Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Games We Play

Recently, TB and I celebrated 8 years together. A quarter of our lifetimes, now, most of it probably spent binge-watching premium cable programming and eating kosher dill pickles while making poop jokes. We had a fairy-tale start, a rocky first few years, and have mellowed out into something that works well for us.

Somewhat relatedly, I feel like I've been giving a lot of relationship advice lately, some unsolicited*, some not, and it's got me thinking about what it is that I really like about my relationship with TB**. Sometimes I'm scared to talk about it, because, as I learned from my deeply suspicious Jewish father, the minute you start to talk about how good something is, that's when God decides to take it away from you. So I try not to beam about the things that make me happy in case I look like an idiot once they inevitably disappear.

Which, I think you'll agree, is a pretty shitty way to go through life.

So, in an effort to beat back that particular way of thinking, let me say this about us: we can be a fucking riot.

Seriously. We're not like Paul Blart funny or anything but I get a kick out of our silliness and I think that's one of the things that holds us together even when things are going pear-shaped. I could talk about my philosophy when it comes to relationships - the importance of the "teammate" element, the need to discuss the language you use when expressing affection - I don't consider myself an expert, and would feel strangely about giving advice on the topic. So I'll talk about one aspect of our relationship that I am an expert on and really enjoy: games.

I don't mean physical, tabletop-type games (though we've been known to Settle a Catan or two in our time), but stupid, silly games we play when we're out together that make me smile. These aren't just for couples, mind you, but we do play them most when we're together. They've also become a bit of a litmus test - if you would play one of these games while out and about with me, we could probably be friends. If not, um, well, we could probably still exchange pleasantries at a dinner party. But I'd be thinking about snagging another canape the whole time.

Anywho, without further ado:

Game 1: Oh, there you/we are!

Items needed: Friends/Family/Partner; Passersby.

Instructions: Find strangers around you that remind you in some way of your present company. This could be as simple as two people with similar body types, people who are enjoying an activity you yourself enjoy - craft fair attending, buffet lunching -  or even just being in a group of people the same number as your party. Personally, I've found this works the best if you focus on people older than yourselves. Once you've found your target remark brightly, "Oh there we are!"  Point out things about them to your companion as though you were looking in a futuristic mirror.

"Oh, you decided to wear your orthopedic sandals today, while I went with the Crocs - isn't that just like us?!"
"Oh, we shouldn't have invited you to this movie, you're sleeping already!"
"I'm so glad we're carrying the same handbag! You picked that up for me at your Red Hat Society get together, didn't you?"

Like I said, this isn't strictly a couples' game; I've played it with friends and family as well. It's versatility is key to its popularity - we can play wherever we are -whether strolling by the marina, hiking in the Andes, or any number of imaginary situations I could list. I could even see this working in a zoo.

"Oh there you are! Where did you get that fetching new hat?"

Variations: "Oh, there I am!"; "You didn't tell me dad was here!"

Oh there I am! Is reserved for children that remind you of your former self. My former self is usually a slightly chubby kid in a grape juice-stained t-shirt. If I see someone who fits the bill, for example, I chirp "Oh, there you are, 10-year-old me! Where have you been, swimming perhaps?"

You didn't tell me dad was here! Is only for people who know my dad. Basically, literally everywhere we go, there's someone or something who looks like my dad. Sometimes we use qualifiers "Oh good, short dad made it to the theatre" or "Asian dad seems to like it"

Game 2: I Didn't Know Your Album Had Dropped!

Items Needed: Friends/Family, unusual or grating background music.

Instructions: Mostly, background music is just that - something that happens to be playing while you're busy doing other things. But sometimes, just sometimes, either due to monotony, or a terrible backbeat or inane lyrics or a myriad of other issues that take the music out of the banal background and into the frustrating foreground. IDKYAHD! is just the thing for situations like this.

Like "Oh There You Are!" this is one that can be played with just about anyone, but for some reason, we play it almost exclusively with TB as the performer. Maybe it's because we know about his deep love of pan flute performance (not joking) and that makes us believe he could get behind almost any genre of music.

Essentially, as soon as I hear music that's out-of-the-ordinary - whether it be incongruous to our surroundings or repetitive and seemingly unending, or remarkably cheesy- I'll gasp, wide-mouthed, turn to TB, shove him gently and say "I didn't know your album had dropped!"

Now: the key to the game being successful is for the participants to fully commit to the banter. I can always count on my sister or TB to keep up the ruse. Usually our follow-up conversation will go something like this:

TB: Well, I wanted to keep it quiet, you know, until the label had gone through with it.
Me: So, is that a recorder you're jamming out on?
TB: Oh yeah, it's a pretty underused instrument, I just wanted to really give it the treatment it's due, y'know?
Me: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, it kind of sounds like you're just blowing into it randomly. And then, like adding a drum beat and a female vocal track over it?
TB: Well, I'm part of an experimental underground recorder movement, you probably haven't  heard of it. Also the background vocals are mine; I sing a solid alto.

<Continue until someone breaks and busts a gut laughing. The non-laugher is the winner.>

I've played this game at an Indian buffet restaurant when we realized that we were listening to some kind of experimental jazz flute compilation

It basically sounded like this, but with more sitar.
I've also played it when a cabbie switched to a Christian rock station that was playing a song that just had the word "holy" as its chorus. I've played it when the local University rock station was playing some fan-made death metal, and when the bubble tea restaurant we like was playing a K-pop cover of a Will Smith song. I've played it while watching Fox, I've played it during a beatbox, and so on. I never get tired of it and, bless him, neither does TB.

Game 3: Name! That! Dog!

Items needed: A dog. Literally any dog. I've done it with my dog, even though I actually, officially named her already.

Instructions: Shamelessly stolen from the fabulous Susan Blackwell, this game is exactly what it sounds like. Any time we see a dog on the street, I turn to TB and say, in the style of a game show announcer, "Name! That! Dahhhhhhg!" and then we both immediately yell out the name we think that dog has (or in many cases, should have). There's no real "winner", though usually one of the names will get an "oooh!" of approval and that should be considered the dog's new name going forward.

I've been messing up on this lately, taking too long, too concerned with getting the perfect name ready and not trusting my instincts enough. Though this might just be a new nervous habit, borne out of the time TB named a small scottie dog "Earl" and we considered just abandoning the game forever because it really was just the most spot-on of names.

I've also played this game as "Name! That! Person!" - it doesn't quite work out the same. My sister and I still try to guess the Jeopardy contestants names before they pop up on the screen, though. Our success rate can only be described as abysmal.

BONUS GAME: What's Their Story?

Items needed: Passersby; a Flair for the Dramatic

Instructions: Let your eyes wander over a crowd until you see a person that stands out to you for whatever reason. Turn to your friend and say, softly and suspiciously "What's Their Story?" Then you and your friend take turns adding details to the situation, whether it be their home life, the reason they're out today, their favourite things, their sordid past, whatever floats your collective boats.

This is a bonus game because I've only played it with my friend C (who is killer at it), so it's not actually a couples game... yet.


So there you have it. 8 years of being in a relationship and this is what I have to share. Oh, also, communication, compromise, casual intimacy, appreciation of interests, support... yada yada yada snoozefest. Basically, if you forget all of that, just focus on the dog game and you're golden.

*mostly because I am still working on making things not all about me, even when I'm trying to be sympathetic and helpful. I'm a work-in-progress on that front.

**I almost typed "TV" which is a whole 'nother kind of deep, abiding love.