Valentine’s Day coincided this year with the NY Toy Fair, which it nearly always does, because love is a game with complicated rules and players who start out on the same team but eventually end up blowing all their hard-earned currency for no other reason than to defeat each other, which may include flipping the board—and each other—off. (This is all explained more thoroughly on the Toy Industry Association press release.)
Analyzing the progression of your long-term coupling, conscious or otherwise, through the lens of classic board games will at least save you from a terrible evening of Dakota/Dornan BDSM. Go directly to couples counseling, then death: Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200, unless you just got your New York State property-tax refund in the mail.
In the beginning, during that dazed genuflection to relationship genesis, everything you mumblecore to each other is gumdrops and gingerplums and bringing each other home to meet Gramma Nutt and a slow, honeyed progression that eventually leads you to shuck it all in the magnificent, murky depths of some sweet Molasses Swamp. Or the bathroom in Anthropologie, because it smells so nice in there. You’re Bieber-Gomez when they’re on. The instructions aren’t complicated yet; it’s all pretty colors and emotional umami.
This is getting serious. You’ve pooled your bitcoin. You’ve set the sights of your Bed, Bath & Beyond barcode scanner on a well-regarded iron. Or maybe a shorthair from the ASPCA, because all the irons have been discontinued. You wish someone with common sense had chosen the robot or the guitar, because you would have gladly registered for either one of those. Your wedding ends up being so fantastic you end up in jail, but you don’t care, because you know you’ll bless a bunch of hotels once you’re back on Baltic.
Everything’s good. No, everything’s really good—ideal, even. Exquisite! Unblemished! You’ve figured it all out. Big Ben is ticking in the distance with a nervous, looming energy, but you’re ignoring that biological time-bomb for now and spending an inordinate amount of time putting more of your partnership pieces together. That includes assembling a Lufthätfjellingskäjäjäjfffffft from IKEA to furnish the three-bedroom Cape that’s already underwater, but, you know…splendid!
Time. To. Start. Seriously. Erecting.
You’re not sure what hit you. Maybe it was Ms. Scarlet with a candlestick. Maybe it was Col. Mustard with a cudgel. Maybe it was the baby felled by pertussis because someone FORGOT TO VACCINATE THE BABY, who’s now mired in full-fledged Baby Squall Mode while one of the twins smears Plochman’s Kosciusko all over your faux-stainless-steel fridge. The kind that picks up every fingerprint because you Brenda and Eddie-ed it with a Kenmore. The other twin is writing Fisher-Price Amazon reviews on his iPad. You wistfully recall the salad days of more cuddling, less cudgeling.
Chutes and Ladders
Strap in. You’re going for a ride. Wheeeeeeeeee….
You start pressing each other’s buttons. Which leads to *real* trouble. Which leads to…
It’s what you always seem to be saying. No one says it back. Weird. Pick your battles carefully, though, because…
… The 12-inch smoothbores are OUT. You’re John Mayer and Taylor Swift. You’ve got your partner’s patrol boat (Swift Boat!) number. Andcellphone number, on speed-dial, so no one will be able to simply “fall off the grid” and dump you with these hangers-on so someone who’s not you can just go to the bookstore or the bar or Panera whenever they fucking feel like it.
Hold up, time out. Your grade-schooler has lice. And the baby, who’s now 5, still hasn’t been immunized. You dump her at a dropsy party and band together with your mate in miserable solidarity, taking turns with a Westphalian-metal fine-tooth comb (on this you splurged for the stainless), trying not to spoil the mood with too many “this is lousy” jokes. You gaze lovingly into each other’s retinas and flesh out new ways to nitpick together.
The lice is gone—back to the game. Can you see how many fingers I’m holding up? Guess what I’m thinking now. Two words, two syllables…time’s up!
The Game of LIFE
Self-actualize. You’ve got this. So you became a per-diem proofreader instead of an actuary—your partner’s OK with it. You’ll cram those eight kids you made together during Creationary Phase into a five-person Prius and LIKE IT. You’ll never have it better; you’ll never have it worse.
In reality (this is real, because this is LIFE), it’s Conway’s game you play. Just when you’ve deciphered your relationship’s patterns, chaos spurs unpredictable outcomes. You’re constantly maintaining day-to-day survival, pitting loneliness (“Do you get me anymore?”) against overpopulation (“Why are there five American Girl dolls in our Lufthätfjellingskäjäjäjfffffft???”). You’re supposed to be living, dying, ormultiplying—and you’re somehow doing all three at once. You should’ve self-destructed by now. WHAT IS HAPPENING….
Listen. Combine LIFE with Cootie; rebrand it as “The Game of LICE.” Embrace love as the unrelenting parasitic paradise it is, siphoning the life out of you, your partner, the tiny Conway replicants underfoot who are slowly killing you.
You’ll never completely be rid of it. Probably not your partner, either, if there are replicants. Book a trip to Xcalak. Nitpick the pulverized white sands and each other with your lice comb. You packed it, didn’t you? Reboot your retinas. Stuff each other’s faces with chocolate-covered Monopoly thimbles. Create. Sorry. Perfect.
Jenn Gidman is an honors grad of STFU. She earned a “D” in her first and only poetry class, made two kids, likes bonfires, and is still trying to figure out the Frank Bidart/James Franco connection.