Repetitive Games

"You play, you win. You play, you lose. You play."

- Jeanette Winterson


To me, courtship appears to be some sort of repetitive game. Here are the Encarta definitions of 'game,' with speculation on how courtship meets these criteria.

1. something played for fun: an activity that people participate in, together or on their own, for fun
It's only a game!

Personally, I do not find dating 'fun.' I am not very good at 'relaxing,' and 'hanging out,' but prefer to be engaged in some way: performing a productive activity, learning something, or being entertained. Unfortunately, my tastes tend toward the expensive or pretentious, and I am susceptible to aesthetics, a prerogative that males appear to take on unapologetically, but that is less of an option for females. An individual who holds my attention on all fronts is a heartbreaker. These are rare. We all compromise. This is kindly known as 'being realistic,' or less charitably, 'settling,' or, worse yet, 'desperation.'

2. competitive activity with rules: a sporting or other activity in which players compete against each other by following a fixed set of rules
How many people do you need to play this game?

At least two. Some prefer to play with as many as possible, and others give lip service to the goal of a stable, healthy, actualizing, monogamous relationship, henceforth referred to as a SHAM. Once in a SHAM, some feel stifled and trapped, and seek the buzz of first acquaintance, the hopeful delusion that things are going to be different, this time. They enjoy the game more than the company of the players, they "do not know the dancer from the dance." I have been criticized for a tendency to lead: another male prerogative. Seeing that I two left feet and can't touch what isn't pretty, no wonder I'm a wallflower.

3. competition: an occasion when a competitive game is played
Saturday's game has been canceled.

Competition implies a goal, a prize. Conventions of our culture select the state-sanctioned and materially rewarded (tax breaks, gifts) formal union of marriage as the goal. The golden ring. But there is symbolic significance in what can be construed a crassly materialistic loop of metal: "I am claimed." Or, "At least one other human thinks I'm good." Sincerely embarking on a SHAM, two individuals publically declaring their allegiance to an ideal larger than themselves, is a noble act, and deserves ritual and hoopla, or at least a nice party.

4. aspect of game: an aspect of a competitive activity
Their defensive game was terrible.

"She got game," my pal Manicella spoke of a gay friend who successfully seduced a very attractive feline femme lifelong het, having heard the particulars from the conquest.

Barak Obama was featured on public radio calling into apologize to a journalist who he had described as boyish and baby-faced in the course of a press conference: earlier, the reporter had been trying to impress a woman at the event. "Sorry to mess with your game, man," the Senator apologized to the reporter.

5. style of playing: the style or level of skill with which somebody plays a sport
raise your game

Indeed. A unique turn of phrase or approach is appreciated and rare.

6. part of competition: in sports such as tennis, a subsection of play that goes toward making up a set or match

So each individual 'date' is a subset of the game, a step in the progression towards a SHAMÉ?

7. number needed to win: the total number of points needed to win a contest
In table tennis, game is 21 points

Numbers, schmumbers. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. All things are relative, but I have no interest in inflating my body count. If dating is a numbers game, then every contact improves your odds. Probability. There's also what I've heard described as "The Italian Theory:" that if one in every one-hundred women will say 'yes,' it gets the other ninety-nine out of the way as quickly as possible. (Note: the book that posited this position as Italian was quite dated, and I've since heard anecdotal reports that single women traveling alone in Italy are more likely to be decorously left in peace than previous.) At least two participants, but other than that, all bets are off.

8. rules governing sport: the rules governing a particular competition or sport

Oh, are there ever rules. Perhaps I should re-read my copy of The Rules, a book that parodies itself.

9. equipment: an item or set of items that is needed to play a particular game, e.g. a board, dice, counters, a deck of cards, or a piece of computer software
a compendium of games

Equipment? No comment.

10. activity like game: an activity that resembles a game, e.g. one that involves intense interest and competitiveness and is carried out by its own specific and often unspoken rules

So, dating definitely qualifies

11. stratagem: a way of behaving that is aimed at manipulating people or trying to deceive them
So that's your game?

Once again, the parallel is painfully apparent.

12. illegal activity: a strategy, activity, or behavior that is questionable, and often illegal ( informal )

There are legal and illegal varieties, all contextual. What's illegal in one culture - pederasty in contemporary America - was standard practice in much-venerated ancient Greece, right? All things are relative. Know the rules.

13. occupation: a business or occupation ( informal )
the advertising game

There was a game called "The Dating Game," wasn't there? I could doubtless find it on e-bay. Stud or spud? Dork or dreamboat? Roll the die, seven-come-eleven, baby needs a new pair of shoes, baby needs a... Or: take a card, any card, luck of the draw, full house, royal flush, it's all a bluff. Texas hold 'em. But I can't play that.

14. something not taken seriously: an activity or situation that somebody does not treat seriously
Life's a game as far as he's concerned.

Down by the Salley Gardens

DOWN by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

-- William Butler Yeats

15. HUNTING animals for hunting: wild animals, birds, or fish that are hunted for sport
16. meat of hunted animals: the meat of wild animals, birds, or fish that have been killed for sport

Can we transcend the flesh?

17. ridicule: the act of ridiculing, criticizing, or tricking somebody for fun, or the target of such ridicule, criticism, or trickery
She's easy game for a trickster like him.

In Jokes and the Unconscious, Freud states that the female is always the butt of the dirty joke. Turnabout is fair play, or is the phallus so sacrosanct (males so insecure) that any attempt to invert this convention is far too offensive and taboo? Standard sexism. In the novel Dirty Weekend, author Helen Zahavi states the quandary as such: "He fears her laughter: she fears his rage." Quite a trade-off, isn't it? Eve Ensler has done quite well with The Vagina Monologues. Perhaps it's time to create a public space for women to candidly rap about their experiences with the male anatomy: Cock Talk. Helene Cixous directs that, "Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes." In writing through our bodies, let us not deem the bodies of others beyond consideration and analysis, interpretation and objectification, any more or less than our own. It's time to return the favor. But the market saddens any attempt at discourse. Inevitably, an attempt by a female to discuss sexuality seems to be perceived by males as exclusively for their entertainment. What's the female equivalent of "Bros before hos?" A woman says that she is "claiming her space," or "challenging the normative," and a yokel immersed in the double-standard guffaws, "She wants it haw haw." I recently expressed concerns regarding the content of a performance to a much younger co-worker, and she cut me off at the knees, saying, "No. You have to do what you have to do. You can't be concerned with what some assholes think."

18. MATHEMATICS mathematical model: : a mathematical model describing a contest played under specific rules in which each participant has only partial control

I have been informed that there is an algorithm for intimacy, and that it has seven factors, but I don't know the formula. Perhaps the factors are: need, loneliness, attractiveness, hormones, cultural expectations, existential angst, and maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as love.

I let that one kiss me, but that was baldly Freudian.


- Erika Mikkalo