The Games We Play

Games are meant to be entertaining, a time to bond and build relationships. Aside from the competitive aspect, they’re wonderful educational tools for kids of all ages. We learn how to take turns, how to play fair, how to reason and strategize, as well as how to be a good sport. We learn how our luck can change with a throw of the dice, and how critical thinking can advance our position. One of my favourite memories while raising my family was our Friday game night. We played the odd video game, but our favourites were puzzles and board games. We’d turn off the television, make snacks and gather around the kitchen table to play and laugh for hours. Some nights we’d play a game of chance like Yahtzee, other nights it was something creative like Pictionary. As my daughters got older we played something more strategic like checkers, or Italian card games like Scopa. I always marveled at how their minds applied strategy in order to outwit their opponents – you could see the wheels turning. We still love to play games now even though they’re all grown up. Last Christmas during the ice storm both girls were over and we played Settlers of Catan for two days straight in our PJs, eating and drinking unusual boozy concoctions.

But those weren’t the only games we played in our household. Being a crafty and creative being, I would make up games to entertain the girls when they were tiny, like Momma Kangaroo. They would refuse to go to bed unless I slipped my baby roos in my makeshift pouch and hop around the house – they’d giggle and I’d get a great workout!

Momma Kangaroo and Baby Roos (1988)
Momma Kangaroo and Baby Roos (1988)

When they got a bit older, I put a new twist on Tug of War. Instead of pulling a rope, I’d have them each grab the ends of my clothes and pull in opposite directions. Strange, mine seemed to be the only ones that shrunk in the dryer. What made the game fun for the girls was that I would be wearing the garment while they tugged! They’d howl trying to see who could pull Mommy furthest. But Mommy never budged. They’d tug on the sides, and then I’d have them switch to front and back, until the fabric loosened its grip on me.

By the time the girls were teenagers, I invented the game Do I Look Like That? We would only play this in public, like at a mall. The game would always start with me saying, “I don’t have eyes in back of my head so I don’t know what I look like from behind. It would help me if I could compare myself to someone else.” If I saw a plus-sized person walk past, I would ask them to gauge if I was the same, larger, or smaller as I shimmied up next to them for a few seconds and then U-turn back for the verdict. The girls stopped playing this game when they realized my mood often changed based on what they told me.

I then moved on to If You See Me Eat Something I Shouldn’t game, in which I would ask the girls to help me break my binge eating pattern. I would proclaim that I was determined to lose weight and if they saw me eat something I shouldn’t, they could help me by asking, “Mom, do you really want to eat that?” or “Mom, why are you eating that? Is something bothering you?” What I had intended to help me stop mindless or emotional eating usually ended up with me biting their heads off.

Poor girls, there was no way they could win at these games. So they stopped playing my games and created one of their own called, Punch Mom in the Arm Whenever She Says Anything Derogatory about Her Size – I don’t like this game. It’s their version of negative reinforcement, and they REALLY do punch me! If they ever hear me utter, “I’m fat”, they correct me and state, “You’re not fat; you have fat. You wouldn’t say you’re eyeballs you’d say, you have eyeballs.”

I was schooled by my youngest this past summer when we were clothes shopping. I was trying on a pair of jeans at Addition Elle and she was in the change-room with me yaying or naying my options. I must have said something that warranted a punch in the arm and got the, “you’re not fat, you have fat” spiel. As we stepped out of the change-room a young woman came out of the room directly across from mine. She had tears rolling down her cheeks. She looked at my daughter and said, “Thank you, I needed to hear that.”

I’d like to say I’ve stopped playing these games, but I haven’t. I now play the plus-sized gal’s version of Solitaire called How Much Do I Spill Over? Instead of me and a deck of cards, it’s me and a chair. I do this anywhere and everywhere. I may even have played visiting you at your place, or while sitting across from you at a restaurant, or in a meeting at work. The game is simple really – I sit and measure with my hands how much my bottom spills over the sides of the chair. Depending on the chair, it might be an inch or two, or seven. Then I get up and look at the seat of the chair and marvel at how much space I occupy. I can’t believe I disclosed this – I can see my girls marching over winding up to bop me in the arm… and that will be quite a feat for the one living in South Korea!

The Chair Game
The Chair Game

Why am I admitting all of this? I guess I’m tired of playing these futile games. They’re no fun and there’s no winner – if there were Hasbro or Milton-Bradley would have patented them by now. Nope, I’m done. It’s time to put my cards on the table and come clean. I must take the risk – it’s my life and I’m worth the trouble. I realize I must stop playing these mind games with myself. Instead, I’m picking up my ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card, and releasing myself from this prison, and that my friends is no trivial pursuit.

Am I the only one who plays these games? What games do you play? Let’s pack them up together once and for all. 

Humble-Pie: While writing this post I ate eight Toffifees and half a bag of cheese corn. Sorted through two garbage bags of winter clothes to donate to the charity coat drive. Face-Timed with my daughter. Watched the news. Ate three chicken thighs, one cup of kale salad and drank a Corona – BTW, I rarely drink alcohol.

Before and Before

I love immersing myself in a good story – mystery, adventure, romance, drama, comedy, biography – it doesn’t matter what, I devour them all. However, my hands down favourite is the story of metamorphosis and transformation. Who didn’t love it when a made-over Eliza Doolittle walked down that staircase, or freak out when Jekyll morphed into Hyde?

I’m especially fascinated by the real-life transformation stories found in fitness magazines and reality shows. I gravitate to the Before & After section without reading a single word of text, completely mesmerized by the metamorphosis and vow to one day be in the pages myself.

My elusive quest for my own after began at the tender age of 14, shortly after I hit puberty and stopped growing vertically and sprouted Italian birthing hips.

1978 (age 14)  Be nice people - body suits and fuzzy hair were big in the 70s!
1978 (age 14)
Be nice people – body suits and fuzzy hair were big in the 70s

My first ever before photo was taken on February 6, 1978 – I remember it well. I asked my sister to take it… she chuckled then, and every time I asked her to document my resolve through the following decades. She never laughed at me (okay, maybe when I insisted on wearing gloves in my inaugural photo), she was laughing at the absurdity of it all. Who willingly stands in their underthings, posing to record their shame?

1998 (age 34) Don't I look thrilled?
1998 (age 34)
Don’t I look thrilled?

Needless to say, these before photos never made it into the family album, but spent a brief time on the fridge next to my kids’ art work, and inspirational quotes during the pre-Pinterest era. When my resolve dissipated and I became indifferent the quotes, I went hard-core and tried to scare the motivation back into myself by posting the following image from National Geographic alongside my before pic du jour. It did nothing but gross my kids out and give them nightmares.


Recently, I dug into our electronic files and boxes of photos to find some of my many befores (we’re a snap-happy family), but found an entire chunk of our archives missing. I tore the house apart. I still haven’t found them and I’m gutted. I searched high and low and eventually checked my usual go-to places when I’m upset. “Are they in the jar of Nutella?” Nope, not there. “Are they in the bag of chips?” Hmm, not there either. “Are they in the tub of ice cream?” No?! “Why can’t I find them, I’ve looked everywhere!!!!”

This is how it goes for me, I turn to food for a multitude of reasons and very rarely for nourishment and sustenance. I consider myself to be fairly bright and intuitive, but I haven’t been able to figure this eating to live, instead of living to eat business. Like most who have struggled with their weight, I’ve yo-yoed and sometimes have even got close to a healthy weight. Along with my before and before and before and before photos, I have the odd oh, you’re almost there photos, but I’ve never bagged me an after.

We are all living, breathing, walking stories, and this is mine. My friends call me Mare, and I invite you to journey with me as I search for my after.

Humble Pie – While writing this post, I nuked a bowl of tomato soup and poured half a bag of croutons in it for “substance” – I would have used potato chips, but I polished the bag off last night as my post second-dinner snack. Hung up on a duct-cleaning telemarketer. Noshed on a wedge of my favourite breakfast food – Italian pantone with dried fruits and raisins. Popped over to my neighbour’s house to drop off some documents. Texted back and forth with a co-worker. And taste-tested at least half-a-dozen Halloween sized chocolates.