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The difference between
"Playing House" and "Playing Croquet"

by Baba Bob, the Croquet Swami

Most of us do not acknowledge that we grew up in dysfunctional households until we're old enough to move out. From an objective remove, perhaps undergoing therapy, we may finally sort out and repair some of the damage done to us as innocent bystanders in the deadly domestic games of our parents. From an adult perspective we may finally appreciate the miracle of our survival under the uncertain tutelage of our usually well-meaning parents, who had no clue about the game they were playing in a far-from-blissfully unconscious state - much less a handle on how to play the game strategically . And so I was especially pleased when Baba Bob channeled to me, via the New Age phenomenon of "automatic typing", what was to become one of his most-quoted sermonettes in response to a devotee's simple question. This third publication is the first for a worldwide audience.

Dear Baba Bob,

My wife is jealous of my croquet club. She says I should spend more time on weekends with her and less with my mallet, even when we're not doing anything in particular. She won't listen to reason about this. It's embarrassing. My croquet cronies snigger and say things like, "He's grounded for the weekend. She won't let him out of the house." Am I a man or a mouse? Is it wrong for me to prefer croquet over hanging around the house? What can I do?

--Housebroken in Buena Park

Dear Housebroken,

You have brought all this suffering on yourself, because your attitude is totally wrong. To you, croquet is the greatest game, and you want to play it all the time. You think it's a better game than any other game you could play - and who's to say that's not true?

But for your wife, Playing House is not only a great game, it is the game of games, the ultimate game, the game of which all other games are merely subsets, the game for which she has trained since infancy. Objectively speaking, she can make a better case for her game of choice than you can for yours, because Playing House does in fact embrace virtually all aspects of life, and Croquet definitely does not.

Is it surprising when a wife seizes a bread knife and in a moment of blind, uncontrollable fury severs her spouse's mallet from his body?

Your wife will not take your favorite game seriously unless you take HER favorite game seriously. To understand your wife's point of view, just imagine playing croquet with someone who isn't taking the game seriously: it's a waste of time for everyone; it is sabatage! And this is exactly the way you are treating your wife in the game of Playing House - a game that requires at least two players, and which you freely committed to play. When you cop out, Is it really all that surprising when such a wife seizes a bread knife and in a moment of blind, uncontrollable fury severs her spouse's mallet from his body?

No wonder your wife is putting you through a living hell! You deserve it for just "hanging around the house" when you could be mastering the game of Playing House, which you took a solemn vow to do in that ceremony where you exchanged rings and your wife threw the bridal bouquet, and everybody got stinking drunk afterwards.

Now that we have established that your wife is entirely blameless in this matter, you need to get busy and correct your long neglect on the domestic front. You need to take some extreme actions to counterbalance your past errors. You need to embark on a kind of domestic "affirmative action" program. You need to start making come true those dreams of domestic felicity your spouse has cherished ever since she was given her first diminutive plastic tea set as a three-year-old toddler.

But take heart: This shouldn't be all that difficult for you. Begin with simple gambits which you can quickly perfect. For inspiration, look into the collective consciousness of the American popular culture as memorialized in the films of the 30's and 40's - when, because of the scarcity and hardship of the Great Depression and the later pre-occupation with the Game of World War, Playing House was idealized in song, story, and celluloid.

Just picture a debonair Dick Powell bringing wife Myrna Loy a simple breakfast in bed, topped off by one perfect long-stemmed rose and some such earnestly-offered tribute as, "My darling, you look absolutely ravishing." Throw away Dick Powell and put yourself in his place. Simple.

Or imagine an honest, hard-working, capable, ingenuous, yet adorably vunerable Jimmy Stewart delivering himself to June Allyson's almost motherly embrace, uttering some such spousal homily as "Honey, I don't know what I would ever do without you..." You can do that, can't you?

She might return the compliment and take up croquet. She might beat you. Could you handle that?

Remember, none of this is Ultimate Reality. This is the Game of Playing House. Take it seriously. Resolve to play it as faithfully and as well as your spouse, move for move. If you do that, Baba promises that you will soon be playing croquet as often as you like, because croquet will no longer ber competing with Playing House, in your wife's mind. Croquet will have become a vital and perfectly enacted subset of the great game, the ultimate game of Playing House. While you are out doing the things that men do - like tinkering with mechanical devices and playing bloodsports and doing your level best to pound your opponent into the turf - your spouse will be perfectly happy and fulfilled doing "women's things," just like the heroines of those old movies.

Of course, you must be prepared to face the consequences of your new-found mastery at Playing House. With your increased level of respect and competence in your spouse's favorite game, she may decide to return the compliment and take up croquet. She might be really good at it. She might beat you. Could you handle that?

Sometimes the circumstances of a game become so intense that people forget they're playing a game, and nobody is having fun any more.

In both Croquet and Playing House, the circumstances of a game can become so intense that people forget they're playing a game. When people forget that it's a game, they think their survival depends on the outcome, their competence diminishes, all sorts of dreadful things happen, and nobody is having fun any more.

Now that you have received Baba's excellent advice, the Swami is going to address you as as an adult person: Do you know what you did? You violated two fundamental principles of Croquet Yoga!
#1. If you're going to play a game, play it seriously;
#2. Don't ever forget that it's a game.

Playing House really is a GREAT game, just like Croquet. Don't every forget that it's a game, and go out there and give it everything you've got! Play it like a champ! Play it to win! Win it for the Gipper!

Reprinted from CROQUET MAGAZINE, Winter 1987 issue,
published by Hans Peterson, edited by Mike Orgill and Bob Alman.

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