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Let the games begin

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The subject of this column is almost strictly Taboo.

On occasion, my girlfriend and I gather with some friends for a game night. Usually there are one or two couples. Sometimes there are more. Such an evening always starts civil enough but assuredly degenerates into vulgarity, name-calling and general ankle-biting competitiveness. There have probably been some nights in which one or more couples have gone to sleep in a cold, unwelcome bed in the aftermath of Game Night. Yet somehow, we obviously love it.

Part of the reason for this routine of hostile sportsmanship, I believe, is that these games regularly pit the “girls” against the “boys.” Now, when I say “girls,” I mean 30-year-old women who are sweet, deeply caring elementary school teachers by day. The men are well-matched as those ladies’ counterparts – a middle school teacher and two writers/journalists, to be exact. How can such educated, upstanding adults come to behave like brats at recess? A bottle of wine is part of the answer. Another reason is that the girls crush the guys nine out of 10 times and never tire of sticking out their tongues, proclaiming themselves the superior sex, as if anyone ever debated it after a score of 50 to 20. At this point I should clarify that our game of choice has been Taboo. Teams have to guess what their clue giver is trying to communicate. There’s a time limit and a buzzer. We used to use a “fart machine” instead of the buzzer that came with the game. It made fart noises when its button was pressed. Sadly, the fart machine malfunctioned one night after everyone had left and gone to bed. Danny told us later that he awoke to some strange noises downstairs. Wary there might be an intruder in his house, he tiptoed down the steps with a baseball bat. He traced the noise to a drawer in the kitchen and discovered the fart machine going berserk, totally out of control. The only way to shut it off was to take out the batteries.



Anyway, we play Taboo so much that some of us are starting to know the cards by memory. Jen, one of our Game Night regulars, is notorious for this. It’s quite impressive to see her guess a correct answer upon hearing the word, “Um.” There is often a break in the game when someone, usually Jen’s boyfriend, accuses her of studying the cards. A moment of almost-serious yelling ensues while the rest of us laugh and then the game continues with no resolution to the argument, another part in a script doomed to repetition. The script that’s repeating is the Everlasting Battle of the Sexes, of course. Where is the root of this battle? Is it taught to us as we are raised, always separated into groups of boys and girls? Or is it innate? At least in my circle, one thing seems certain – women share common ways of communicating while the men are on any page but the same. Or maybe I should rephrase it. The guys seem more interested in making jokes and funny gestures while the women speak clearly and pay attention. Maybe the girls mock us when they beat us because one of us was pretending to hump an opponent’s ear while she tried to give clues to her teammates. I’ve suggested that perhaps, in the interest of saving a marriage or two, it would be better to not always pit couples against each other. That idea was swiftly shot down more than once. Maybe a game with sanity would be too boring, too cut and dried. Maybe our inner children would be less likely to come out and play. Maybe what we really get out of Game Night is more than Taboo – it’s something we can barely understand let alone put into words, as I’m trying to do here. Perhaps Game Night is more about exploring the roots of our humanity, our methods of relating and communicating and especially our laughter, that mysterious, involuntary bubbling of the spirit. Such a boil might require that volatile mix of hormones that is Boys V. Girls. Whatever the case, we like it. We want more. So we uncork a bottle of wine and a bottle of all that other inappropriate stuff that’s taboo in almost any other context. Who cares what the card says, we want the punchlines, for the laughter is what we’re after when we walk in the door for Game Night. I think that’s something we all agree on.

Derek Franz’s column appears every other Monday. He can be reached at dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise.



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