I have a friend who is forever posting his game scores on social media. This seems harmless to me. He knows that doing well in a game does not make him a better person, or anything—he just likes to have fun showing off and talking trash. And I do think he is proud of his skill at games.
But lately he has gotten into word games and puzzles, and is trying to suck me in. Keeps sending me challenges and telling me that I could never match his scores and so on. The thing is that I am a total ace at most games and puzzles involving words, and based on what he has posted I am way, way better than he is. I do not want to burst his bubble by showing him that, to take two examples among many, my average Words With Friends word score is 32 to his 19, and I solve the Times mini-crosswords in about half the time it takes him. Yet part of me wants to show him and our mutual on-line friends that I am a word goddess, and certainly not afraid to play him. What do you think? Would it be wrong to blow him away?
—Tempted in Tempe
I think that, unless this fellow’s ego is fragile to the point of mental illness, there is nothing wrong with accepting his invitations to play against him in two-player games, or playing your best once you do accept.
It is totally understandable, especially given the way your friend has been goading you, that you’d want to show off a little, maybe even take him down a peg—especially if you suspect that he is underestimating you because of your gender or for some other annoying, short-sighted reason.
But public bragging at his expense is another matter. I do not think you should post or otherwise bruit about the results of any contest between the two of you. Nor should you publicize your scores in crossword puzzles, or any other games where you are basically playing against yourself, if your primary aim in doing so is to compare your scores to your friend’s and show him up. If your friend pushes you too far, I could see (though I would not exactly commend) your using some private means to set him straight about your relative abilities at crossword puzzles and other one-player games, if only to put an end to his trash talk. But publicly flaunting your superiority over him in particular would be unkind, to say nothing of tacky—unless you are absolutely certain that your friend is bragging and cajoling you totally in fun, and it does not sound to me as if fun is the only thing that’s going on here.
Sometimes it is hard to be way, way better than other people. Being a word goddess entails a certain level of responsibility. Don’t hide your light—but don’t be a jerk, either. If you examine your motives case by case, I am sure you will know where to draw the line.
P.S. Morality aside, it may not be wise to take your friend on: such lopsided play is likely to frustrate him and bore you. Your friend might even grow unpleasant and resentful. If that happens, I advise you to stop playing him. Be gracious in victory, and tactful about giving him the boot. But promise me never to minimize, explain away, or apologize for your superpowers. All too many goddesses—and a few gods, too—fall into this trap.
My sister is about to have a baby girl—her first child. For privacy reasons I don’t feel that I can tell you the actual name she has chosen for her daughter. Suffice it to say that my sister wants to name her kid after the drug she credits with making the pregnancy possible. She says that the name is interesting, and will be a conversation starter! What has actually happened so far, conversation-wise, is that my mother nearly had a coronary when she heard the name, and my brother had to run out of the room to control his hysterical laughter. I have told my sister several times that it’s wrong to inflict a name like that on a kid. She tells me to butt out. Is there anything I can do?
—Apprehensive in the Big Apple
Normally I would advise against interference, or even disagreement, with a parent where baby names are concerned. But unless there’s some fertility drug named Madison, or perhaps an erectile dysfunction remedy called Brittany Sue, your sister’s plan strikes me as borderline abusive. I hate to think of poor little Cialis during roll call in middle school homeroom. Or little Bromocriptine struggling to find a shorter version of her name, one she can live with. I suppose that little Clomid or Pergonal might survive childhood and adolescence with nothing worse than some discreet snickers from a few adults—but I doubt even that, given how mean some kids can be, and how much time they spend typing words into search engines. And what if your sister owes her success to Viagra?
I note that you have not mentioned a father or other co-parent. If there is one, I strongly advise you to enlist his or her aid. If not, I suggest advising your sister to poll the sixth- and seventh-graders in her part of the world so she can get some idea of what her daughter’s life will be like with a name like Gonadotropin or Serophine. (Actually, that last one’s not so bad. If she plans on naming her daughter after that particular estrogen-blocking drug, you might want to back off and content yourself with calling the baby “Sara” whenever possible.)
Does your sister especially like any of her medical providers? If so, and if one or more of these people have reasonable names, you might suggest that she could better express her gratitude by honoring a fellow human instead of a non-sentient chemical compound. Or perhaps you could get out the old photo albums and try to drum up support for a beloved grandmother, or a recently-deceased great aunt? Or how about suggesting that, as is the Jewish custom with the names of departed loved ones, she honor the medication (or whatever the hell it is she is doing with it) by giving her daughter a name with the initial of the drug instead of its full appellation: Victoria for Viagra, Luisa for Lupron, and so forth?
I am grasping at straws here. Frankly, your sister’s proposal is so, um, unusual that it is hard to imagine how one might reason with her about it. And I hesitate to advise your seeking outside help from her clergyperson, mentor, midwife, etc. Your sister would resent such active interference, and might even become estranged from you just when she and sweet baby Repronex need you most. You may just have to hope that, as you sister’s delivery date approaches, the idea of giving her daughter an embarrassing, laughable name will start to seem less attractive.
In the meantime, think of a good, totally inoffensive nickname for the baby and try to get everybody around your sister to start using it.
Cleaver’s in-house advice columnist opines on matters punctuational, interpersonal, and philosophical, spinning wit and literary wisdom in response to your ethical quandaries. Write to her at [email protected]. Find more columns by June in her attic.
Image credit: Colin Maynard on Unsplash
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