Over winter break, my family played many games. First, it was Trivial Pursuit. Correction: First it was Does Bisexuality Exist? My mother and I played it for forty minutes my first night home. I say I won, my mother says she won and if you ask the maitre d’, he’ll say please stop you’re disturbing the other diners.
I stopped playing Trivial Pursuit because it made me feel inadequate. But if you answer Mount Everest for every question, I discovered, you will eventually score a point. Finally, I landed on my one chance for Trivial redemption: Arts and Entertainment.
“What Fox show took an entire season to cover 24 hours of a presidential primary?”
“THE WEST WING!!!”
“Please stop you’re disturbing the other players.”
My friends Pandora and Sarah play another game. It’s called What’s Your Number? We play it every six months when I’m back in London. Your Number is the number of people you’ve slept with in your life. This game is even less fun than Does Bisexuality Exist?
“So what’s your number?” Pandora asked Sarah.
“You say first. I know yours is lower.”
“No I bet it’s not,” Pandora replied, deflecting the compliment.
“Does your number really matter that much anyway?” I interjected.
Pandora stared in disbelief. “Claire, your body is a currency. The more you pass it around the less value it has.”
That sort of made sense.
Pandora is very talented at making sense. For example, she never goes to the bathroom at a boyfriend’s house. This isn’t out of pee-shyness, but because she believes reminding a boyfriend that her body functions like a normal human’s will make her seem less like an angel girlfriend and more like a human girlfriend. Sometimes she has spent entire weekends at a boyfriend’s house. Sometimes she gets urinary tract infections.
“I guess that makes sense,” I told her.
Only later, when you untangle Pandora’s logic, do you realize that it’s the stuff that crazy’s made of.
We were watching TV at the time. They wanted to watch “100 Best Bodies,” the television equivalent of self-harming. I wanted to watch “The Fattest Man in Britain,” the television equivalent of a five mile run and a really big hug.
VH1 specials aggravate my guilt complex. Guilt is already the natural by-product of any comfortable upbringing. I was provided with ballet lessons, orthodontia and French tutors. But I have mediocre posture. I don’t wear my retainer. I speak German, a language that is apparently “harsh” and “reminds you of the Nazis.”
I averted my gaze from Jessica Alba’s glistening abs and flipped through Cosmo, a magazine dedicated to bringing the everywoman better, hotter sex. The key to better, hotter sex is overcoming your insecurities, but Cosmo’s columns “What His Cuddling Body Language Reveals” and “Am I Normal Down There?” seem designed to make every aspect of your life as self-conscious as possible. “Man is the only animal that blushes,” said Mark Twain. “Or needs to.”
Or inflicts it on herself.
Of course I took one of the quizzes. His cuddling body language, I discovered, indicates emotional withdrawal and anger. By “his” I mean my friend and by “cuddling” I mean when she fell asleep on me. But still, that’s pretty hurtful.
I found comfort in VH1’s 90-second montage of Paris Hilton’s arms, photographed at various angles. They’re really nice arms. If Paris Hilton was a currency, she would be the Canadian dollar. She’s going pretty strong right now, but it still takes a lot of her to buy a book.
Yes, if our bodies are currency, we should spend wisely. We shouldn’t invest in incredibly high-risk ventures. We should try not to get ripped off. And before we give some to a homeless person, it’s a good idea to make sure he’s not an alcoholic or a sociopath. Agreed. These are all good policies. But if you restrict the money supply too much — I learned this week on CNN — then you get deflation. And depression.
Currency is something we’ve made up to exchange things that make us happy. “Your Number,” I explained, “is something we’ve made up to make us depressed.”
“Please stop, you’re disturbing.”
It doesn’t really matter what your number is. And it doesn’t matter if you fail at Trivial Pursuit in front of your entire extended family. At the end of the day, (my mother consoled me, as I violently threw the dice across the room) it’s all just a game.