Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Eavesdropping on My Parents Playing "Life" With My Kids Was Highly Illuminating

"Okay. I'm a gay man with five kids. My partner and I adopted three of them, and had two by surrogacy. Then I decided I wanted to go to night school to become a video game designer so I could afford to live in this villa."

When I heard my mother say these words, they didn't make sense until I realized she was playing the board game "Life" with my children. (She noted she wanted to embody someone totally different from her actual self. Points for creativity).

The day before, one of Paige's friends had brought "Life" over to our house. Rightly sensing a golden opportunity to acquire more shit, Paige took full advantage of my mother's suggestibility, generosity, and perpetual desire and willingness to go shopping by convincing my mom to buy her the same game the very next day. Paige is well aware that by my mother's logic, if any child expresses any affinity whatsoever for anything, they must own it within 24 hours.

I insisted that wasn't happening unless ALL of them--my mom, Paige, and Isaac, and my dad if necessary/requested--promised to play Life every day for the rest of their visit and beyond.They readily agreed to that condition, but to me, it sounded worse than prison.

I always hated the board game Life for the same reason I hated Monopoly: it has elaborate rules, a zillion pieces, involves pretend money, and is a punishingly dull simulacrum of a depressing reality that I'd soon be forced to reckon with anyway. 

Even as a kid I sensed this: Real Life with a capital "R," capital "L," was barreling down on me like a freight train, and I only had a limited number of years to sit there on the tracks before it ran me over.

So why would I EVER want to pretend to deal with the kind of mind-numbing shit I overheard my parents talking about in hushed and anxious tones: insurance policies, salaries, jobs, marriage, and tuition? 

No fucking way. Childhood play is about dreaming of the impossible, like being an astronaut who walks on the moon; not marching through the inevitable, like comparison shopping for a low-interest student loan.

But Paige and Isaac didn't seem fazed by this game, the point of which, apparently, is to make money, find a mate, reproduce, buy a bunch of shit, and die. Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because after all, isn't that the American Dream?

"I'm married to a set netter. He goes crabbing and shoots animals and brings them home for me and our babies to eat," offered Paige in what I thought was a distinctly gendered and uniquely Alaskan take on the game. 

"Ugh," Isaac groaned. "I HATE babies. They're GROSS."

Good for you kid, I thought. You're not gonna see a baby around here anytime soon. Not if I have anything to say about it. At least this round of Life provided insight into my kids' future hopes and dreams. 

"This is booooooooring," Isaac added, writhing around on the floor restlessly as I've wanted to do during many, many meetings I've been forced to attend over the past 17 years of Real Life. 

"Can we play Hungry Hungry Hippos instead?"  Now that's more like it. Again: good for you kid, good for you.

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