Do I Really Need A Minivan In The Game Of Life?


I was playing cards with my little friend Isabella the other day. We were playing Old Maid.

You know the game: each person has a set of cards. You draw from the other player, and lay down the pairs that you find. Twos twos twos. There is a sense of anticipation every time a card is drawn from the other player’s hand. Who will pair up next?

Another pair, and another pair, and another pair. Each laid down, one right next to the other.

There was one card left in my hand at the end of the game. The Old Maid. The card had a picture an older woman surrounded by cats. Apparently cats are the only creatures that will live with single ladies that are mature in age.

Isabella pointed at me and said “Look Kate! You have the Old Maid! That means you are the loser.

I didn’t know what to do with this statement, or with this game. I don’t usually mind losing games to five year olds. But I was a little more sensitive about losing this time. “Am I the loser?” I thought.

I decided to lean more about the history of the game. Here’s what I found out: it is a very old victorian game. There are versions around the world, many with different names. In Brazil, it goes by the flattering name Stink. The English version is called Scabby Queen, a name brings up even worse images than the picture of the American cat lady. And my personal favorite, the French version that is known as Le Pouilleux, which means the louse. Just in case you don’t know what that is, it’s a parasitic insect. Another word for louse is cootie. Awesome.

In my research, I also found pictures of some vintage Old Maid games. My favorite was a 1940‘s deck that had wonderful cartoons of very attractive curvy women. One woman was riding on an airplane. Another was surfing. A third looked like a successful business lady.

The Old Maid? A little old single lady, sitting in a rocking chair knitting, which is quite appropriate, since that is where the word spinster comes from. One who spins. It seems that single people who are a little older have nothing better to do than sit in a rocking chair and knit some booties for their favorite nephew.

A few weeks after this incident, I was playing another game with my ten year old friend, Collin. The Game Of Life. This game has versions of it dating all the way back to 1860. It has a track in which players move in little plastic cars through various life scenarios. Consequently, in the late 80’s the game changed the car from a convertible to a Chrysler-esque minivan.

“Wait a second.” I said to Collin. “What if I want a four wheel drive Subaru instead of a minivan?” Collin retorted “you have to have a mini van in the game of life.”

Well, I realized, it makes sense that you need to have decent leg space in your car, since you have to put your growing family in it.

This family is acquired towards the beginning of the game, when you hit a stop sign in front of a three dimensional chapel. It is here that you must get married and put a new blue or pink peg beside you in your minivan.  I looked at Collin and said “Hey, what if I don’t want to get married? Or what if, by some crazy turn of circumstances, it just doesn’t happen for me?” Collin gave me a quizzical look and said, “You can’t do that Kate! You have to get married in the game of life.”

It’s true. I did. If I didn’t, I would be stuck at the beginning of the game. Forever. I gave in, but mostly because you get $5,000 worth of wedding gifts on the next space.

At the end of the game, the bank paid out money for various things. I wasn’t at all surprised that you received a decent amount for each child that you were able to raise in your minivan. It seems that in the game of life, he who dies with the most kids gets the most cash.

Really, Milton Bradley? Really?

These are some of the stereotypes that are placed in our minds at a very young age, and I admit I can relate to some of them. Like the Old Maid, I have seen my friends pair up two by two. I am not as old as she is, but I am in my thirties, which is pretty old to be single, especially in Christian circles. And yes, I do put my knitted creations on etsy.

But that’s where the similarities stop. I hate cats, I have many other things to do with my time than sit in a rocking chair, and I am really, honestly, not a loser.

Those are good signs that I am not really an Old Maid, right?

There are also things in The Game of Life that I can relate to. I often feel like society says to me “You’re not married? You don’t have children? How could you possibly ride around in your plastic car with one lonely plastic peg in it? Is there something wrong? Are you going to get stuck at the beginning of life and never move on to the rest of your game because of your singleness?”

At this point, I have no idea if I will ever get married. I have stopped trying to control it. I do know that I want to make a new game of life. One in which I can go anywhere I want to go, even if no one is with me in the plastic minivan.

Anyone else out there have childhood memories that made it feel like being married was the only thing that would bring happiness or value to your life?

20 thoughts on “Do I Really Need A Minivan In The Game Of Life?

  1. Why don’t you find yourself a nice man to marry? If they’re not in church, look elsewhere. There are many ladies in churches who have husbands that never bother attending. You can’t have it all.

    • Francis – as true as that may be, I personally would rather stay single than try to join my life with someone who doesn’t believe what I do and can share all parts of life with me, esp church. My faith is what I base all of my other life decisions on, and so I would say that for me at least, not having a fellow believer as a husband would really strain that relationship and not allow it to be as intimate as it could be…

      • I respect your opinion Holly. If you would rather be single than compromise, or you are confident that you will find a church-going husband, then feel free to disregard my view.

        If some of you would honestly rather be married to a non-churchgoer than remain forever unmarried then you must be open to finding a marriage partner outside the church.

      • Francis, it’s not simply about finding someone who wants to go to church. If that was all it was about, it might be quite reasonable. After all, maybe he goes to hockey and she doesn’t, or she goes to knitting group and he doesn’t. All couples have different hobbies and interests.

        For a Christian, their relationship with God is much more foundational than simply going to church on Sunday. The New Testament uses the concept of spiritual rebirth to describe what a fundamental change it is. Speaking as a Christian, my relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life and determines all of my choices. Trying to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand or share that is impossible.

        The Bible uses the term “unequally yoked” of such relationships to vividly picture the reality of two people who are tied together, yet pulling in different directions. Such a union makes for misery at best. I, too, know that it is better to remain single than to try to share my life with someone who is on a totally different page spiritually. And I say that as someone who had a relationship with a non-Christian, which was honestly the biggest mistake of my life.

        I hope that goes some way toward explaining what I and Holly are trying to say (and the viewpoint of the author of this blog).

  2. Another awesome post, Kate. I have to admit that I love cats and have one; so that Old Maid stereotype always cuts a little too close. 🙂 I do remember as a kid hoping to be a wife and a mother. I think this point of view was framed less by games and more by Barbie with whom I was fascinated. And, in some ways Barbie who is everything to everyone probably also framed my ideas of what life should be like–an endless stream of successes, large houses, pink corvettes and handsome Kens. I’ve always felt I should have more than I do—I can’t blame a plastic toy for my sense of entitlement but I can look hard at *why* I feel the path to happiness is a big Pottery Barn house, a large SUV, my own handsome Ken and 2.5 children. I think that is why I love this blog. It allows me to be honest, as you are being honest, with where I am at in life and my own expectations. It makes me feel better to know I’m not alone in feeling sad about being 38 and single with no children. Despite those hard topics, I also am addicted to your hopeful voice in the blog. Your love of Jesus and people resonates in your posts and it always fills me with a larger sense of purpose and inspiration to share. Thank you, Kate!

  3. Hi Kate,

    I loved the analogy to old maid (we do call it that here in England by the way) I’m often found crocheting in an evening…and I’m secretly on the look out for a rocking chair! I definitely feel like I’m stuck at the beginning of the game, I’ve just been invited the wedding of one of my former youth group members and its made me realise how quickly time is passing.

    I don’t really have memories from games that make me feel like marriage is an essential, but definitely do from books and TV. It seems like every book/film/tv show I remember fondly has at its core either a search for a partner or a traditional family unit. Apart from Mary Poppins of course…and guess what my nickname is from the kids I babysit for?!(and their parents!) I do worry that is who I will be characterised as for the rest of my life.

    Thanks for making me feel less alone in this, as I’m the only “young” unmarried at church, the rest are 60ish widows/divorcees.


  4. This was such a good post!! I laughed out loud. Great job, as usual, Kate. I feel like this a lot of the time, like people have moved past me into a different space on the board and now we can’t be as good friends. It’s tough. This was hilarious, though. Way to point out where some of these subconscious expectations come from!

  5. I love to knit, and recently I started learning how to spin yarn on a drop spindle. While reading, I came across the origin of “spinster,” and I’ll admit it made me a little nervous. I’m only twenty-one, but I’m single and I’m the girl who’s more likely to spend the weekends at home watching old movies and knitting/spinning rather than being out and about. =) {I also love cats…should I be worried here?}

    And it’s funny how kids already have an expectation of marriage. My little cousins who I babysit often ask me when I’m getting married and who I’ll be marrying and somehow think that my younger brother is older than me just because he married first (at 19).

  6. I love to knit, and recently I started learning how to spin yarn on a drop spindle. While reading, I came across the origin of “spinster,” and I’ll admit it made me a little nervous. I’m only twenty-one, but I’m single and I’m the girl who’s more likely to spend the weekends at home watching old movies and knitting/spinning rather than being out and about. =) {I also love cats…should I be worried here?}

    And it’s funny how kids already have an expectation of marriage. My little cousins who I babysit often ask me when I’m getting married and who I’ll be marrying and somehow think that my younger brother is older than me just because he married first (at 19).

  7. I love this! I definitely had that feeling playing The Game of Life growing up. I also remember not always liking having to have children in the game haha I can’t remember anything else currently from my childhood, but members of my family (namely my grandmothers and great grandmothers) tell me to this day that I’m a child until I get married. Good times 🙂

  8. My ten year old* nephew called me a loser a few weeks ago on a skype chat. I should not get too upset by such a comment, i mean after all I’m an adult and he is ten. A few days later my six year old niece was telling me her brother was being mean to her, telling her he didn’t have a sister and acting like he didn’t know who she was. So I told her that he was also mean to me and called me a loser. She told me I am the extreme opposite of that. (She also told me her number one talent is being nice). I absolutely love her number one talent, and I appreciate that she finds me to be “the extreme opposite of a loser”, however part of me actually fears she just hasn’t realized it yet. The only way for one to insure they are not a “loser” is to win. The question then becomes, “How do we define winning in the game of Life?”

  9. As a child, I simply assumed I’d grow up, get married, and have kids. After all, that’s what everyone did. It’s what being an adult meant.

    However, my family was extremely dysfunctional and abusive, and at about age 14, out of disillusionment and anger, I vowed I’d never get married. I insisted through my early 20s that I’d rather remain single (despite having a few disastrous relationships). In my mid to late 20s I finally started admitting that this “desire” came out of a reactionary place of pain, not a healthy commitment to God as I liked to mask it.

    It’s only at age 32 (after a few more disastrous relationships) that I have finally both owned up to a desire for marriage (but not kids), and also come to a place where I am truly ok without a relationship. I’m striving to be even more grounded in this place because it’s a place of freedom. I know that’s a bit of a meandering reply, but yes, as a child I certainly got the message that I’d grow up, get married, and have kids, because that’s what “everyone” did.

  10. Loved this post – my previous roommate made the best comment to me when I was talking to her about how “behind” I was feeling as so many people that I went to high school and elementary school were getting married and having kids. She said to me “It’s okay, it’s not like the game of life where you are actually behind” – And she’s right, I’m not stopped at the second stop sign on the board game unable to continue on with my life — but I would love it if the people around me would realize that marriage isn’t the goal in life, but that we can actually be happy and fulfilled married or single.

  11. For me, it’s a recliner instead of a rocking chair. I love cats, but I think I could only have two at a time. Also, I don’t knit; I cross-stitch.

    This season has been particularly tough for me. I’m about to graduate from pharmacy school, and a number of my friends (both in the church and out) are getting married within the next six months. I don’t have any prospective relationships, and I haven’t even dated anyone more than once in about nine years. This isn’t a personal choice; I’m just not that attractive, I guess…

    Anyway, I always thought I’d get married when I was a little kid too. For me, it was Disney movies. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, even Robin Hood ends with a wedding. I assumed that’s what everyone did. Then my parents divorced when I was in high school, and everything went to crap.

    Sometimes, I lie awake at night and wonder what’s wrong with me. I’d love to have a relationship with someone, but I guess it’s just not in the cards now.

  12. Another great post, Kate. It’s SO hard in this world. I always thought I would meet someone in college and marry them, just like my mom. 10 years later . . . I’m still waiting.

  13. I just got around to reading this post, and it’s so interesting to read it today as I just finished answering a question for grad school about stages of adult development. I really struggled with them all because they say the goal of your 20’s is to build intimacy and start a family – then in your 30’s you move on to other things. I’m sitting there going, “But what about me??” A few months away from 30 and no man in sight! Does that mean I”m stuck and can’t continue developing? I don’t think so at all, but this is just another example of ways that we’re “taught” that marriage is a “requirement” for moving on in life.

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