Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's all child's play

“Boys frustrate me. I hate all their indirect messages, I hate game playing. Do you like me or don't you? Just tell me so I can get over you.”
~ Kirsten Dunst

In our production of Good Person of Setzuan, there's a little child actor, her name is Aliyah. She is adorable. I tend to have conversations about how jealous I am of the attention she gets (I hate not being that star... and this five year old gives me stiff competition). I must admit I'm not the best to interact with children. While I'm sure eventually the paternal instinct kicks in and I will want to take care of children, but right now I'm just sarcastic. Aliyah was showing us the three-step turns she learned in dance class, I retorted with, "Oh yeah, three step turns? Watch me do a time step, followed by a double axel and a hitch kick..." Aliyah didn't understand. Let's just say that I won this dance battle. 

Another time, one of the other actors was pretending to be an alien with Aliyah. I responded with a faux scream pretending to be attacked by the aliens. Once the alien duo had moved on, I turned to K.T. and, half joking/half serious, asked, "Did I do that right? She's not an alien, she's a little girl. I don't understand children..."

Let's pray by the time that I get married and am at the stage in my life where children become the next step, I'll actually be ready to relate, have the patience, and want to interact with them.

I swear that once upon a time I played pretend. I was an imaginative kid, and I mean after all, I still want to play pretend... I'm an actor. Maybe, over time I've fallen out of fondness for fantasy, and fallen into a different kind of game. 

Aliyah said something that really struck me the other day. I know... I was inspired by a five year olds thoughts... who am I? Anyway, a bunch of the cast was standing around, being our normal, sassy selves, when someone started jokingly teasing another person. Aliyah, in her little girl cuteness exclaimed, "If you tease people they won't be your friends."

Lindsey and I turned to each other and laughed. We started saying things along the lines of, "I tease everyone and I have plenty of friends" and "Listen, little girl, we've got to get some shit to set straight about the world..." Of course, we said none of this too her face and were saying all these things in pure jest, but the thought stuck with me, and I couldn't help but wonder... Is there any way to even make friends, find a lover, flirt with a crush, attract someone... without teasing? A majority of my flirting process when I really like someone involves heavy sarcasm and immense amounts of teasing. I like to be teased by someone I'm interested in. It keeps me on my toes. Nothing too extreme, or that crosses over to being mean, but flirting and teasing seem to go hand in hand now-a-days. It's all about The Game.

Oh, The Game. The infamous relationship game... We all know it, we all play it. Some better than others.

And then I tried to reminisce about what it was like before The Game. Before we had to sit around late at night with our girlfriends debating whether that text message was an actual flirt or just the boy being polite. Before we stressed over the boy not texting us back, turning over and over in our heads the possibilities: Is he at work? Did he not get the text message? Does he just hate me? Before flirtation became just a more acceptable form of manipulation...

I reminisced... and came up with nothing. I honestly cannot think of a time when the game was a part of my life. In kindergarten, I was already a game player. I would bring my stuffed Toy Story Woody doll to class in order to impress, I would show off my new light up Power Ranger sneakers. I wanted everyone who I was interested in to know that I had good taste and even better toys. Throughout elementary school, I was infamous for giving girls kisses on the cheeks and then ignoring them the next day. I had to give them a taste and keep them wanting more. I've always been playing The Game. And probably always will be.

And as a scoured across these thoughts I wondered: Are relationships nothing more than a game of chess?Are we simply moving our pieces strategically across a board of love and life in order to conquer the other side and eventually find our own checkmate

I'm a professional at this game. If this was a chess tournament, I would always make it to the final rounds. Someone the other day told me, "You make boys fall in love with you." And it's true. I know how to play the relationship game, I know how to make boys want me head over heels. I don't substitute actual love, compassion, and sparks in order to play the game to the fullest, though. The Game is not a substitute for love, but instead a necessary component, it's a stepping stone to enter a relationship. It's a stepping stone to keeping a relationship alive. I find a lot of couples become comfortable after awhile. They forget how to push the others buttons, turn them on and off, they forget the excitement that came with the initial Game. They become boring. They forget how to play. They forget how to Check their opponent. They become complacent and allow the small, problematic pawn to cross the board and become catastrophic Queen, determined to tear the board, or the relationship, apart.  

I think a man who can play the game is a man who can handle complicated. And trust me, I'm complicated. The Game is a way of testing the water, seeing if the man is willing to play. You want someone who is able to learn your rules, and play with you when you get serious along the way. They should know when your angry, what makes you happy, what pushes your buttons, when you need to be comforted, when you need to be called out... and if they can't figure out the way you flirt, they can't possibly be able to figure out the important things. If you don't know how to play Chess or have an interest in learning, why would you make an investment and buy the board? 

The Game is instinctively programmed into our bodies.  When your little and you like someone, you instinct is to pick on them. You don't want them to know your real feelings, but you want them to notice you. When your an adult and you like someone, you flirt with someone through teasing and sarcasm, but know your limits. You don't want them to think you're coming off strong, but you want them to notice you. 

Why is it so hard for us to just say how we feel? And why when people set the game aside, and actually do say how they feel, it comes off as coming off too strong or being desperate?  
I'm currently in the situation and I can't tell you the answer. D confronted me about why I didn't want to be in a relationship. He asked if I was afraid to commit because I'm still dealing with my break-up. To which, I responded, yeah, I'm not ready to serious yet. To which he followed up with, "I just don't want it to awkward when I kiss you or hold you." And suddenly, my red flag flew. We aren't even boyfriends? We're not in a committed relationship, why is he thinking about those sort of things or talking to me about them? I could understand had we decided to be exclusive and in an official relationship, this would actually be an extremely important. Suddenly everything was out in the open. He wanted something serious. The game was over. He put it out in the open that he wanted a legitimate relationship with holding, kissing, and commitment. I couldn't respond, and he followed up with asking if he should back-off a bit. 

I don't know why, but, for me at least, I am entirely turned off when everything is put on the table. At least early on in the relationship. There has to be a sense of discovery, a sense of exploration. I'm having a hard time coming to any sort of conclusion about the situation, and how I feel about it. For me, there is an eventual time when those questions must be asked, but pushing that time forward becomes weird and awkward. It's not natural. 

What I have learned is mystery in a relationship comes naturally, it doesn't need to be forced.  A person can never know another person completely, nor can a person know themselves completely, thus mystery is inevitable. Discovering and learning about another person is natural. In our modern world where so much is on the line and speed is key, we sometimes speed through the natural process. We get too excited and try to learn too much, or force another person to reveal too much about themselves instead of waiting for the natural occurrence. And then to restore the excitement and mystery, we sometimes start hiding how we feel about things, we force the mystery. 

D and I didn't talk for a day and then slowly got back into our texting routine. When I hung out with him last night, I started realizing that there was no excitement, I wasn't flirting, teasing, or trying to figure him out. I stopped playing. And I'm not sure if I even want to try and play again with him. I wasn't having any fun. 

The Game has been disrupted. I can reset the pieces and pretend that certain moves haven't been made, or forfeit the game and move on to the next. I could use my talent at The Game to try and reset, but no matter what the game maybe... I don't think I enjoy playing it with D and I don't know if I ever have... I would just be lying to D and to myself...

The question arises, when does playing The Game cross the line and become a lie? When does honesty fail to be a part of the strategy. I asked Lindsey what she thought about the game. She automatically responded, "I don't play the game. I'd rather have it all out on the table. I want them to be honest... I had a relationship in which we were playing the game, mostly him, and at one point we just put it out all on the table, and it was the best part of the relationship." I believe there is a huge difference from honesty and playing The Game. I think people confuse the idea of being honest, with the idea of being too forward. There must be mystery to the relationship, but there must be honesty. I must admit, personally, I have been so caught up in playing The Game, trying to make the other person happy, that I forgot about honesty. I forgot about saying how I actually felt, and instead used The Game to make the other person happy. If they're happy... so am I...

Am I just trying to save D's feelings? The Game isn't fun, and I feel like I'm lying. I'm teasing D into thinking that eventually there will be a chance for a relationship, a relationship he is obviously pining for. I'm giving up honesty, and continuing a Game simply to make this boy happy. 

I think that's the sign when The Game truly has gone too far. When you stop being honest, and stop having fun. I think having fun is the core base of anything. At the end of the day, in a relationship, you may fight and you may have extremely hard times, there may be obstacles like rooks and knights in your way, deterring you from your goal, but if you still see the person your with and think about how much fun you have with them and how happy you are and will be... it's worth it. The Game is worth it. The relationship is worth it. It is all worth it. 

And as I look back... on The Game. On honesty. On the fun... I realize that... the D thing isn't going to work out. I can't keep pretending I'm having fun, I can't continue playing The Game when it's already gone too long. 

Especially since I may have already started another game... a game that I've been wanting to play for some time now... 

God, I wish I was in kindergarten again... and I could just kiss the girls and run away....

Aliyah during rehearsal was pretending to have a wedding. She told Chris, a boy in the cast, and Lindsey that they were going to get married because Chris is a grown up boy and Lindsey was a grown up girl...

Oh Aliyah... If only it was that simple....

1 comment:

  1. Thinking about this idea of The Game, I'm reminded of this reason I think we're attracted to "bad boys," and wonder if maybe it doesn't apply to all relationships. If everything is laid out on the table so quickly, we feel like we haven't earned it, we don't feel special. If we have to work at putting together a Game, and it ends up winning this person's affection, we've earned someone we would have otherwise thought was above our level. A bad boy is more attractive than a "nice guy" persona because we don't want affection if it's given away so easily.
    It's so damn boring to have everything laid out in the open from day one. For those people who think there's no game, I wonder why they don't talk about exes, experiences with death, and entire childhood history on the first date. People need to earn each other's trust, or you've rendered trust itself totally worthless.