I never thought I had a “type”. Looking back at my past relationships, crushes and flings, there’s no obvious common denominator. There are tall and short guys, fair and dark, older and younger, skinny and athletic and chubby. But reminiscing with an old friend recently, I realized that there is, in fact, a connection.
The start of the story goes all the way back to my very first crush, at the ripe old age of five. Did I like the boy who defended my right to play with blocks when others tried to exile me to playing house? He was nice and all, but no. I liked the boy who bet me that I couldn’t outrun him on the playground. I liked tearing across the playground as fast as my sneakers could carry me, knowing he was only a breath behind. I liked shouting challenges back at him when he said he was coming to get me. The competition, the thrill of the game… that was what got me. Sometimes I won, and sometimes I lost, but I always wanted to play again.
My kindergarten self had no idea that this was the start of a decades-long pattern. Through middle school and high school, I competed with boys at algebra, Dungeons and Dragons, video games… anything and everything. What we were competing at didn’t matter, it was about the game. Sometimes, this ended badly. I learned that some guys who challenge a girl lose their shit when she wins. That proved to be a useful filtering mechanism, a quick and easy way to know who wasn’t worth my time. This was equally true of those who were insufferably obnoxious when they won. If a guy wasn’t a good sport, win or lose, I knew it was time to walk away. But the ones who knew how to play? We had a blast.
Often, the competitions evolved into collaborations, us against the world. A story writing challenge my freshman year produced a marvelous collection of satire about our teachers, and had us secretly snickering in class for months. As time went on, the conspiring got a bit naughtier. There were elaborate schemes concocted to find time away from adult supervision, or to get away with things right under their noses.
In college, the game changed again. My weapons of choice were dares, trivia games and my talent for word play. On more than a few nights, I used these skills to acquire both male attention and free drinks. The increased freedom of college meant chances to explore how the games we played could carry over into the bedroom, and discover that playful banter and challenges could be even more fun in private. A battle of escalating practical jokes became the lead-in to a series of all-nighters that had nothing to do with studying. My first experimentation with blindfolds and bondage came after losing a bet to my boyfriend. And his reaction when I accepted his striptease dare gave a boost to my confidence that lasted long after the relationship had ended.
I may be older and (supposedly) wiser now, but that playful impulse is still strong. It doesn’t take much to set it off. A text that says “I dare you”, locking eyes and grinning at a private joke, a clever comment with multiple layers of meaning, and I’m eager to jump into the game. I guess it’s not a coincidence that “playing” is one of my favorite code words for sex…