There's no room for trash talk in a marriage

Sunday, September 11, 2005

SHE SAID: We don't play Boggle at our house anymore.

When Bob and I started dating, we played all the time. And I was awful.

Growing up, we played Monopoly, Rummy and Clue in my rural Carter County household. Bob's family, apparently, focused on games such as Boggle and Scrabble.

Since I wasn't introduced to the game of Boggle until age 20, Bob had decades of practice on me and the consequence was simple: He kicked my butt every time, to the point it was hardly worth playing (a fact he had no problem mentioning from time to time.)

Until one day. After hundreds of butt-kickings, I beat him. And then I beat him again and again and again. Now, he refuses to play Boggle.

And it's not just Boggle. Bob won't play the old -school Nintendo game Dr. Mario against me either. When we met, he claimed to be the "king" of Dr. Mario. Unfortunately, no one told him the world of Mario is ruled by a queen.

If Bob is losing any kind of game, he starts mocking or sulking. If he's winning, I can count on an ear-assaulting version of "We Are the Champions."

I have no problem with a little healthy competition (though I do worry when Bob advises stepson Drew to plow over another child in Little League).

I've always been pretty competitive myself, I'll admit. I didn't grow up in a family that "let" you win anything. But in the end, I've always known it's just a game.

As one of my favorite book characters says, "We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?"

Let's vote. Who thinks Bob is a sore loser who needs to take one of Dr. Mario's chill pills?

HE SAID: Now wait a second. I was no Boggle expert before we started dating. I played a few times as a teenager. I didn't have years of experience. I think I just peaked too soon.

I knew how to find the words spelled out with connecting letters on a four-by-four dice grid. There isn't much strategy in that. I can't understand why it took so long for my cute and talented future wife to catch on.

To Callie's credit, she's a word hound, a bookworm type who knows all sorts of tiny words that regular people can do without. "Sot," for example. Who uses the word "sot" these days? That's why I can't beat her anymore.

I'm a terrible loser, no doubt. Terrible. Upon being beaten, I usually want a rematch. If I don't get one, I may not talk for an hour or so. Just leave me alone, let my ego repair itself, let sanity be restored and eventually we can carry on with marital bliss.

If I see that I'm constantly outmatched, as in Boggle or Dr. Mario, I see no sense in subjecting myself to repeated abuse.

But let's talk about poor winners. Callie is a good example of one of those. While I allegedly spent my youth playing Boggle and Scrabble, Callie apparently spent most of her young days attending the Carter County School of Trash-talking.

She does this thing when something goes her way.

Man, is it irritating.

"Yeahr," she says.

Not "Yeah." But "Yeahr." In that macho-chick, in-yo-face tone.

Then she'll throw in the subtle insult. Or point out the obvious: "Gee honey, I'm winning by 30 points. That's the most I've ever beat you by. ... Wow, 30. You know, you're getting close to 30."

I'm not the best winner in the world, but my celebration is more to bask in victory than to stomp my opponent's ego into the ground.

I've been tastefully singing "We Are the Champions" after wins for as long as I can remember.

It's somewhat sad that Boggle and Dr. Mario are only memories now. I liked those games.

But there's only so much losing -- and Carter County trash-talking, -- one man can take before he goes insane.

Better to be a quitter than a sot, I say.

Contact feature editor Callie Clark Miller at cmiller@semissourian.com or news editor Bob Miller at bmiller@semissourian.com

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