I was such a weird little kid. I had a thing about playing games at birthday parties. I wouldn’t partake, even at my own parties, even if everyone won something. How odd. I’m sure it had something to do with perfectionism, not being able to bear even the idea of not being #1, even in something at stupid as a carry-an-egg-on-a-spoon relay. So I just wouldn’t play. Mindful of others perceptions of me, I didn’t want anyone to think I was a poor sport or anything, so I would just claim to be tired or “just wanted to watch for awhile.” How does that turn up in the mind by kindergarten? Jeez.

I can remember putting up a giant pout once, though. I was maybe 8 or 9, at a sleepover party with a gaggle of girls. The birthday girl was an only child of some means, so there were really good prizes for the games. I had my laser-like focus on a case to hold 45 RPM records – it was covered in a shaggy hot pink fake fur and had a funny face with big pom-pom eyes. Surely, it was me who had to own this! I was the music fan! I had to win, for the winner had first choice of the prizes. I forget what the game was, something random, though, no skill, just luck. My luck played out that the birthday girl herself won top choice, and picked the case. Oh, holy hell. I could feel black billowing clouds emanate from the top of my head, and bolts of deadly lightening shoot from my eyes. I think I may have started dropping silent fat tears as well. No doubt folded arms, big lip, and major frownage were happening as well. The birthday girl’s mother, who knew me well, too well, realized that I would sit in steely, shitty determination all night long and probably ruin the party. She intervened and after some tense negotiations, the birthday girl turned the case over to me. I can remember that complex feeling of YES! WIN! I WIN! and some amount of shame about how I achieved it. I would’ve really hated me if I were that mom. Heh.

I still have the case, though. I really did like it a whole lot. It's very groovy.

Later on, there were no party games of course. The wins were: 1. a place to have an unsupervised teen function, preferably dark with loud music; 2. substances to abuse, and most importantly; 3. attendance by my latest guy crush. These parties were often great dramas, with many stories told and retold the next week at school, and sometimes for years later. Someone always threw up and/or passed out cold, someone got into a fight, something always got broken, and someone’s heart always got broken as well, while someone’s else’s was soaring. I would always start the evening with such hope, and usually just end up tired, messed up, and with some amount of male attention but hardly ever the guy I pined for. The keg would be tapped out, tires would squeal out of the driveway, but there was always next weekend, right?

Grown-up parties just aren’t as compelling. There aren’t any games, and everyone has generally paired off. The social component centers around food, work talk, maybe a game on the TV. My face gets tired from smiling, I never ever get drunk, and I definitely never win anything other than maybe getting to eat some good cheese and crackers.

These days, I try to be more reasonable. Winning is really important to me still in many ways, but not everything is a win situation. I am more comfortable with failing, particularly if I can figure something from it, which makes an odd sort of a win. I am still learning how to play nice, or even play at all, but I am getting there.

I am up for a three-legged race. Let’s go.