I think it’s time I enriched your lives a little bit with a really fun game called Association Bingo.
I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who has recently become single, about that terrible thing we all do when we’re newly single and not necessarily entirely complicit in how this came about, and for a while, literally everything you do, say, think or see conjures up a memory of some sort about the person in question. Whether that’s chopping up vegetables on your own and suddenly recalling some time you cooked together, and that moment when you sucked on a strand of spaghetti and your lips met in the middle; or hearing a piece of music and finding yourself transported back in time to the very moment of your first kiss; or catching the smell of some passing man and that smell being the same aftershave that your ex used to wear and all at once you feel tragically, miasmically sad. Bingo, bingo, and bingo.
I think I probably should win some kind of prize for once genuinely thinking, ‘oh no, this person is breathing exactly how so-and-so used to breathe’. What, in, and then back out again? Gosh.
I haven’t started to draw up a proper rulebook, or so much as an objective. Presumably you get a score for every bingo (instance that conjures up a memory), but also it is presumably one of those games where the higher you score, the more you’re actually losing. And different leves of association should presumably score different amounts of points. Thinking, ‘person Y is breathing like person X used to breathe’ probably gets a whackingly high score for sheer idiocy, whereas more specific associations, clever and specific though they may be, probably score lower. So if you find yourself doing some kind of activity that used to exclusively be something you did with your ex, and then you remember doing that activity with them – say ballroom dancing, or Scrabble, or something – then you get quite a low score, because that’s not really a surprise, and you should either man up and deal with it or stop dancing and playing scrabble (especially not at the same time, that’s silly).
Perhaps a Full House is when you have remembered all the things in the world that you could possibly remember about X. Or perhaps you just get so many points for thinking ‘so-and-so used to breathe’ or ‘so-and-so had legs’ that you win (lose) right there and then.
The best thing about this game is that it turns hideously painful moments into hideously painful moments in which everyone you know (and hopefully yourself) is laughing at your pain. This might make life better, or it might just make you feel seriously pathetic, I’m not quite sure. The other great thing is that devising a workable system of points and rules could potentially take up so much mental time and space that you don’t have the space in your brain to score as many bingos as you otherwise would, thus effectively distracting yourself for a few seconds or something and being in the running for a winner for longer than you thought you would be.
The real brilliance of this is that if you suddenly sigh because you’ve just spotted a pigeon, or thought for the millionth time about how X used to pour out his or her cereal, or whatever stupid thing it is that gets you every single flipping time – you don’t then have to say, in response to all the concerned looks you’re (hopefully) getting from your friends, exactly what it is you’re sighing about. You can just say ‘bingo’, and everyone in the know will smile ruefully and do something friendly and caring like thump you on the back (this is something my dad does when I’m sad, on which note I will say that although I don’t think he’s quite yet been known to honestly utter the phrase ‘plenty more fish in the sea’, I’m pretty sure it’s been a close-run thing in the past. After all this is my father, famed for his bemused cry of, ‘it’s only a gerbil’ when faced with two wailing, grief-stricken 7-year-olds (I’m taking an average here) and a dead rodent).
Other games in this vein include Sermon Cricket (which would make a lot more sense if I understood the scoring system in cricket) and, more simply, Sermon Bingo. Both of these are best played when the person giving the sermon is someone you’ve heard preach often enough that you can pick up on (and allow for in the rules) assorted verbal tics, common themes, and favourite anecdotes. I suppose all of these are basically a bit like I Spy for adults – adding that hint of danger, subversion and cruelty that improves nearly all childrens’ games, I find (if alcohol doesn’t cut it, that is).
To all my concerned readers, no, I have no-one to have just broken up with me, so I am absolutely A-OK. I do have a friend in this situation though, and to that friend (if said friend is reading this, which I doubt) I will just say that I’m really sorry if this conjures up a whole swathe of bingos and meta-bingos; and also, as ever, I wish there was something I could do that was any more curative than providing food and whisky and a listening ear and occasionally terrible advice, platitudes, etc.