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The Joy of Games

The Joy of Games

Yes, life is better after 50 in many ways, but in a group setting, we may not have the Moxy to jump in as we did when all young and flirty. And overall that’s a good thing—a little reserve goes a long way towards being both comfortable and comfortably accepted. In my groups—mostly folks in their seventies and eighties—conversations about politics, the state of the world, cultural experiences and, of course, health take center stage. Jokes and humor in general happen one-on-one in the wings if at all.

I miss the jokes that used to go around the dinner table, especially if there was someone particularly good at telling them. The teller had to know he/she was good—at timing delivery, voice projection, an accent if called for, and most important not forgetting the punchline. But you needed Moxy to preside like that, which is probably why jokes at the dinner table were BF50. There’s no question, the lightness of humor makes you happy and makes for terrific interaction in a dinner party. Having a good time never goes out of style and is what we all want at party-time (notwithstanding that making dinners are replaced by dinner reservations—play dates for grown-ups.)

A few days ago, having bought a sizable chicken to roast, I decided to invite friends who live nearby to join my partner and me for dinner. This is a couple living together for more than forty years, ardently on the opposite side of politics but adoring each other nonetheless. They watch TV in separate rooms when politics and football is on, screams searing through the rooms as they shout at their screens, but they sleep in the same bed.

At any rate, conversations about politics and even world events off the table, and loving jokes but dropping every punch line like a sledge hammer, I decided to wrap my dinner party around game-playing. If you have never played Chinese Checkers you might consider getting a set. Though the hang of the game is mastered in three seconds, it is mentally challenging (happily not too much) and lots of fun. Players are from two to six, so anyone can opt out and not spoil it for others. Each player chooses a color. The competition grows as each player tries to get to the opposite side of the board by moving their pins a single step or jumping others, yet opportunities for praise are bountiful. When a player makes double, triple or quadruple jumps in a single play, high praise is forthcoming. This allowed me, having rebuked my mate for helping not a whit in prep for the party, to make amends when he scored a triple play. Our guests, meanwhile, came in first and second, making us all happy, not thinking any longer that the chicken was kind of dry left in the oven too long.

There doesn’t seem to be anything Chinese about those checkers. Maybe its lessons are wisdom from Confucius. There are other fun grown-up-play-date games; my daughter, Jennifer, likes Banana Gram. I’m including a game at my next dinner party served between dinner and desert. If guests don’t leave as winners at least they’ll have a sugar high.