Published in The Ferndale Record, February 23, 2011
The game of Scrabble has deep roots in my family of origin. Whenever we all came together, my four older siblings played for hours leaving me out because I was too young. I hated that it took so long and that apparently, I lacked the required intellect or life experience to participate.
When I was 8-years-old my oldest brother, who thought I was adorable, took pity on me and during one of their Scrabble marathons told me that I must spell the word “dictionary” before I got a seat at the table.
That night while they played, I studied until I had it right. When I proudly spelled it for everyone in the room, they were generous—I got a shot. And while I was out of my league, I’d officially joined the club.
The brother who made me a player was a classic Scrabble con artist, playing words that even as a child I knew weren’t real. But he persisted. His plays were almost always challenged, and often he lost a turn because of his bold behavior, trying to snag the rest of us in his lies.
My favorite word he played was “retux.” When it was loudly and laughably contested, he argued that it meant a man took off his tuxedo and put it on again—thus, he was “retuxing.” The dictionary proved, of course, it wasn’t a word, but I loved that he tried to get away with it.
Recently, I’ve been playing Scrabble online with my other brother. Known for his gaming prowess, he’d be a formidable opponent, I thought. It took me awhile to discern that online playing is an entirely different species than the board game. On the Web, anything goes.
There’s no argument about a play because the game won’t allow invalid words. So, I was on my own to come up with brilliant moves worth points that would leave my brother in awe of how well his little sister had learned to play Scrabble. After all, I’m a word person. How hard could it be?
Now, my brother is a smart guy, but I began to suspect he wasn’t finding words like “dialytic,” “sabaton,” and “aboiteau,” stored in the recesses of his memory.
However, I decided to take the high road. Online Scrabble cheats weren’t for me. Nope. I was going to play fair and come out the winner—until last week. When I saw there wasn’t a way for me to compete with the number of Bingos (when one uses all seven letters dealt, earning very high scores) he was producing, I goaded him into telling me his secret.
I chose to fight fire with fire, and within the past week I’ve laid down a few exquisite plays of my own. With a little research on a Web site built exclusively for Scrabble users, I found that “azonal,” “levanted,” and “doolee” are all perfectly acceptable words, and as a result I’ve racked up more wins in a couple of days than I had all last month.
I’m oddly competitive. It’s like flipping a switch. The usually easy-going me morphs into a feral carnivore circling prey. Now that I’m armed with a level playing field, I must, no—I WILL win. It’s a side of myself I’m unfamiliar with, but I like it.
My brother, a stellar competitor, also happens to be a nice person. When I win, my comments are “BOOYAH!” and “Who’s Your Daddy?” His are “Good Job, Suzie” and “Way To Go.”
I guess if we’re both using outside help and winning games, the least I can do is be a gracious winner. Maybe I’ll try that next week.
For now, I’ll enjoy rolling around in my small victories. I like sitting with the grownups and winning a few.