Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Got All That From Playing Words With Friends? Ooooooooookay…

In my last post, I mentioned that I tend to overreact and veer into drama queen territory.  So in case you didn’t read it, or forgot that I said that, consider yourself warned.

I downloaded Words With Friends to my iphone last Friday night.  And then I made the mistake of mentioning the game in a Facebook status.

Dummy – you know that Facebook is the Debil.  

Immediately, several friends mentioned that they play too and that I need to play with them.  Like an idiot, I believed them.

So, I invited one of my friends to a game.  My opening word ran horizontally, across the board.  Her first word also ran horizontally.  Horizontally and directly on top of my word, so she got points not just for the word she played but also for all of the other two-letter words that ran vertically.  Some of these were words that most people wouldn’t believe are real words – words like “ef.”

Be honest – can you use the word “ef” in a sentence – without first looking it up in a dictionary?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  

Really?  I thought this was a Hey-Let’s-Just-Have-Some-Laid-Back-Fun kind of game, and here I had stepped into Are-You-Fucking-Serious-This-Is-That-Competitive? territory.

Immediately my stomach started tightening, my blood pressure started ratcheting skyward, and my fuse was growing rapidly shorter.  I started snapping at the kids.  I had zero patience.  All of this within the span of ten minutes following my friend’s move.  Yeah, that is not an appropriate reaction to a game.  This is supposed to be fun and relaxing and mentally stimulating.

Not an appropriate reaction?  Understatement of the year.  More like a psychotic, insane, childish drama queen tantrum.

Tell me about it. 

But seriously, get over it.  Get over yourself.  It’s a freaking game.

I know that.  My reaction really bothered me. 

So I started wondering why. 

And then I started remembering some rather painful childhood memories.

Humor me, please.

From the time I was in about fifth grade until the end of my freshman year (when I moved from NJ to OH), I was bullied.

In fifth and sixth grade, my tormentor was a petite, dark-haired girl (let’s refer to her as H).  I’m not entirely sure why she singled me out as a target, but let me share some personal information: 
  • I skipped kindergarten, so I was a full year younger (not just chronologically, but emotionally) than my classmates
  • Despite my young age, I excelled in school and was selected to participate in a program for gifted and talented students
  • Because of my young age, I was very insecure and really wanted to fit in (a deadly combination that bullies can sniff out in a heartbeat)
  • I was (and still am) naïve, and give people the benefit of the doubt, and often trust those I shouldn’t

When H would pay attention to me, I was so flattered.  I didn’t realize that playing right into her game - luring me into trusting her only to be humiliated in front of my classmates.  It happened again and again, and each time I was crushed.  (What can I say?  When it comes to that sort of situation, I'm a little slow.)  I think I stopped being a target for her sometime during seventh or eighth grade.  I don’t remember what happened; maybe she got bored of me, maybe she outgrew it.  Apparently I never did.

Another significant incident happened in seventh grade.  This is the year we all leave our respective elementary schools and attend the Jr-Sr High School in town.  During lunch, I sat with a large group of girls, mostly friends from elementary school with a few others mixed in.  As the year progressed and we met more kids from the other schools, our table grew more crowded.  Little by little, I noticed that there was less and less room for me.  And then one day one of the girls (who I had been friends with since third grade) told me that there wasn’t room for me anymore.  Once again, I was crushed.  I was betrayed by girls who I thought were my friends.

What do these incidents from my past have to do with Words With Friends? 

Well, I had the same physical and emotional reaction to the WWF game that I did to those events.

I have a really hard time competing head-to-head against my friends.  I am competitive by nature, but honestly, I’d rather have my ass handed to me by a complete stranger.  When it comes from a friend, it feels like a threat to our friendship rather than part of the game.

When I saw my friend’s master-level move (word stacked on word), I felt like I was nine years old again, and H was bullying me.  Intellectually, I know that my friend is just playing a game and that she is not being nice to me just so she can lure me into a game and then soundly kick my ass, ha ha ha, joke’s on you, sucker.  But emotionally, I can’t separate her moves from K’s bullying.  My reaction was the same.

Note:  I started this piece last week and was too deep in processing mode to finish.  If it's okay with you, I'm ready to finish.

Well, it's been a mentally taxing week.  Between Hubster working nonstop and me processing all of the above, I'm pretty drained.  But some good things happened:
  • I did some more thinking, and some more writing.  And with help from my dear friend and kick-ass editor, I am pretty certain that I have found a compelling direction for my writing.
  • I talked to my Jedi Master-level WWF friend.  I explained how I felt, and she was incredibly supportive (she's like that in general; she's awesome, just like my other dear friend).  She said she wouldn't be offended if I wanted to stop playing.
  • I kept playing WWF.  I'm still getting beated, quite soundly, but it doesn't hurt quite so much.  Because I am learning more about how to play the game.  Who better to learn from than a Jedi Master, right?

Anything else you'd like to share with the class?  

Why yes.  Thanks for asking.

I learned that even though it happened over thirty years ago, I'm still not over how H bullied me when we were girls.  And for whatever reason, how my mind processed that experience has affected me to this day.  Now that I know that, I must learn how to disconnect my reactions to my past from those of my present.  That will be some journey.

Not bad for a free app.

No comments: