Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Word game spells d o o m for my e g o

Note: This column appears online on The Glendale Star and Peoria Times websites.

My wife introduced me to Words With Friends. At first I thought she was trying to tell me something. Shouldn’t we be playing Words With More Than Friends? But then I realized it’s just the name of the game. Everything is cool.

Words With Friends is an app for the iPhone. People have said it’s like Scrabble, but the thing is, it is Scrabble. It’s just called something different, for some reason. The only difference is that it’s played on your phone at your respective leisure as opposed to the urgent confinement of a board game setting where several letters are missing and a dictionary must be referenced. (One day I will tell our daughter that, when I was young, we used to play a board game that required a dictionary, and I am going to sound like a Pilgrim.)

Anyway, my wife won the first game. I discovered this when I logged into the app to see if it was my turn and was instead greeted with a party-type audio and graphic informing me, "You lost!" This was actually less infuriating than having the final score revealed, because I’m pretty sure I lost that game by over 100 points. Would I like a rematch? Darn tootin.’

I lost the rematch. It was starting to dawn on me that I was not playing the game well. I was more concerned with making awesome words than utilizing the double and triple word and letter blocks. I was playing for respect as opposed to points. I would earn six points for what I deemed a clever and well-thought-out word, and then my wife would add an “s” to it for 47.

By the third game, I was ready, and I got off to a blazing start. I had a 50-plus point lead with only a few letters remaining, and was feeling confident. Later that day, my wife giddily asked if I had played a word yet. These words—“Did you play a word yet?”—have come to send shudders down my spine, as I now understand them to mean that she has played a word, and earned some serious pointage. She asks this with a twinkle in her eye, unable to contain her excitement at my reaction to logging in and witnessing her mastery. Indeed, in this case, she had earned a 60-point word. Also, I lost that game.

Okay, everything is not cool. How could I, writer of words, be losing to my wife, speech pathologist? This would be like if there were an app called “Teach People How To Speak Correctly With Friends” and I was kicking her butt.

I had neither respect nor points. I was no longer having fun. I turned into a six-year-old. I began screaming things like, “How is ‘Utah’ not a word?!” as I stormed out of the room. I accused my wife of being the beneficiary of unfair practices—“You get all the ‘z’s!”—and, lamest of all, threatened to quit.

I was ashamed at both my inability to win and my reaction to that inability. I like to believe I don’t have much of an ego, but a silly game revealed otherwise.

Eventually (two months), I realized, hey—my wife is awesome at this game. After all, this is the same woman who proudly spent 17 consecutive weeks atop her Bejewled Blitz friends leaderboard on Facebook, and who once lobbied to have her Angry Birds score framed and hung below her Master’s Degree on our Wall o’ Achievements. There was no shame in losing to this woman, I now understood, which was good, because I have still not defeated this woman in Words With Friends.

I have been humbled. After all, that is what friends do—they strip away your ego, force you to look at the less attractive side of yourself, and then love you anyway. Wives, too. Wives do that a lot. “Wives” would also earn me a lot of points. Do I have a “v?” I’ll be right back …


I hate you.

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