When I was a little kid, my best friend Liz and I would sit at my mom’s kitchen table eating tuna fish sandwiches and playing MASH. It drove my mom crazy. We pored over scraps and notebooks with a black pen, a pink highlighter, and the concentration usually reserved for working on our sticker books. We looked like miniature businesswomen, and we took the paperwork very seriously.
MASH, as we played it, stood for mansion, apartment, shack, and house. One of us would start drawing a fast series of pen strokes, and the other would say stop. After a meticulous count of the pen strokes, we would use that number to wind around the square MASH board, crossing off the maybes of life across four categories. Aside from the nature of our future homes, the three other categories included our future husbands, how many kids we would have, and where we would live. These were extremely important issues for us 9-year-olds to consider.
Just like the mansion, apartment, shack, and house choices, for each category you received one awesome option, two perfectly satisfactory options, and one horrendous “oh my god eeeeeewww” option. For example:
-Tim, the super-cute boy in Mrs. Madison’s class
-Mark, the funny kid who lived up the street
-Joshua, your friend’s older brother
-Chris, the ugly boy who smelled like bologna
-Your own private beach in Hawaii
-The bright lights of New York City
-Fireflies and quiet in the country
-Cold and dreary in Antarctica
I wish I had those papers. Tim turned into a drug dealer, Mark is now gay and Josh joined the Navy. No one ever heard from the little boy who so unfortunately smelled like bologna. It’s also amazing to me now that a private beach in Hawaii was considered the greatest place to live, trumping New York and the country in our naive, pony-tailed heads. And, in retrospect, the option of having zero children is maybe, in some circles, sadder than having 20.
Of course, neither Liz nor I married anyone mentioned in our games of MASH, but we did both end up—childless, thus far—in apartments located in New York City. She met her husband in college, and I moved in with the boyfriend I met through mutual friends. Although these two categories are set (for now, anyway), I would love to play MASH with Liz again. I will make tuna fish sandwiches—and martinis—and spread out papers on my kitchen table. Armed with a black pen and a pink highlighter, I will skip around the categories, crossing out maybes until our lives are set.
Needless to say, I would add a few more categories.
-You’ve got a clean bill of health and you look great naked. You don’t need to go to the gym, as you were blessed with a high-speed metabolism.
-Your doctor suggests you hit the gym more often because you really need to lose ten pounds.
-You try to quit smoking every month because your skin is lined and your nails are yellow and you smell pretty disgusting.
-You got warts in college and they never went away. Also, you have really saggy tits.
-You’re an award-winning, best-selling, well-to-do novelist who only socializes with the beautiful people. Your last two books were turned into movies that starred yourself.
-You’re an up-and-coming journalist and freelance writer who often gets invited to cocktail parties under the assumption you will write nice things about products in widely read publications.
-You’re a fact-checker for a publishing house that produces high school textbooks. They won’t give you business cards.
-You’re borrowing money from friends because you haven’t had a steady job in six months. No one wants to be rude, but your résumé is awful.
-You’ve found your soulmate. You complete each other’s sentences, and have mind-blowing sex — you have never once faked an orgasm.
-Although you’re still single, you’re having one hell of a time playing the field and leaving a trail of lovelorn men in your wake.
-You’re in a nice relationship with a good man who treats you well. He has a habit of forgetting important dates, like your birthday.
-No one loves you. Your family assumes you will die alone. You consider getting a cat.
-You’re so rich you own multiple apartments in lower Manhattan. You have a car service. You are fancy.
-You shop at Pottery Barn, you live comfortably, and you’re saving up for a big monthlong trip to Europe.
-Your apartment is furnished by Ikea until you pay down all your student loans.
-You’re so broke you tried to pay your rent in coupons.
-If and when you feel like accomplishing something, you spend ten minutes on your laptop at home.
-You have flexible hours, but you’re tethered to a BlackBerry.
-Workin’ nine-to-five, girlfriend.
-You’re up at the crack of dawn and home in time for “The Daily Show.” Sleep? What’s that?
-You’re so popular, you’ve become a mainstay of Page 6.
-You have a close, solid circle of friends. You’re such a Charlotte.
-You’re the life of the party, but you never have enough time to establish long-term friendships.
-Your mom is your best friend. No one else can stand you.