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Games People Play

by Dear Jon
July 16, 2002

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Sort 156_Dear Jon-Games People Play ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

I think my wife may be cheating on me. Every time we play checkers she hears "a noise," and asks me to check it out. When I come back she is inexplicably winning. This has happened with Scrabble, Parchesi, and Gin Rummy as well. I have tried to confront her on this, but she always gets indignant when I accuse her of cheating. What should I do?


Dear Suspicious,

Obviously you survived the dating relationship only because your wife views you as a “project.” Everyone else knows that one must never accuse one’s wife or girl friend of cheating. Instead, women “reinterpret the rules” using the kind of sensitive emotional logic celebrated in such movies as “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.” Or, women use their superior aesthetic and kinesthetic sensibilities to “re-envision the alignment” of cards or player pieces.

According to Women’s Studies theory, rules for games and contests tend to be masculine in nature. Rules are structured by men to reward masculine sensibilities. Thus to say that someone “cheats” is simply an arbitrary masculine imposition on the value of chauvinistic rules. To accuse someone of cheating is to place the value of “rules” over the value of “relationship.” This, of course, is the worst crime ever to be committed by any male anywhere in the world.

When women re-envision the alignment of player pieces according to their innate aesthetic intuitions, men have a tendency to notice. “Hey, you cheated,” says the insensitive dullard. You can imagine why women resent the man for noticing something as insignificant as a missing backgammon stone, when the man has apparently NOT noticed the new perm, the loss of two pounds from the previous week, or that she had spent all Saturday morning dusting the venetian blinds while he was watching television.

Besides, cheating does not have to do with silly, oppressive rules written by men so that men could win. Cheating has to do with INTENTION. Any person who INTENDS to defeat their spouse in a competition is a “cheater.” This is why, when a man jumps three of his wife’s checkers, she invariably says, “cheater.” A woman who hears a noise, and when the husband is off checking, realizes that the board is MISSING SOMETHING, what could it be--ah, a checker here, a checker there. Much better. Yes, it really is much more balanced that way -- this woman is not INTENDING to win the game. She merely wishes to restore balance and harmony despite the cold indifference of men and their silly rules.

The whole point is, games are not for winning. They are for PLAYING. Who sets rules around play? The whole concept is absurd.

Unless she is winning, of course. Then everything is strictly by the book. She will be deaf to any outside noise, including sirens and gunfire, and she will be particularly vigilant about your own propensities to negotiate the boundaries of the rules.

Men and women respond differently to situations. There is a masculine response (rules matter) and a feminine response (all that matters is relationship) when it comes to rules and cheating. There is also a masculine response: (kill it; what isn’t dangerous is edible) and a feminine response (find out if it’s either scary or cuddly) to strange noises. I suggest that you teach your wife what would be your optimal masculine response to her complaint of strange noises.

One way to cure her of the “what was that” little noise lie, is to announce one day that you are going to Wal-Mart to buy weapons for home defense. After all, you are obviously being stalked, what with these harassments every time you try to settle down for a game of Parchesi. It is time to settle the question of who this trespasser is. Your motto will be shoot first, ask questions later. Then while playing a game, when she sends you off to search for the source of a noise, make a big show of loading the M-50 and slinging the ammo belt over your shoulder.

If by then she has not retracted, I suggest going into your basement. Aim only at a wall that carries no wiring or pipes, which has your old desk from college leaning up against it, and a resale lamp your wife bought for your first apartment and couldn’t bear to throw out, and the collection of typewriters on their stands that you have been storing for a weird uncle who is certain someone, maybe an antique dealer, will redeem them eventually. Shout “HEY YOU! STOP OR I’LL SHOOT!” and then open up. You will only have shot up your junk, but I doubt very much that your wife will send you searching for a phantom noise ever again.

When you come back up, soothe her by saying that whoever it was got away, and that you appreciate the aesthetics in the patterns she configured on the board while you were defending the home.

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Dear Jon Letters: Tips for Dating and Mating
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