“Let him know how smart you are,” my father said before I went on a date with my boyfriend.
I heard my father’s words and questioned his advice.
I recalled when one of my teenage boyfriends taught me to play Backgammon. As a long-time board game player, I quickly caught on to the winning strategy. After the second game, I won. When I won the next round, he quit playing. We never played that game again or any other board game together. He soon found another girlfriend.
One of my dates took me to the local fairgrounds. We enjoyed eating the fried food, sweet treats, and going on some of the rides. The fun continued until he tried the shooting range to get a prize for me. He was unsuccessful but offered to teach me how to shoot which I had never done before.
I held the gun as he instructed and took my first shot. Bang. I hit the target the first time and the second and the third. I collected my prizes, but my date wasn’t happy. I guess I shouldn’t have shown him up. He hardly spoke to me for the rest of the afternoon. We broke up soon afterward.
Once at a party, a male guest saw a creatively crafted chessboard on the coffee table. “Who’d like to play a game of chess with me?” he said. “I have to warn you that I’m a top-rated chess player.”
Bored with the rest of the party, I foolishly said, “I will,” even though I was a marginal chess player. What could it hurt playing a game with a good-looking man? The artistic pieces were made of twisted wires. The hostess told us what each chess piece represented.
“Mr. Good Looking” made the first move. I followed with typical beginner moves. As we continued, he made an incorrect move with the knight. He had forgotten what that odd shaped piece represented. This flustered him as he made another error. Seeing my chance to take his queen, which he didn’t notice, I won the chess game easily. He stomped away cursing. “Mr. Good Looking” didn’t seem so handsome after that.
I never told my father about any of the above situations. However, he must have noticed that I held back to please people. Thinking about his advice, I now wanted to know if I had finally found someone who enjoyed playing games as much as I did. But I also wanted someone who wouldn’t freak out if I won occasionally.
This boyfriend, Roger, seemed to be the perfect fit for me. He and I had already played games at a friend’s house before we became a serious couple. He enjoyed competing and didn’t seem to have a fragile ego.
When I invited Roger to my house to meet the family, I told him that my mother enjoyed playing Boggle after dessert. Because she hated losing, I asked him to let her win.
“Barbara, that’s not in my genetic makeup,” he said. “I like to win.”
After dinner, our Boggle game continued, until Roger and my mother were clearly tied for first place. Finally, at about 10:30 pm, my mother was one point ahead.
“Okay, that’s it,” she said to my father. “We can go home now.”
I was delighted to see that my boyfriend didn’t seem to mind that my mother won. I finally understood why when I met his family for the first time that Christmas. They enjoyed playing games, especially cards, and his mother hated to lose. Sometimes, we’d find ourselves playing past midnight until she won a game. I noticed that he never just let her win.
Roger and I were married that following May. We continue to enjoy spirited games of Scrabble, Gin Rummy, Skip-Bo, 500 Rummy, Rummikub, and other board and card games with family, friends, and each other. My husband plays hard, wins often, and enjoys a little “smack talk” after his wins. When I win, Roger expresses disappointment but doesn’t freak out or stomp out of the room in anger.
My father would be so proud of me that I “Let him know how smart I am.”