Games Women Play
In a sunny kitchen nook in Central Florida, my friends and I hold playing cards in one hand and glasses of sweet tea in another. The final card is drawn from a pile in the middle of the table. It’s time to turn our cards over, read them, and laugh.
For years, I have belonged to a group of women who meet as often as we can to play games. What and why did we play?
There are no particular games for dames. Women have played them all. In the movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Wyatt Earp jails a woman because she dared to play cards. He says, “… every time there’s a woman at the tables, there’s trouble.”
Women also invented games. In 1904, a Quaker, Lizzie J. Magie, designed and patented a game called The Landlord Game. The popular game changed its name to Auction Monopoly and then Monopoly.
At first, my Florida friends met at a local bookstore to play a quiet game of cards. Between sips of coffee, Pat taught us how to play Four-Card Golf. This card game is played for nine rounds. Each deal equals a hole of golf. To remember what was face down on the four cards in front of us required memorization and silence. This was torture for chatty females.
After a few months, we moved the game-playing into our homes. Here we shuffled and cut a double deck for Canasta. With the freedom to chat, plus a desire to exercise our minds, we graduated to Trivial Pursuit.
Trivial Pursuit was Jan’s game. Nothing in the entertainment category stumped her. Colored pie-shaped game pieces sat snug in the plastic winner’s hub as she waited patiently for us to join her.
Thanks to Trivial Pursuit, Karen could recite the names of Santa’s reindeer, while Pat learned that a dactylogram is a fingerprint. I wracked my brains for the author of The Little Mermaid. It was embarrassing. I’d just traveled to Hans Christian Anderson’s hometown and even photographed the Little Mermaid statue!
While Trivial Pursuit bruised egos, we blamed menopause and aging for ludicrous answers or for none at all.
Eventually, we played games wherever we went. While eating lunch at a tearoom in Georgia, we played Name That Tune with the restaurant’s background music.
Computer gaming has gained popularity with women of all ages. A woman in California began a connection in cyberspace, but this evolved into real women playing board games in her home. The group is as varied in age as reasons for meeting.
Some seek friends or time out after a long day wrangling toddlers. Others wish to replay beloved games from childhood.
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club takes place in 1949. The novel describes a group of Chinese women in San Francisco who played mah jong. But their real purpose was to support one another and preserve their Chinese heritage.
My group’s get-togethers are often like club meetings. We talk about events from other groups we are involved in and share recipes, books, and personal experiences—all while playing games.
During a six-day vacation spent nestled in Pat’s mountain cabin, we named our group Trivia and Travel. That’s where I introduced Mexican Train Dominoes. We coined the word ‘stragedy’ to describe the difficulty we had lining up the cars of our trains and forming winning strategies.
One Halloween, Pat invited us to Boo-reakfast. After clearing harvest-themed breakfast dishes, the clacking of ninety-one dominoes hitting the wood table was deafening. We worked together turning the tiles upside down. Then we each picked twelve.
We cleaned and repositioned reading glasses to distinguish between maroon and brown dots. The colored tiles felt cool in the hand on a humid day in Florida. The game progressed with light-hearted banter mingled with a competitive edge. When Pat won the sixth round of twelve, we accused her of having the home court advantage.
While it’s fun to win, that’s not our focus.
Years later, our players have changed, but the games continue.
There are thousands of games and as many reasons why women play them—relive childhood memories, cultivate community, conserve culture, or stimulate the mind.
Some just love the colorful game pieces!
For us, it’s all about friendship.