Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Strategic Acts of Humour, Stupidity, and Love - Pt 1

Flaming out in the talent component yet again, he can hear his mother: 
"Dudley, use your words". That's it. He will rock the oratory tomorrow.

This is a tale of intrigue and cunning, A story of a centuries-old  sport played by royals, rogues, and Rasmussens. It's a game where the rules, (if you can call them that),are fabricated by the players. And oddly enough, involve pursuing their masters who seem to be increasingly venerated the longer the game is played.

Just who is the target of this pursuit? Your mom of course. The one who knows there is something up with you before you know there is something up with you. Your mom - One of the few in your life that thinks it’s quite all right for you to call with nothing to say - but of course will know you have something to say before you say it :-)  Mom... she will not lie to you - but she will not necessarily tell the truth either.

What is at stake here in this game? We hope nothing, but minimally the coveted  designation of favorite son. Anything else? A T-shirt?? A reality TV show contract? Nope. Only a barrel full of contradictions. Try some of these on for size. Warning, understanding the parameters of the game may require your most lateral thinking and general  outside-the--ed-ness you can muster.  For Starters:
  • Any self-respecting mom worthy of the role, would never designate a favourite son or daughter in any situation.
  • The game will never be called. If played properly, according to the, non rules, it will be permanently into extra innings, over time, i.e., like the movie Groundhog Day. Why, you say? Well, I think we'd all agree that even if they could, they would  not name a favourite, as they have no motivation to. My mom has six Santas on the hook right now. There is nothing that would motivate her to designate a favourite son which would effectively cut her down from 6 Santas to 1.  
  • The game has no rules. The game, if played properly - will be guided by no rules of play. It would truly seem to be a game made by Rasmussen’s for Rasmussen’s.
  • We really don't like mom getting "into" the game too much. We don't mind her "playing" the game, but we really don't want her to be a "player".  

One last item before you move on to some real-life examples. Hang in there, it's about to get a little murkier in here :-) I know you'd love to play a game where the goal posts keep moving, where you are never sure if you scored for your team or the other, or even how to score. I know this is hard to digest, but when you're dealing with a game where the referee is sitting in the stands, getting a ruling can be a little difficult.

It's not that complicated though. Positive events connected to either you or your close family generate credits for your account. If your younger brother made the cut in the Maclean's magazine 20 Socially Irrelevant Bloggers in the Southwest Calgary Community of Evergreen we would never know for sure, but my hunch is that your brother would take a considerable leap in the standings Always remember, the importance of prestige of an event is always in your mother's eyes, not yours.

Events or accomplishments that debit your account, are typically more rare as most people have cleansed themselves of youthful indiscretions long ago.  The typical debit event can be described as a youthful indiscretion, likely involving testosterone, bucket loads of stupidity, and a gasoline engine. Later in life these types of events can still occur but the circumstances are often dramatically different, as they now typically involve much less testosterone, (possibly estrogen), more stupidity, and often a more efficient hybrid engine.  

If something way back in that pea-size cranium gives you a moment of pause and reflection before acting, or causes you to pull your dogeared copy of the pocket criminal code, it is more often a naucent debit event. For example, if after failing to meet the stringent grandchild production  quota, you submit  your border collie/Husky Cross as a suitable replacement, the penalty will be swift and painful.

Residuals (debit or credit) are paid theoretically as long as the event continues to produce an effect. So if Mom is still having nightmares years after that night you went to the "library" and stayed out all night without calling - yes indeed, you will continue to pay the price. On the flipside, as long as mom continues to tell the story of your cross Canada bike trip, you will continue to see the points  trickling in.

Enough of the theory, let's move to some real life examples. All of the following are true stories taken from the archives of the Rasmussen family library. If you aspire to play this game at a high level, examine these case studies carefully. I will offer some pointed observations and analysis following each. As we go through, to try and keep in mind the motivations and aspirations of both the sons and their mom.

One more thing,  my brothers seem to enjoy their privacy. I will maintain that with this blog entry as well. I have given them nicknames as follows: from youngest to oldest: Feral, "Funny Boy", Doc, Dudley, and Ricardo. In addition, I may refer to the entire group As "The FIRM".

It’s A Different Kind Of Sweet

Where does dad fit into all of this? Rough around the edges, My late father  did have a warm side but  as they say, it was just not that "accessible". Suffice to say, that if the two of them were honey, Mom would be pourable sweet golden nectar, while dad would be the the spoon bending pail of concrete with the white crust on top. Ten wrist aching strokes later you found yourself staring at 10 paper-thin slivers. Now if you were a young lad looking for a quick and easy sweet topping for your Wonder Bread, which would you approach first??

Nothing says "Mom, I'm desperate for points" more than…

Mom and I met at the south entrance to the pool deck and she wanted to “walk the red carpet” together to her aqua fit class at the far end.
“Mom, I’m desperate for points.”
“What’s this one worth?” (No answer)
"Seriously, I'm hurting. The residuals from my bike trip are fading fast."
" Blair, you sound like "Funny Boy".
She displayed her annoyance as we approached the Aquafit group in the corner and whispered:
“Blair, suck your gut in. - Are you skipping workouts again?”

As far as the standings were concerned, performing at the Y seemed to be a zero sum game. Everyone knew it would be suicide in the standings to not go so going was just the default. All except her eldest. Who held off for the longest time and then finally went.  I think Ricardo was given some accommodation for his age being closer to many of the octogenarians than the rest of his brothers.

Note that mom does let her guard down here revealing that she may be playing the game with more than one of us. Could she be working the pockets of the entire field? I.e., was she employing a "Ben Johnson" strategy? That as long as everyone was hoodwinking everyone  equally, she could justify it morally.  Could it be so? To heck with a double agent. Could mom be making the rounds to all six boys with the same message - that they are her favourite? Could she be a sextuple agent???

The Mother Lode?

You are never certain exactly how many points are garnered for any given mission but I'm guessing my decision to scour the wheatfields of Manitoba for a bride of good prairie stock may have hit the mother lode for points received, Mom admired her solid moral fiber and thrift, adding that she was a breath of fresh air as compared to those " uppitty dames from the east." I was pleased that her practical skills were as advertised, and that she could spell me off driving the wagon west to settle in Calgary.

It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of having a great life partner to help fight this battle with. Like the other Rasmussen men, I was just barely smart enough to realize that I was not  the sharpest knife in the block - but as long as I married the sharpest knife in the block all would  be OK. A trusted advisor is a great asset to have when it comes to competition strategy.  My wife does remind me however that's she sees her main role as being less of an adviser, more of a parole officer. Her central role being to basically "keep me from doing "stupid shit" that could either affect my health or my place in the standings.

Not Strapping Enough to Save His Hide

It was the summer of 1979. I was a strapping young 17-year-old who was training with the National  Rowing Team for the World Juniors in Moscow that August. Either by design, or by necessity, Mom and Dad thought it was time to test my wings and they left me alone for the week with their 75 Dodge Dart. I was pleased with receiving the vote of confidence in me as the only previous responsibilities  were when mom and dad had asked me to keep an eye on Ricardo our eldest brother.

The tumult began on day two. I took Feral my younger brother camping about an hour away. At the campground I proceeded in short time to have two accidents in the span of about 15 minutes. I will spare you the details that might illuminate the true depth of my youthful stupidity. I know, I know. You're all wondering the same thing. If I was such a strapping young 17-year-old boy, what the heck was I doing with my baby brother  on a holiday weekend? That is for another time, and I might mention will be answered in a future blog entry: "Large Families, adolescent development, and sleeping four kids to a room long past the point where you would tell your buddies at school."

Calling dad was one of the toughest phone calls I have ever had to make. He was so angry that we barely talked for weeks - a freeze-out only exceeded by brother “Funny Boy's" Cuba-like treatment following his tumbling routine with the family wagon). Rumours that dad severed all diplomatic ties were for the most part, true. However for our forever maternal emissary quickly stepped in and helped maintain a functional level of communication until the honey softened.

While this incident might have had the potential to keep me in the cellar for an extended period, I suspected in the end it was zero sum game. Most surprising, indeed. I benefited from "compensatory favouritism". This often happens when one spouse has overreacted, ultimately dealing in an unfair fashion. The end result is the other acting in a overtly positive manner in order to nullify the negative effects of the first spouse.

Those are just a few snippets of how the Rasmussens play the game. You think you know enough to take us on? Those are just a few of the anecdotes, nowhere near enough ammo to take on the big boys. I will be back in the bit with part two where we examine some more refined techniques and clarify just exactly what Mom's culpability in this game is.

See you in a few days…

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