no, really : it’s just a game

Every time there is a gathering of people engaging in an activity intended to be fun–whether it be a Celtic dancing class for beginners or bowling with friends or playing cards with your mother- and sisters-in-law–there is someone exhibiting a fundamental disconnect from the basic premise of the gathering. Namely:

We are here to have fun.

Or more specifically, because I probably shouldn’t presume to speak for everyone: I am here to have fun. I am not here to become a bowling goddess. I am not here to win all your M&Ms from you at cards, and I am definitely not here to become the next Lord of the Dance.

You there, putting your beer down to insist again that I listen to your treatise on proper form or strategy: you need to take a step back.

I have now experienced this with a wide variety of people at an extremely wide variety of events. It is easy to dismiss such behavior as a desire to dominate, or to excel and to show oneself to excel to make up for other parts of one’s life that are, shall we say, lacking. But that’s assuming everyone to be awfully mean and shallow, and it’s so defeatist to read people thusly. So I’d like to propose an alternative interpretation.

Perhaps they just don’t get it.

They don’t get that there is a huge, huge difference between ascribing personal, qualitative value to a pursuit and there intrinsically being such value to that pursuit. They don’t get that what for them may be deadly serious may, for potentially many others, simply be play. Fun. You know, that thing you’re doing when you’re not trying to win.

Which isn’t to say I frown on competition, or that I’m not competitive! I’m viciously competitive. Just not all the time. Not, for example, on a dancefloor. Or around a card table. Or in a bowling alley. These are things I do for fun. Not to become an expert or even close to it. I’m hanging out in such situations for the camaraderie, not for the chance to thrust myself toward some ineffable state of physical or mental perfection.

These people flipping out need to take a look at some of these videos of crazed soccer dads screaming at six-year-olds on the soccer field. “EYES ON THE BALL, HONEY, EYES ON THE GODDAMN BALL.” Because that’s what you look like to me, people. Crazed soccer dads foaming, incoherent with spittle and rage at other people’s six-year-olds. You need to relax. Take a step back. And allow those around you not to be perfect, not even to be good at what they’re doing.

It’s not going to kill you. But your continued insistence on perfection may very well kill everyone else’s enjoyment.

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