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The Game of Love Has a Community Chest

By Scott Roeben

I've come to the conclusion that before a couple commits to marriage, or even a long term monogamous relationship (people still do that, don't they?), they should play Monopoly first. I mean, your average date is fine if all you want to know about a person is whether or not they've had any synthetic implants, but most people want more. Monopoly is the answer. You'd be surprised what you can learn about a person during a game of Monopoly. I certainly was.

My significant other--she loves being referred to in that way, it's comparable to being called a "companion unit"--and I played a round recently. There are lots and lots of games, of course. Games like "Dominoes" and "Clue." You remember "Clue," don't you? "I think it was Colonel Mustard in the lavatory with a Congressional aide." A fine game.

Then there is "Risk." Another popular favorite. A game where you strive for world domination. Like that Bill Gates guy.

There are too many games to mention: "Chutes and Ladders," "Scrabble," "Taboo" and "Yahtzee" among them. Ah, "Yahtzee." The game named after the sound a pomeranian makes when it sneezes.

That "Trivial Pursuit" is a great game, too. Who knows when you might need to know that saffron is made from the stamen of the crocus? Besides, at some point you might end up stuck in an elevator with that bothersome "Jeopardy" guy. (Note: I don't know what a stamen is, but I'm fairly sure I would not want one sprinkled on my chicken breast.)

We tried several of these games and they are all mildly entertaining. We eventually found our way to Monopoly, though.

That's when the relationship lessons begin. First, you have to decide which game piece each player will use. Much like dreams, your game piece represents more than just what you see on its surface. Freud would have loved Monopoly, incidentally. He would have spent the entire game telling people how jejune they were. (Believe me, you would not want one sprinkled on your chicken breast.) I am the dog. I have always been the dog. This symbolizes my love of animals, or perhaps just a healthy appreciation of any living thing that rolls over when I rub its stomach. Insecure men tend to be the car. A man will avoid being the iron, thimble or shoe even if he must sacrifice his life to do so. Women do not agonize over which game piece they use. They are busy grappling with a more important question.

Namely, "Who goes first?" The rules say something about rolling the die to determine who goes first. Sure. Men are about as good at referring to instructions as they are at using roadmaps. Frankly, what the rules say does not matter here. Let me just say that if your partner does not offer to let you go first--without going though the rolling ritual--do you truly think you can expect their selfishness will end there? Eventually you will be the one forced to get up at three in the morning to feed the "drooling child unit" down the hall. It will be you who is responsible for giving the dog its pill. Personally, I suggest disguising the pill as the dog's own feces. Works every time. And taking out the trash? Pulling the crabgrass in the backyard? You'll be on your own in no time. Trust me.

The next step in the game is to determine who will take on the unenviable task of being the "Banker." This yoke of responsibility can weigh heavily on an individual and is not to be taken lightly. Just ask that teenager in England who caused Baring's Bank to collapse faster than Luciano Pavarotti on a treadmill. With the job of "Banker" comes temptation, power and often severe cuticle damage and paper cuts. In Monopoly, it is best that a female be the "Banker." Monopoly money is color-coded, as you know, and they tell me that many men have color blindness to some degree. I would argue this fact, but I was also told this by a Municipal Judge when I went before her to dispute a ticket I got when I ran an orange light.

Lots of personality traits surface when you get into the thick of a game of Monopoly. This is why you should not be surprised if you are cold-cocked by a nun for paying her the wrong amount when you land on one of her railroads.

Monopoly is like a stick of dynamite thrown into a pond. It brings lots of surprising things to the surface. You get to see a variety of human emotions. Greed, envy, anger.

You see the good in people as well. What else could account for this tradition which has developed of accumulating a "pot" for anyone who lands on "Free Parking"? There is nothing of this practice to be found in the rules. (I had someone else read them for me, thank you.) This part of the game is analogous to welfare, so a couple cannot help but learn of each other's feeling on that sometimes contentious subject.

Monopoly is perhaps most educational when it serves to reveal a person's unflattering tendencies, such as their propensity for manipulation. If your mate harbors these aspects of their personality, they will reveal themselves during a heated bout of Monopoly. "Honey, if you really love me, you'll trade me your Park Place for my Baltic Avenue," is commonly heard, as well as "Dear, if you ever expect to see my lower torso again, hand over the 'Get Out of Jail Free' card." These should be red flags for any fledgling couple.

Here are some additional phrases you might hear during your game, as well as the inferences you can make about that special someone in your life.

1) "I rolled before you asked me to pay the rent on that. You forfeit it."

Those are the rules, but if your mate is stuffy enough to follow rules that closely, you are in for years of anguish. Can you imagine never driving faster than fifty-five miles an hour again, or having to actually PAY for premium cable channels for the rest of your life? Or how about forking over ALL the taxes you owe each year? Starting to get the picture?

2) "I'm going to mortgage these properties to put hotels on those."

"Borrowing from Peter to pay Marcia" is what it's called. This attitude is indicative of someone whose frugality dried up and dropped off at about the same time their umbilical did.

3) "I'm short of cash, I'll owe you that."

Seems harmless enough, right? But this is another sign of poor fiscal management. Indicative of someone likely to invest your nest egg in pumice futures. Steer clear.

4) "I'll trade you these azure properties for those sapphire ones."

Not a good sign. This person is likely to select a new motor vehicle based on whether or not it has a cup holder.

5) "Forget it then, let's just quit."

The quitter. The most insidious of player types--especially irksome after seven or eight hours of play. The quitter most often quits just before you are victorious, thus robbing you of your rightful glory. Scholars have named this "Tycoonus interruptus." This does not bode well for your relationship. The quitter cannot follow through, preferring rather to say "sour grapes" and to "throw in the towel," as well as "give up the ship," at least one cliché of which was first used by Aesop, a Greek storyteller with far too much time on his hands. Much like scholars who have nothing better to do than sit around and name things and put accent marks over vowels in words like "cliché."

6) "You never gave me my $200 for passing GO."

Accusatory. Again, distrustful. Possibly a persecution complex. Definitely paranoid. As a test, try looking over your companion's shoulder into the distance and deny that you are doing it. They will be putting their $200 toward therapy faster than you can say "Uh, I can't really think of anything to say real fast."

7) "You landed on my property! With a hotel! I want it all. The hotels, the houses...and that bracelet. In fact, give me all your accessories."

This person goes for the throat, anxious to kick you when you are down, no matter how much mercy you may have afforded them earlier in the game. This attitude indicates an obsessive and highly competitive person, vicious and impenitent, which can be highly destructive unless the person is immediately enrolled in law school, where those same traits will be viewed with admiration, often bordering on awe.

8) "I'm going to the restroom. Don't touch anything while I'm gone."

This person is far too distrustful. A clear sign that you can expect your mate to rifle through your personal belongings at the first opportunity in order to uncover any possible infidelity on your part. Hopefully, the other people you are sleeping with will not fall prey to such unfounded suspicions.

I think you will agree that whoever came up with the idea for Monopoly knew what they were doing. Nearly a gazillion (a rough estimate) of the games have been sold, perhaps--at least in part--because the game can also serve as a litmus test for relationships. Try it yourself. Personally, I've come to believe that this simple game is the greatest invention since the advent of the "free soft drink refill."


© Scott Roeben, 1999, 2000. All rights reserved.