue?” I read skeptically. “A cold color. And the body of water you associate with sexual intimacy is the Indian Ocean? Deep and sharky!”

“You know by now that I’m a deep, complex kind of guy,” Spouser says with a shrug. “It’s difficult to explain.”

“MERCY, mercy me,” the guy next to me says again.

“Okay,” Dr. Drewel interrupts, clapping his hands to signal we should finish our scribbling. “Who can tell me the key to relationship satisfaction?”

“Knowing your partner’s love languages,” I call out.

Dr. Drewel pulls an air horn from behind the podium, points it at me, and blows. “HONK!”

“WRONG answer!” he shouts obnoxiously.

“Total honesty?” another woman says rather reluctantly.

“HONK! HONK!” blows the horn.

“Common goals?” the woman beside me guesses.


Turning his back to us, Dr. Drewel scrapes a piece of chalk across the blackboard with a mighty “SCREECH!”

“The key to relationship satisfaction,” he calls over his shoulder as he writes, “is SEXUAL COMPATIBILITY.”

The guys all light up like Christmas trees adorned in neon ornaments.

“If you have compatible appetites,” Dr. Drewel explains clinically, “the relationship will be satisfactory. If you don’t, one of you will either go foraging in another field or starve to death.”

Frankly, a couple of the guys in the circle look like rigor mortis has set in already.

“Don’t you think that’s an oversimplification?” the pet rock sitting next to Spouser says with a frown.

Dr. Drewel rolls his eyes around the room at the guys. You could measure their beer bellies bouncing on the Richter scale, and the guy sitting next to me mutters, “Mercy, mercy me.”

“Next question,” Dr. Drewel says, propping his foot in the chair next to Miss Miniskirt. “When I say intimacy, what body of water comes to mind? Ma’am, would you like to answer?”

Licking her lips in thought, Miss Miniskirt rubs her ankles together like she’s trying to start a campfire. “The hot tub at the country club,” she finally says.

“And why is that?” Dr. Drewel asks, leaning his elbow down on his knee.

“It’s small and hot,” she says breathily.

“Go on,” Dr Drewel says, motioning for her to continue.

“No one can stand to be in it for more than a minute, except for me, that is, so I get it all to myself.”

Blinking, Spouser looks confused, like someone just wrapped yellow crime scene tape around his driveway.

“Did that girl mean to say what I think she meant?” Spouser asks me later at the snack table.

I glance over at Miss Miniskirt who is sitting in a vacant stairwell taking her break alone.

“Yep. She’s a pet rock in buzzard’s clothing,” I answer.

Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com.