According to an article I read recently, couples who “play together, stay together”. Ignoring the fact that advice from self-styled ‘relationship experts’ generally makes me nauseous, I wondered if it might be true. Perhaps the husband and I should take up a new sport? I have avoided suggesting it until now; the problem is that he is genetically athletic, and I have the grace and coordination of an arthritic hippopotamus. I haven’t always been this way – in my youth I was an accomplished dancer – but an avalanche of children has somehow sapped me of the ability to run sideways on a court without crashing into something or tripping over my own feet. A reluctant member of the High School netball team, I took my goose bumps off to the sidelines at the earliest opportunity, much to the relief of my leggy compatriots. In stark comparison, the husband began playing rugby when he was practically still in the womb, played cricket for England and boasts an impressive golf handicap despite rarely playing. It’s all deeply irritating, as despite my lack of sporting prowess I am intensely competitive and a terrible loser who will reluctantly shake hands and mutter “well done” through gritted teeth.
I’d like to say I could outwit him in more cerebral pastimes, to make up for continually being thrashed on the sports field, but he has an encyclopaedic general knowledge and an elephant’s memory. We were once on the same team in a three hour game of after dinner Trivial Pursuits, during which my sole contribution was rolling the die and lining up our team’s wedges in rainbow order. I blame the fact that the edition was from 1983, which meant that every answer had to preclude the historical context added by the last twenty eight years. Frankly I have enough trouble correctly guessing where the town of Sassnitz is (I thought it was Russia), without also having to remember that the Berlin Wall was still up until 1989. No, board games are definitely out. Anyway, far better to be out in the fresh air together. I briefly considered bowling, but the knee-length skirts are so unflattering, and the husband vetoed it on the basis that we are, after all, not yet past our mid-thirties. Darts struck me as inherently dangerous for those around me, and bending over a snooker table best avoided, given those child-bearing hips of mine.
I eventually plumped for tennis, after quizzing the husband about when he last played. “Gosh, not for twenty years or so.” He said. “I’m not sure I can remember how.” Perfect. I booked the court and dug out a dubious pair of shorts I once used for painting the shed. They made me feel really rather sporty, and I jogged optimistically onto the court. The husband adopted an alarmingly professional stance, pocketed a spare ball and launched the other towards me at full pelt. I lunged to my right with a suitable grunt but the ball appeared to sail clean through my racket. I examined the strings for holes but nothing seemed obvious. “Keep your eye on the ball,” the husband suggested helpfully. I shot him a withering look but it was interrupted by another missile hurtling towards me. I ducked. It seemed like the sensible thing to do. Twenty minutes later I had failed to make contact with a single ball, storming off the court in a fit of pique when the husband snorted with laughter at my attempts to serve.
It didn’t bode well, and I was rather concerned that this inability to play games together signalled the death knell of our relationship. I wonder if it is better to play together and argue about it, or not to play together at all? If I persist with the advice of the relationship experts, we could be in for years of competitive angst, culminating in a silent round of Scrabble where one of us spells out D-I-V-O-R-C-E on a triple word score (thirty nine points). Come to think of it, I was always rather good at Scrabble. Maybe we’ll give game-playing just one more shot…