Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friendly Competition

Kirk and I had extremely different backgrounds. From the time he was twelve he was surrounded almost entirely by males. His mother had died, his older sisters were out of the house, and he lived with his father and brother. He used to say that a lot of his rearing after his mother died was done by himself and his close friends.

There were a lot of kids in his neighborhood (unlike mine - we usually had only one other family with kids at a time), huge numbers of boys to play with. I think he said at one point there were seven Scotts who all had to be differentiated one way or another. Naturally with this many young males two factions developed - Kirk being the defacto leader of one, and one of the Scotts the nominal leader of the other (actually one of Kirk's later friends was the real leader, he just chose to be the power behind the throne, especially since the throne in this case owned a swimming pool - high stakes stuff in New Mexico). No real violence took place, just intensely felt football games and a fair amount of trash talking.

They saved the violence for the people they liked best - the boys within the same group. Friendly bashing happened on a daily basis. Pummeling was just a way to pass the time; it was just a sort of extreme version of genuine affection. After all, you only rabbit punch the guy you actually like.

But show weakness... then they were merciless. Physical stuff wasn't such a big deal (although they did convince Kirk's poor younger brother that he needed physical therapy because he wasn't as fast, big or strong as they were. He was also two years younger...), but character flaws, fears, even personal taste that deviated from 'group think' was vigorously repressed. Sounds a horrible way to spend your days, but Kirk thrived on it. It made him question things about himself, and if he didn't like something he changed it. If he felt strongly about something he examined why until he could defend it properly. Competition, he believed, had made him strong.

Now me, I was raised slightly differently. Mine was a household slanted towards the feminine side. My sister, mother and I kept my poor dad outnumbered. I think he let me keep the stray kitten I dragged home just to raise the masculine content of the house a bit. I grew up thinking competition was nasty and wrong - made people bitter and angry and bad-spirited. Cooperation, that was the way to get things done, and when faced with a challenge it was best to lie down in an inoffensive way and try not to cause too much damage when someone rolled right over you.

Take Parcheesi. We played as a family, and one of the rules is that if you land one of your little men on the same space as someone else's little man, not only do you get to send them back to the beginning to start again, you also get a huge number of free spaces for yourself! Talk about a game made for the killer instinct. My father (who was raised in the competetive tradition and was a shining example of the same) and my sister (who was clearly preparing for her future law career) smashed their way around the board, counting carefully to whallop as many people as possible, and taking positive glee in their piratical ways. My mother tried to laugh the whole thing off and keep everyone happy and friendly, but would pretend to cry bitterly if anyone sent her home. I, being a sucker and not always entirely bright, took her literally and meticulously managed my men so as to never, ever, ever land on anyone else and thus profit from antisocial behavior. I would like to say that my righteousness paid off, but it never did. I came in solid last each and every time. Same thing was true of chinese checkers (which we substituted for regular checkers because it distressed me so much when my checkers my own checkers were removed from the board) where every game ended with me, the 'fourth winner' hopping my last three marbles slowly across the empty board.

This sort of thing baffled Kirk. He was nice about it, he just didn't understand it. He and my mother used to have 'lively discussions' about how you could compete strongly and actively against someone and still like them (and be liked). His point was not competing was disrespectful, and didn't allow anyone to grow and improve. She was trying to point out that it might make people feel badly. I think he finally decided that I was competitively handicapped and let it go at that.

Until he taught me to play Euchre. They played endlessly in the army on maneuvers when there wasn't anything else to do. Kirk brought it back and taught me one night. The next day we played for two hours, and I beat him four games in a row, looked up, grinned and said something rude about his manhood. He laughed out loud and hugged me hard. 'MAN I wish your mother could see you now!'

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ack! Alas! The competition is too much, air, air! must have air! You are not alone, sister.

Dee said...

I on the other hand am so bad at playing games (other than crazy 8s or Uno) that I pretend a vast indifference to them.

Who needs them I say, who needs them!?!