My husband and I are playing this game called Bananagrams. It’s kind of like Scrabble on speed. Each person turns over a bunch of letters, then starts forming words in a crossword formation. You have your own little area and you don’t mess with or observe the other person’s moves. Usually.
When you run out of letters, you say “split!” and both of you have to pull out a new letter. The one who runs through all her letters wins and then you’re supposed to yell something else, but we always get confused about that and just start gloating loudly, instead.
Playing this game — or any game — brings back fond memories. When I first knew my husband, he proudly announced he had never — not once, ever — lost a game of Monopoly. I took care of that little run the first time we played Monopoly, which deflated him for a good 15 seconds, but he recovered.
Then we moved on to Scrabble, hearts and Trivial Pursuit. One time, we played hearts with another couple who were newlyweds and they hated to dump the queen of spades, with her 13 points, on each other. They looked aghast at my husband and me — cheerfully and spitefully ladeling points in the other’s direction. But I think it’s healthy, in a sick kind of way. Get out your hostility and competition and grudges in the world of games, that’s my theory. “It limits the marital bloodshed,” I would have told the newlyweds, if they’d asked me. Unfortunately, they seemed a little eager to get away from us.
Anyway, so far, this game theory seems to have worked, especially when I win. It’s always better for me to win, since my husband’s such a terrible winner, breaking out in cheek-mangling grins and chortling delightedly over and over. Believe me, you want to paste him one after a while. I, on the other hand, am magnanimous and modest.
This was all playing out in my mind — how I deserved to win — when my husband and I played our tie-breaking game of Bananagrams. We both screamed victory at the same time, even though I was clearly a millisecond earlier. This is when the parsing began. My husband looked at my words and took an unfair shot at my creation of “guida.”
“What is this?” he snarled. “A female version of guido?”
“It’s a perfectly legitimate word in many languages,” I said vaguely. What a nitpicker. A hater of linguistic creativity under stress.
So, I looked at his words. “What on earth is this?” I demanded, pointing to a three-letter word.
“Cum? It’s an acceptable word.”
I said I didn’t think pornographic words were allowed, then I went into the living room where our 23-year-old son was hanging out. “Who won?” he asked.
“I did,” I said.
“I DID!” my husband, the big eavesdropper, screamed from the kitchen.
I didn’t say anything more, since I’m such a magnanimous winner, after all. I didn’t tell our son the sad truth that a man who will use the word “cum” in a genteel word game will do anything to win. You see how it is. For better or for wurst.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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