Lois Howard likes her favorite organization because there are no dues, fees and, well, they don't do anything.
"We just really have a good time," says Howard. "We don't want this to be a whole big effort for anyone."
Howard is a founding member of the Lois group, a collection of Manitoba women named, well, Lois. They range in age from two to 75. They freely admit they don't perform good deeds or try to save the world. Once a year, the Loises get together and let their hair down.
Next Saturday is the local chapter's 15th anniversary.
It started in 1988 when Howard, a Pan-Am Games volunteer, got chatting with another volunteer named Lois. They'd heard Loises gathered in other cities and thought they'd give it a whirl.
"I grew up not knowing anyone else named Lois. She didn't either. We decided to have a Lois Luncheon. We figured if only the two of us showed up, it would still be fun."
Forty-five Loises came to the first meal.
"At the luncheons, we usually refer to each other by last name," says Howard, 71. "The first year, all the waiters and waitresses wore name tags that said 'I Am Lois.' "
Howard's mother died when she was 12. She has no idea why she was given her first name.
Lois Pelletier first heard about her namesake organization 40 years ago. She had a girlfriend in Minneapolis who told her about the club. According to Lois Link International, there are clubs in the Twin Cities, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York state, Arizona and California.
Pelletier has attended meetings in Texas, where she winters.
"There's something about these Loises," laughs Pelletier, 71. "We like to get together and have fun."
They admit it's odd there weren't many famous women named Lois, although the name endures. There was girl reporter Lois Lane, of course.
"Who wouldn't want a Superman like that?" quips Howard.
Other than that, there are only a scattering of former beauty queens, some writers and Lois Hole, Alberta's late lieutenant-governor.
But the Manitoba club still boasts some very young members. Pelletier's granddaughter, 10-year-old Olivia Lois, is fussed over when she comes to the luncheons. Yes, they'll let you in even if your middle name is Lois.
The Loises share a universal gripe. Their names have only four letters and should be easy to pronounce and remember.
"I grew up hearing Louise and Louis. I had to tell people I'm not a boy," says Pelletier. "It's not that hard."
The Manitoba Loises sometimes have speakers at their luncheons, but it's not essential. The Red Hat Ladies came one year and a bra-fitter another. They had a fashion show where all the models were named Lois. It's all in good fun.
On their 10th anniversary, the president of Lois International flew in from California to address the group.
They do ask members for a $5 donation to help with mailing costs. Howard says they try to email now to keep costs even lower.
This year's luncheon is Saturday, April 28 at the Charterhouse Hotel. If you're a Lois, call 942-0101 and get your name on the reservation list.
That's your last name, of course.
Guests order their own meals and settle their tabs.
There may be other first names with their own clubs (and I'm sure I'll be told if that's so). Still, the Loises seem like a fun group.
While I have sympathy for having one's name mispronounced, at least they can take comfort in numbers.
Some of us could have our namesake luncheon at a table for one. You Toms, Dicks and Loises will never understand what some of us go through.