Blood Games at Home

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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12 comments… add one
  • Cindy A Link

    All I can say is that it wouldn’t be a good idea for the two of you to play that game SCRUPLES. After two dinner parties where at least one half of a couple left miffed because the other half lacked a moral compass, we put it way, way back in the closet!

  • Mei Link

    Ruth, I hear you! I enjoy playing Scrabble and I lay out rules to only allow words found in dictionaries after he tried to pull a fast one on me by telling me “noble-d” should be allowed. And to think we’re not even married yet! How noble is that?

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Fortunately, we have no Scruples.

    Mei — Now is the perfect time to start laying down the law about games.  After you’re married, it’s too late.

  • Paula Burney Link

    I never get tired of reading this.  You crack me up!  I just hope that one day before I die, I get to have a relationship with a decent guy.  Whoever said, “Third time’s a charm” is a liar.
    You know, I refuse to play games like that with the guys I’ve met because I have beginner’s luck and they are sore losers.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Paula — Anybody who comes up with rules about relationships is a liar.  Hang in there.

  • HILARIOUS!!  And I have always wished taht my husband would play games with me – but he won’t. I have a feeling if he did, the result would be just as you described.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Maybe he’s trying to spare you.

  • Chris Link

    I know the porno connotations to “cum”, but the word can also be used in polite company, according to my Webster’s:
    “With; combined with; along with, i.e., a garage-cum-workshop”
    Yes, odd as all get out and so grates on my word consciousness, but in the issue of fairness (as a middle child, it’s all about the fairness), I must throw this out there.
    I refuse to play games with my husband’s family – it truly isn’t fun so I bow out.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Can’t believe I didn’t think of the more educated sense of the word.  We’re both oldest children, so it’s all about winning for us — but I agree: why play a game if it’s no fun?

  • Have you ever found out what would happen if you guys played together? Mixed doubles? Partners at bridge? I reckon that’s a real marriage test.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    We’ve played mixed doubles in tennis and partners in games like Trivial Pursuit.  It’s fun, oddly enough.  But then other people aren’t always around, so we have to play each other.

  • I have never had any luck at all playing games with husbands. I started playing chess with my first, but as soon as I read one chess book I could beat him. He wouldn’t read a chess book, so we had to give up playing. Even though I’m not much good at games, my present husband is so hopeless at all of them that there would be no point.

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