The workshop was for men only. But the discussion was mostly about women.
"My wife is taking a home repair course and I feel threatened by it," said one of four men who ventured into last weekend's workshop, subtitied: "What's happened to us during the women's movement."
"I think the more you can get her to do; the better off you are," said a fellow male in mock sympathy. "I chalk it up to women's lib."
The workshop was one of 35 held last weekend at the Woodburn Center for Community Mental Health in Fairfax County. There were workshops on The Meaning of Children's Play," "Everything You Wanted to Know About Teen-agers," "The Two-Career Family," "Those Middle Years" and "What's to Become of Grandma?"
No age group was left workshopless by the center, which is one of three mental health facilities serving Fairfax County. From 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. last Saturday, the public was invited to shop around for free family counseling being offered in 25 rooms on four levels of the facility. It was like being let loose in a department store of mental health.
"What we're trying to do with this kind of day is acknowledge and celebrate family life," said Susan Grossman, one of the 150 staff members at the 7-year-old center. "Even if you are single, divorced or remarried you are still part of a family. You need to improve your own coping skills."
Coping and communication were the two key words of the conference, which attracted about 300 participants. But fighting was the most popular topic.
"We're hoping people might be willing to give up some of the dirty fighting techniques," said Woodburn staffer Kitt Carson during a workshop entitled "Fighting in Families: Win, Lose or Draw." "I haven't given up all of mine yet."
There were three workshops devoted to family feuds and a dozen more which dealt with the subject indirectly. Burt Grodnitzkym, another staffer, handed out mimeographed Rules for Fair Fighting," which suggested setting a time limit for fights, and not playing psychologist. ("Never say 'I know what you're thinking.'")
A workshop on retirement ("Home For Lunch?") tackled the problem of what to do with free time after a lifetime of wage slaving.
"How do you deal with the all-American work ethic?" asked workshop leader Stephanie Joyce to a round of retirees.
"I feel guilty if I'm not busy," admitted one recently retired woman. "We've been brought up that way."
Probably the most sparsely attended workshop was on the state of American men after a decade of women's liberation. Besides instructor William Scarpetti and an inquiring reporter, only three men had the interest, or courage, to attend.
"I can believe a lot of liberated things on an intellectual level, but on a gut emotional level I'm still back in the stone age," said Mr. No-Name-Please.
"Some women overplay their roles and become hostle," observed another.
Most of men's problems, it was generally agreed, were not the fault of women but men themselves.
"We've been studs, warriors and empire builders. By playing our roles, we're not being ourselves," said Scarpetti. "In order to maintain their: masculine image, men are harnessed in a damaging role."
In the safety of the small circle of fellow males, one man confessed to holding back emotions for fear of being judged weak by his son. Another admitted the hidden dismay at being beaten by his girlfriend in a one-on-one game of basketball.
But no one yearned aloud for a return to an earlier time when men were more firmly seated on their thrones.
"What concerns me is that women will liberate themselves to the point they become like men and are trapped," said one man.
Another pointed out some of the fringe benefits of liberation.
"I don't get up and give away my seat on a bus anymore. Of course, I hardly ever get one."