What if I told you there is a way to survive — nay, not just survive, but enjoy! — even the most heinous of family gatherings? It works at birthday parties and weddings. It works at quiet dinners, or full-out family reunions. (Your own, or your in-laws.)
What is it, you say? Where can I buy one? Good news, my friends, there is nothing to buy. Gather close, and let me teach you how to play Dysfunctional Family Bingo.
First of all, the game is purely imaginary. There’s nothing to carry with you, so you are always prepared should a game pop up, and you can never be “out” of chips or boards. You can play alone or with others, as partners or as competing teams.
What you do is try to predict something that might happen before any impending event. You know, like predicting Uncle Phil will say the blessing and use God’s name more than ten times because he’s afraid God has a short attention span. (“Lord, we thank you, God, for this meal. Father, be with us as we eat, Lord…”) Or that Grandma Mary will forget to put her teeth in. Or that Cousin Sue’s preschooler will strip naked and lick the entire left side of the cake to prevent possibly having to share an icing rose.
You know, regular family stuff.
Okay, now when these things happen, you give yourself a point. Heck, give yourself many points! You can get a point for each “God” in the blessing or just one if Uncle Phil goes over ten; it’s purely up to you. The naked child may be one point, and the licking another. It’s okay to get blackout, so the more the merrier, I say.
If something is not so much a prediction as a given– say like Grandma Mary’s teeth, which she hasn’t worn in ten years– that may be your Free Space point.
Now you are ready for the advanced version. In this round you look for story starters. Story starters are things you may not have predicted, but they fell into your lap, like gifts. All you have to look for is stuff you could see yourself calling your best friend and gushing about the next day: “Girl, you are so not going to believe this one!”
Say like when your husband’s cousin commandeers the DJ’s microphone at her brother’s wedding reception and announces that she is pregnant. Oh, and she and her beau are registering at WalMart for both the impending baby and the impending marriage, but they’ve decided not to get married for a while because she wants to wear a strapless leather wedding dress she found online. When she hands out the printout, most of their list is DVD’s and car accessories, plus a Fry Daddy.
Okay, now that you have the hang of the game, could you spot the points? Right! Ding-ding-ding! Blackout!
Playing is extra fun with a spouse, but you have to be careful. I know one couple who nearly got caught at a family holiday dinner when a cousin told an off-color joke at the table. The husband whipped out an imaginary Bingo card and wildly pantomimed getting blackout, including raising his hands in the air like you would at the Bingo hall. Luckily for him the rest of the table didn’t notice, although that might be a point, too.
I did get caught playing on a recent family vacation. I was teaching my nieces and nephews how to play and one niece ratted us out to the “grownups.” (The nieces and nephews are all mid to late teenagers, so they probably play their own version anyway. It’s not like I tainted them, or anything. Heck, they probably paid more attention to the family that weekend than they ever had in their whole lives.) And the event wasn’t a total wash, either. I just gave myself two extra points: One for getting busted and one for the spinach stuck in the Narc’s retainer.