By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
I am not a bored board game person…so naturally my children love them. They positively adore Monopoly. I do not. Monopoly has a special little place in my brain reserved for the contemplation of eternal suffering. A mysterious fact about the game is contained in the following mathematical equation, which I have had ample time to develop during one of our many, many, marathon sessions:
L.O.G. =B (I) x F.A.T.L.
To break this down, the Length of Game (LOG) is equal to the parent’s Boredom (B) times Impatience (I) times Futile Attempts to Lose (FATL).
Even my winning loss-strategy of buying nothing and then going broke takes too long! This, due to the infernal (and surprising) sudden onset of solicitous sportsmanship in my boys, prompting offers of their own monopoly money to continue the game and graciously ignoring my inability to pay the rent.
“You win! You win!” I say, trying to push for a celebration. “That is SO great! Hey, let’s stop now and do something—anything else. Because you won! Woo-hoo!”
“The purpose of the game is to have fun, not to win!” they chide in unison, a perfect imitation of me, while I hope for a sudden distraction, an alien attack perhaps.
Aside from the primary importance of prevention (never introduce your children to this game, clearly instruct other parents to hide this game during play dates), there is a mental health lesson to be learned here.
It has to do with Life, (the experience that is, not the marginally less painful game) and Monopoly. The way to win Monopoly is simple: buy every darn thing you land on, plopping down houses and hotels like confetti. Trying to play it safe and save your money will only result in having to pay every other player for the (dubious) privilege of continuing to play.
In my therapy practice I notice that people who try to play it safe, those who don’t want to risk embarrassment are the very ones who lose countless opportunities to “win” what they want, be it a relationship, a job, a friend, or a new skill. Fear of embarrassment, of not doing it right, keeps people stuck in their too-small lives, just as fear of spending money keeps people stuck in the poorhouse in the game of Monopoly.
If I had my druthers, I would have every embarrassment-phobic person rent a giant chicken suit and wear it while parading up and down a busy street, clucking. This would force them to really get that they can act strange in public, look foolish, violate social norms and still be a-okay.
Maybe then people would give themselves permission to risk embarrassment in order to pursue their goals. This in turn would open up possibilities like taking the lid off a box…a jewel box say, or a box of truffles. Anything but a board game box.