Saturday, March 05, 2005

True Colors

I have discovered the cruelest game in the world. It isn't Chinese water torture or Killerball (though that one has provided me many hours of desperate misery) but an unassuming little game called "True Colors." Ever heard of it?

Your first clue as to the game's ruthlessness comes in the tagline splashed colorfully across the box front: "What Do Your Friends Really Think of You?" Before you jump on in, give it a second. Do you really want to know this? I mean really? What's bound to come out, after all, when you gather together four of your oldest and closest friends and dish out the down and dirty? These are not your polite grad school relationships; these are not your husband's friends or your professional colleagues. These are people who have known you for ten years. They knew you when you had Daisy Duke hair and liked Hootie. They knew you when you were even more poverty-stricken than you are now and were therefore willing to sneak smoothies from the Natural Cafe. You were less patient then too, and happy to lie to restaurant hostesses about people's birthdays to get tables. They knew you in the last stages of that dysfunctional post college relationship in which your m.o. was "look out for yourself and screw everybody else." They knew you during that delightful rebound as well, when you threw yourself relentlessly at the office copy boy and tried ecstasy as a coping mechanism. Did you really do all those things? Yes. Have they forgotten them? No.

They love you, but years of backstory and information are swirling about in the back of their heads, forever, influencing their answers to such questions as "Who here is most likely to cheat on their husband?" (Ooooh, fun! So glad we didn't play Pictionary!) "Who here is the biggest baby?" and another good one, "Who here would you NOT tell if their underwear was showing?"

When I played this game a few weeks ago with aforesaid close friends, I was decidedly not coming out roses. But I was hanging in there, taking my cuts with the rest of them, until the innocuous question that knocked me off my feet: "Who here would you most like to raise as a child?" (I'm aware that this is an odd and sort of kinky question--that's True Colors for ya.) But no big deal, right? Out of your friends, there's probably one or two you can best picture as a sweet little tyke that you wouldn't mind cuddling and tucking in at bedtime, so you pick them.

We made our choices (two votes each), the cards were displayed, and no one had picked me. This might pale in comparison to other delightful rounds such as "Who here is most likely to steal your clothes?" but for me it was a little punch to the gut. The thing is, my own parents hadn't raised me to adulthood--my father because he didn't want to, and my mother, who did want to, because she wasn't given the chance. I had survived this, partly by making meaningful connections with other people. And it was just too much to discover these people wouldn't have wanted to raise me, either.

After the turn ended, I'd squawked (in the process effectively garnering lots of votes for the subsequent "biggest baby" question) and thus received some explanations as to my lack of votes--all of which were all good and harmless. (I'd have to be fed all the time. Can't argue with that one. I would never want to go to bed. Again, fair enough.) But it still stung--such a flippant little question! And it made me wonder what everyone else's secret stomach-punch card was lingering in that deck. The card that the rest of us would laugh off or immediately forget, taking no offense when we're voted "least desirable to take a bath with" or "least likely to ever get married."

The reason "True Colors" is True Root Canal is because the makers of the game, those minions who wrote out the cards, don't actually know you. They simply put together a deck of harmless fun, with no warning as to which question will hold the particular little barb for you. And the thing is, people who have known you for ten years may not know which question that is, either.

And even though those friends will dish out the good right along with the bad (everyone was pretty interested in reading my biography someday--well, that's neat), and even though it is nice to find out your friends do really love you (even if they think it's likely that you have, say, lied to their face), it's just not worth it.

So that's why there is only one smart thing to do ("Who here is the biggest party pooper?") if you are ever presented with the sight of that--let's face it, creepy--"True Colors" split face box: Stay away. Stay very far away.


At 11:25 PM, Blogger joyandpain said...

I decided in 1993 never to play True Colors again... if I would have remembered, I could have saved us all.

At 1:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew you when, too. I know you now. And I know your life story... which is precisely why I *would* want you to raise our kids, if needed. Plus, think of their baseball skills...

At 12:31 PM, Blogger charles.bukowski.costanza said...

never played true colors but i must say that i feel you, sister. after college, sitting around a table one day where everyone would take turns deciding each person's mental age--sometimes debating it for like 20min--and when it came to me, the whole table spoke at once and without hesitation: "eight."

and, shit. i'm all about prolonging youth and such, but it stung to find that the people who truly know me universally considered me as one who still thought his boogers taste pretty good. left a bruise.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow--i didn't know it had gone so deep. i knew it was bad, but i hadn't thought of the other psychological ramifications that you mention re your own childhood.
it is a game afterall. and we weren't playing to be mean.
my slight sting in that game came when i got no votes on that one about who would want to read my diary. it made me feel like everyone thought i was boring, dry, un-spicy, un-juicy, plain jane - no one is interested, b/c i'm not interesting.

And PLEASE joyandpain you sound so dramatic, "save us all"... geez louise.........
i'm sorry sullivan -- you would have been so cute as a little tyke. i would definintely want to have raised you as a child. i can't remember who i voted for even. probably anna d. - her cute curly hair was what drew me in i bet. as you can see, i didn't give it hugely deep thoughts.
i'm sorry it was so hard....


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