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The gnawing feeling of unease grabbed me the moment we pushed through the swinging door. I couldn’t figure it out, but my spider sense was tingling like never before. The hallway was dimly lit, and we couldn’t see anyone around the corner although we knew they were there, thanks to the high-pitched cackling that emanated from the other side of the wall. As we crept forward, I recalled the bemused look of the teenager in the ticket booth, and the line already tumbling out of the ladies room hmmm. And then it all became uncomfortably clear when, interspersed with the familiar aroma of buttered popcorn, I could make out the unmistakable scent of estrogen pervading the theater.

I warily entered the enemy camp, trying to blend in by hiking my pant legs up to mid-calf, drinking through a straw and speaking in their native vernacular, “Say, aren’t you glad that Paige is back on Trading Spaces?” But, despite these clever maneuverings, I was instantly recognized as an outsider. After all, it looked like I’d be the only man attending this particular screening of “Mama Mia!”

The highest rows were occupied by middle-aged women poofing pheromone-like contrails of Chanel No. 9. The lady sitting dead center at the very back called out to me, “Are you sure you’re at the right movie?” Kim only giggled, so in my own defense I offered, “You mean this isn’t the Dark Knight?” Her cluster of peeps found this a little entertaining and warned me not to sit too close to the aisle for fear that I’d be swept away, or inadvertently kicked by a theater full of dancing patrons.

I selected a pair of seats well-removed from their impromptu dance floor and immediately hid my nervousness in the contents of an overpriced box of Sno-Caps. Eavesdropping on the conversations surrounding me, I learned that many members of the audience were coming to a repeat showing. One person was watching the movie for the third time. Still another was a newbie, but saw the play on Broadway. All the while, more women filtered in and the crowd was actually answering the trivia questions that were being projected on the screen to pass the time out loud!! The audience anticipation was more genuine than any particular patron’s hair color and — I don’t mind tellin’ ya — I was intimidated.

By the time the movie started, I could count two other men in attendance. One was a co-worker, Ron, and the other was an older gentleman escorting three dates. Ron and I exchanged glances that conveyed a clear message, “I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.” And I admired the John McCain classmate. Maybe he had discovered a secret to a happy love life take ’em to a chick-flick once in a while.

The movie was as hoot! Plenty of chuckles and a very upbeat story, as you might expect from a tale based upon ABBA’s music. The audience ended up staying in their seats and not making good on the threat to turn the theater into a disco. However, their lungs were in shape and the place was filled with sing-along energy. I reluctantly admit that I found the show entertaining. But I have two regrets. First, given the composition and constitution of the audience members, I ended up holding the door for about 30 ladies on the way out. And, secondly, that insidious soundtrack resonated in my head for days!

Kim delighted in telling her girlfriends about our date. Of course, there was no way I could reveal this to my own posse once photographs of the Boston Gay Men’s Choir attending the special “Sing Along” version of Mama Mia! was splashed across the pages of this area’s newspapers a few days later.

Gary Atkinson is 52, divorced and remarried. He has four children from 27 to 9, with his first grandchild on the way. He moved to Townsend in 2006, just in time to learn of the “catch and release alligator program” in his neighborhood, and has been working at Bemis in Shirley for 23 years. He can be reached at thatremindsme@comcast.net.

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