There is a game that has always confused me. It was, I think, a game sometimes played by my parents ... at least, I have seen them do it since I got old enough to figure it out, and I think they did it when I was a child. Lots of people play this game. And it always, always confuses me. It acts like a kryptonite to my superpowers. It's water on my electrical circuitry. Sudden ejection into the vacuum of space, where I can neither breathe nor get any sort of traction.
Now, I am not an unintelligent woman. My I.Q. is not at genius level - but I can see that level from here, and I can shake hands with it sometimes. And normally, I am a pretty proficient translator and, normally, I know what people want when they're talking to me. And normally they know what I mean when I talk to them. But, my knowing and their knowing is predicated on one thing, and it is a thing I have to have.
I have to have a basic level of honesty.
No, wait. It's not "honesty" - that's not the right word. The thing I need is a kind of shared intention, maybe? Frank declarations of intention. It's similar to honesty. But it's ... um ... it feels like I can sense a kind of undercurrent, but I am being kind of blocked - or - baited. There's a kind of test. Whatever. I don't get it, so it's not surprising that I can't name it.
It's like some kind of birth defect or disability or something. Teasing, I get. Humor - especially of the Sir Humphrey variety - this, I understand. Complicated arguments? Intricate reasoning? Yeah. Okay. I can follow that. Emotions? Yes. I feel those - yours, mine, theirs, ours - yeah. I get the emotions. I can follow directions, get clarification, and provide further details. I can work beside you in a project, and work as either subordinate or supervisor.
All of these things I can do, but one thing I cannot do.
I cannot play Gotcha.
And I have discovered an interesting fact. Whereas in ordinary, normal, everyday communion with other people, the confession of a weakness brings a response of pity and accommodation, the confession that I cannot and do not play Gotcha tends to bring on an intensification of the game.
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you - I'm a little deaf in one ear. Could you turn this way? I need to see your face."
"Oh, certainly! I'm sorry. Here. Is this better?"
That's normal. That's ordinary human kindness.
But, if I say ... "I'm serious. Is that true?"
Or if I try to clarify ... "I didn't say that."
The response with some people then - if I say that I don't understand - that I need understanding - then there is a flash of something. It's a tone of voice - a slight ramping up. There is a note of victory in it. The person has successfully concealed something. There was something I missed. Ha ha! There! Think you're so smart, think you know so much ... you didn't know THAT, did you?
No. I didn't know that. You didn't say that.
And I find myself without oxygen. Without synapses or nerves.
Today I started putting something together about all of this. If a person is willing to suddenly and dramatically reveal the hidden thing as proof -- of ... proof of what? It's a superiority of some sort. The other person feels power of some sort. Anyway, if a person feels that moment as power - if the hiding of an agenda feels like power - then my confession of ignorance is tantamount to some kind of reward. It will only encourage the slightly cruel, always nasty little power game if I say I don't know how to play it.
And that makes such a person just slightly dangerous for me. I think there are people who can see this sort of thing a mile off, and they aren't bothered by it. The malicious little game of Gotcha seems stupid to these folks, and they just blow off the people who try to play it. I never see it coming. Like that game of Hand-Slap, only played between a little kid and a much, much bigger one.
Somehow the person who loves to play Gotcha is simply incapable of comprehending that other people are seriously uninterested in playing. "'fraid you'll lose?" That is the conclusion these people come to. The person who doesn't want to play is simply a sore loser. Equally power hungry (everyone is, right?), but not strong enough against such a powerhouse of a Gotcha champion.
I certainly have plenty of my own failings, sins, and temptations, and I am not saying that I'm "better" than that. But I really can't play. A friend reminded me this week that no one has the obligation to volunteer for abuse. I wonder if I'll ever be able to figure out that I've been suckered into another game -- and figure it out before I get slapped. At least I've finally figure out that it doesn't do any good to stand around and talk about it.