Howlings / Beware the bored games
Do you remember those first few years of your marriage? It was easy to stay entertained then.
You'd spend hours listening to each other's stories, learning about your histories and ex-girlfriends and occasional lapses of sanity in college ("Wait, did you just say you once brushed your teeth with grain alcohol?"). You'd take long road trips without the radio on (gasp!), exchanging tales of bad family gatherings and athletic triumphs and how you once played "barber" with your 5-year-old sister and cut her hair down to the scalp with only a few strands left to make it "pretty" (sorry, Sharon, that one was kind of rough on you; but karma has its way of balancing things, as my profile picture makes perfectly clear).
There was so much to learn, so much to keep the conversation flowing and interesting. And yes, it seemed important to know that your Aunt Ethel was a hypochondriac, that you hate zucchini and opera music, and that you once appeared on an MTV game show and accidentally and noticeably spit when saying the word "Twinkies" (I will continue to deny this publicly until it shows up on YouTube).
And then ...
That sense of discovery begins to fade. Stories get repeated a little more often. That first surprising silence in the car leads to more, and becomes kind of comfortable (as you rediscover the joys of the car stereo). This isn't a bad thing, really. The ability to live quietly and comfortably with each other is essential at some point. Life together isn't always supposed to be a non-stop thrill ride.
But for those of you who are only beginning this journey together, I must provide a warning. When things become a bit dull on a Saturday evening, you will seek simple entertainment to alleviate the boredom. There is a pitfall that awaits you, a temptation that too many couples have succumbed to, a forbidden fruit that may seem harmless but will leave pain and distress in its wake.
Beware the board games. Within those cardboard boxes, evil lurks.
On a quiet evening with friends recently, after a nice dinner and some decent wine, a few yawns started filtering through the living room. It was far too early to call it a night, so we looked to an outside source for a little stimulation. After scanning the shelves of the house, we found a box containing the home version of "The Newlywed Game."
To those of you unfamiliar with the classic, "The Newlywed Game" was a hugely successful game show where recently married couples were tested on their knowledge of each other's wants, histories and interests. I hadn't seen the show in years, and had forgotten that most of the episodes resulted in the abject humiliation of the hapless husbands (who couldn't recall their new bride's favorite food or how many first cousins they had).
That night, our game began with each couple facing a simple question: "What single word would you use to best describe your spouse?"
I don't recall what any of our friends chose to describe their significant others. I don't even remember what my wife chose to describe me. But I remember my choice. And so does my wife.
I chose "organized".
Now, before the women reading this column begin to verbally degrade me, let's be clear. Those of you who know my wife would certainly agree that's she's impeccably organized. She comes from a family of anal-retentive neat freaks who enjoy counter-wiping and label-making as much as normal people like breathing oxygen. She has a natural ability to put things in order. Our spices are alphabetized. Her calendar is color-coded. Our lives are kept in perfect order in a series of binders. She'd file me in a binder under "necessary evils" if I could fit in the desk drawer.
So calling her "organized" is certainly not inaccurate. Nor is it an insult. Our lives would fall completely apart without her. And I know this. So by choosing "organized," I was really saying, "Honey, I have true and deep respect for the manner in which you run our lives and can create order out of chaos. I love you dearly." I was paraphrasing, of course, but the sentiment was there.
Somehow, that didn't come across. She looked at me with a face that managed to blend various shades of confusion, sadness, disappointment and intense anger. Her eyebrows somehow separated from her forehead and raised themselves above her hairline. She dropped her pen and pad on the floor and released her thoughts on my selection.
"`Organized'"? You choose `organized?' Of all the words you can use to describe me, the supposed love of your life, and you choose `organized'?"
"Well, sure," I replied, "I'm sure you'd agree that ..."
"`Organized'?" That's how you feel about me? The best you can come up with is "organized'?"
Our guests stayed motionless. I think they may have moved their eyeballs to follow the action, but I can't be sure.
"I just thought if I was really trying to say something different that would describe your unique ..."
"No, I say you stick with `organized.' That's a good one. Especially if you're describing an office manager or an accountant, which I guess I am to you. But I want to change the word I use to describe you. How about moron? Does moron work for you? That's it, I'm going with moron."
Thus began a 90-minute brawl, as I tried to spin my selection (a futile effort, of course). It still hangs over me to this day. I'm clearly a lost cause, but you can learn from my mistake. On reflection, there were at least 78 words that would have made a better choice. Here's a handy list, in case you are confronted with a similar question: try words like Gorgeous, Stimulating, Magnificent, Inspiring, Resplendent, Magnetic, Intellectual, Adorable, Dazzling, etc. You'll have better luck with one of those.
Or better yet, just don't play the board game in the first place. They may come to an end at some point, but trust me, there are no winners.