The Club Crashers by
(172 Stories)

Prompted By Cliques and Clubs

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Some groups are clearly clubs, and others, cliques–especially in schools. However, for adults, the distinction isn’t always clear. Many groups have some degree of qualification for membership, such as professional licenses or experience, or ability to pay dues. Which requirements are relevant to a club’s purpose and which could be considered exclusionary? The answer can be subjective. When does a club or clique become a cult? Probably when it’s difficult to leave it. Can someone attend a club as a guest, or are there strong restrictions?

When does a guest become a crasher? When they either pretend to be a member, or act as if they intend to join the club when they would never do so.

There are so many questions, but I’d like to explore one of them: when does a guest become a crasher? The answer? A guest becomes a crasher when they either pretend to be a member, or act as if they intend to join the club when they would never do so.

I’ve attended many clubs legitimately as a guest, welcomed at some, others not as much. My sweetheart Dick is a member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), and Silicon Valley has one of the largest chapters in the world, with scores of different societies and interest groups. For most meetings, now either virtual or in person, the topics are outside my areas of interest, but occasionally there is a program I like. I always feel welcome at these meetings and get a kick out of their “engineering” style: very structured, methodical, organized, well planned.

A number of years ago I didn’t feel as welcome at a singles group affiliated with Stanford alumni. The group was open to people somehow connected with Stanford or any of a few other universities. Mills wasn’t among them, so I couldn’t become a member of the group, but I could attend as a guest. Not a problem. However, like many singles groups for people over 50, the women greatly outnumbered the men, so the organizers relaxed the requirements for the men, looking the other way if there wasn’t the right university connection, but maintained the strict requirements for women.

Understandable but still discriminatory. Then I was told I could join after all, but only by serving for a year on a social committee which essentially meant working in the kitchen, serving food, and cleaning up during events. I’d already had enough of kitchens, so I declined.

I’ve had some memorable club crashing experiences that succeeded.

Smashing success. In my 20s, a man who wanted to date me (but who I liked just as a friend) invited me to a Mensa party. I have never known my IQ and had very good but not perfect SAT scores, so I expressed reservations about going. He reassured me that I’d fit in. He was right. The group was very similar to most gatherings of people with graduate-level education, and no one realized that I wasn’t actually a member.

Qualified success. I don’t recall how I got the invitation, but in my early 30s I was asked to attend a reception for a group akin to LifeSpring. I don’t recall if the group really was LifeSpring, but the idea was that people had to be dressed beautifully, with perfect grooming, and that somehow this would translate to their inner lives. The reception was for prospective members who had to have the right “look” to take the next step and be invited to join. One of my closest friends was in the fashion consulting business and helped me shop, so I had nice clothes, but I questioned the entire concept, let alone whether I could “pass.” Turned out I did pass, but the cult-like atmosphere creeped me out.

My former husband Marty and I lived hand to mouth most of our marriage and often explored groups and venues above our precarious financial status. These adventures had mixed outcomes.

Dumb luck success. We were too poor to go on expensive vacations, but Marty won a gift certificate in a raffle that we used to spend a long weekend on the Monterey peninsula. We went during the week before the Pebble Beach PGA tournament. Marty, who was an architect, had long wanted to see the Lodge at Pebble Beach, especially the rooms. The environment was rarified. As we approached the lodge, a Rolls Royce drove up with the license plate “Nobody” on it, and the driver got out to help a royal-looking elderly man out of the passenger seat. We strolled the interior public areas of the lodge and down a hallway where the rooms were, slowing down in front of a door.

A uniformed attendant approached us with a slight bow and said, “Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Kesterson,” and before we had time to think, opened the door to the room and let us in. We smiled and thanked him. Marty admired the amazing view of the lawn and the ocean in the distance, plus the marble bathroom with gold fixtures. We heard a knock on the door, and another attendant delivered a floral arrangement as tall as I. We lingered a while but decided we couldn’t push our luck, opened the door, checked that the hallway was vacant, and made our exit before the real Mr. and Mrs. Kesterson showed up.

Catastrophic failure. On one of our weekend outings in the late 1980s or early 1990s, trying not to spend money we didn’t have, Marty and I found ourselves at the entrance of the Menlo Country Club in Woodside. The Menlo Club is where those in power, or with old money, play golf, hang out, and do deals. Think George Shultz and Condi Rice. There are signs at the entrance sternly proclaiming “Members Only, No Trespassing.”

The place looked pretty quiet, and although I was hesitant, Marty really wanted to have a look. We drove to the parking lot in his 1978 Toyota Celica, and seeing no one, began to explore. The environment was lovely, and the main clubhouse building exquisite. I got separated from Marty and explored the “ladies” locker room, which was like the fanciest spa I’d ever seen. There even was a large, elegant room with tables set up for playing cards. You could have hosted a bridal shower in it.

I left the locker room and went searching for Marty, going out a side door, across a narrow stretch of grass where there was a smaller, single-story building. I opened the nearest door and my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark room, where a group of men sat or stood, drinking and smoking cigars. All of a sudden the noise and motion stopped, and they turned toward me. One large, bald men, his face distorted in fury, cigar hanging on his lip, rushed at me. “Men only, get out!!!” Somehow I flew out the door, which slammed, and then I saw the sign, “Men’s Grill.”

I ran as fast as I could toward the parking lot just as I saw Marty, and from the opposite direction, a security guard approaching. The guard took one look at the old Toyota and shouted, “members only, get out now.” We ran to the car, jumped in, and made our escape.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Wow Marian, I love your chutzpah as a club crasher, I wonder what happened when the real Kestersons showed up!
    Glad you made your escape in your dead-give-away, get-away car!

    You mention LifeSpring but it doesn’t sound like the LifeSpring I know which was an offshoot of the EST human potential movement. Was it?

    I wrote about my LifeSpring experience and it’s emphasis on the concept of home in my story Parkchester, Celebrate Me Home. In any case, thanx for the fun story Marian!

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Dana, that club seemed to be in the mode of those movements at the time, but it might not have been LifeSpring. I can’t really remember. It was odd that the emphasis was on physical appearance.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    What stories, Marian! You and Marty really have nerve to look around the private haunts of the rich and connected at Pebble Beach and Menlo Country Club. WOW! They sound gorgeous, but I would not have the nerve that you showed. Makes for a fun story all these years later.

  3. Yes Marian, my LifeSpring program was not at all about physical appearance but, as I wrote, about finding one’s metaphoric home.

    A statement our workshop facilitator said that stuck was, “Home is not a place you return to, but one you operate from.”

    She also said, “Forgive your parents , they did the best the could.”

    I hope my own son believes that!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    What a fun story, Marian. Of course, I knew of “wedding crashers,” but “club crashers” takes it to a new, and much higher, level.

    And you (and Marty) sure had some terrific stories. I particularly envy your nerve and your crashing skills. I am sure I could not pull it off and, in fact, might just blurt out something really stupid like “I don’t belong here!” just to make the situation worse.

    That said, I actually attended a legal conference at Pebble Beach a number of years ago. But I made sure to wear my name tag at all times to prove I belonged — at least for two days.

    • Marian says:

      Cool, wish I’d had a name tag at Pebble Beach, but I wouldn’t have been Mrs. Kesterson, then! Other than Rolls Royces, it wasn’t necessarily that easy to tell who belonged. The poor attendant’s mistake was understandable with everyone pretty casually dressed. Although, at the Menlo Club, that old Toyota was a dead giveaway.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Great stories. The men’s grill experience reminded me of the first time I went to a medical staff meeting at Providence Hospital in Oakland in 1980–I walked in the door, saw a wall of white men in suits, and turned right around and exited; I ended up chatting with the women checking people in at the door. No one with a cigar and venom told me to leave–I just felt so completely out of place. Of course that demographic in the medical profession has changed over the years.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I really enjoyed these stories, Marian, and am in awe of your club crashing experiences. Since I would never have had the nerve to try any of these adventures, I applaud your audacity.

  7. Suzy says:

    Mare, I absolutely love this story! I could easily imagine doing all those things you describe. I’ve always said that as long as you look like you know what you are doing, you will very seldom get challenged. Of course in the case of the Men’s Grill, it was obvious that you didn’t belong. But how funny that the guy in the Grill was so furious, instead of just politely asking you to leave. Were the men naked? That’s the only reason I can imagine for being so upset.

    • Marian says:

      Ha, ha, ha, I’m glad they weren’t naked, Suzy, considering that they were old (compared to me at the time) and not that attractive. Have no idea why the guy was so aggressive, except maybe at that time there were so many social changes that perhaps the women in the club didn’t like the idea of a men-only grill. Will never really know.

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