I had been looking forward to the event all day. Get-togethers with my volleyball friends were always the highlights of my weekend, when they occurred, and this was the exactly the way I most preferred to spend the time: when we all gathered at L__y’s apartment and hung out, rather than getting all gussied up and spending money to go out and drink overpriced alcohol in too-loud bars. (Sign #1 of my 50-year-old psyche.) However, when I walked through her apartment door, my heart sank. I was immediately transported back in time to my dreariest college days, during which my roommates would all huddle around the television and play exactly what L__y, L__a, and D___ had also set up in this NYC living room: Rock Band.
Now, 23 is not too old to enjoy playing video games. Heck, 35 is considered an acceptable age by most guys, and even perhaps some girls. Yet even back when I was 18, I never understood the appeal of pushing buttons on a plastic toy guitar in synchrony with badly synthesized rock songs. Why not just use that time and effort to learn how to play the real guitar? Maybe my mentality is a by-product of my mother refusing to buy me a video game system back when I was ten and thought playing Super Mario on my friends’ older brothers’ Nintendo 64 was the best way to spend an afternoon. She told me I’d grow addicted (the same argument she had given me as to why I wasn’t allowed to watch TV whenever I wanted), and that it would rot my brain, and that I could be doing more productive things with my time. Six years later, I started to agree with her (although in the interim, I suffered terribly). Still, I don’t understand why people would want to spend multiple hours every day honing a skill that cannot possibly be of any use to them. And it’s a toy guitar! A tacky piece of plastic!
In any event, luckily for me, L__y and I had a standing date to play Boggle, so she got out the game and set it up. Since only two people can play Rock Band at a time—another reason I think video games are so irritating; it’s not even fun to watch while you are waiting your turn!—L__y’s sister joined us, along with my friend R___, who was visiting from Boston for the weekend. As we all hunkered down to play, it occurred to me, Wow—this is definitely my idea of a fun night. I’d play Boggle over Beirut any time, and playing a game at someone’s dining room table is infinitely more interesting to me than going to a random bar/club and trying to make small talk all night. Yet, isn’t that what I, as a 23-year-old female residing in NYC, am supposed to want to do? Or at the very least, I should want to play the cool new-age video game instead of the old-lady board game. What era do I come from? This was clearly Sign #2 that my internal age far exceeds my external.
Sign #3 came during the more age-appropriate game “Boxers or Briefs” which, for anyone familiar with the games “Loaded Questions” or “Apples to Apples,” involves a similar answer-questions-about-your friends premise. Basically the game is played by rolling a cube that decides the type of statement to be finished. The statement options include I have/I don’t/I want/I am, etc. Then, everyone except the roller looks at his/her hand of 7 cards and finds the statement on those cards that matches. (Thus, he/she should have 7 “I don’t” statements to choose from, if the roller rolled “I don’t.”) Then, each person picks the one “I don’t” statement that he/she thinks applies best to the roller and hands it over to them. The roller finally reads all of the cards and chooses the truest statement and the funniest statement.
Now, ordinarily this game is good for a lot of laughs. People make merciless fun of one another, giving each other cards claiming that their friends want to dress up in pink panties, or are Fruit Loops, or like to suck on toes. However, as we played, I gradually discovered a pattern. With most people, at least half the cards given to them would be intended for laughs (and the “funniest statement” bid, of course). Alternatively, when I rolled, every single one of my cards was serious. “I am proficient,” my cards will say. “I am an athlete.” “I am a loyal friend.” Did everyone think I had no sense of humor? But then I received the card, “Likes to dress little monkeys up in doll outfits.” I wrinkled my forehead, and in that moment, I realized I was supposed to have laughed. So this was why everyone had given me their serious cards: I was playing it like a real game. I was playing it like my mother would—giving people the cards I really thought best described them or their sense of humor. I was putting thought into my evaluations. Yep, that was Sign #3. I am definitely Benjamin Button, but inside-out: a 23-year-old body with a middle-aged mind.