Nearly every year during the holidays, someone in our house makes the mistake of buying a Family Game 

Fun and Games

Fun and Games

In theory, it's a good idea. A very good idea. We are a big family, after all, and we love any excuse to spend time together. What better way to keep that Team Ferrier spirit going the week after Christmas than with a few (thousand) rounds of Uno Attack? Or several (hundred) hours of Scene It? on Xbox? Or Cranium! Everybody loves Cranium!

Yet strangely, Family Game Time always ends badly. Once, my father-in-law accused me of cheating at Pictionary and I burst into tears. Another year, someone who may or may not have been me turned over the board in a blind rage during a very unfair game of Sorry! And then there was the time a few years ago, when one of my stepdaughters decided to bring home Scattergories.

Of course, when we first started playing, Scattergories seemed fun. All Family Games do — that's part of their insidious charm. We proceeded to play it every evening the week after Christmas, often late into the night. By the end of the week, we had become Scattergories addicts, jonesing for rounds like they were vials of heroin.

"Just one more," I said hoarsely after what must have been our 6,759th game. It was midnight on Friday and I hadn't moved in four hours. Our two smallest Ferriers had ended up putting themselves to bed.

"Yeah," my bloodshot-eyed 17-year-old agreed. "One more round, Dad, come on."

Hubs looked leery. He had already agreed to get up with our early-rising son. But he was caught, as we were, in Scattergories' evil clutches, and clearly had become yet another pawn in the Scattergories Strategy to Take Over the World, One Player at a Time.™

"OK," he said quickly, and another round began. Scattergories has a very simple premise: A letter die is rolled and players have a limited amount of time to fill out a list of categories with words beginning with that letter. My stepdaughter rolled a T and we all got busy coming up with appropriate T-words. When our time was up, we went around the table comparing notes.

"Transylvania," I said triumphantly when it was my turn to announce an answer for the category "Foreign Countries." The girls nodded.

"That's not a country," Hubs said dismissively.

"What? Yes it is!" I blustered. "Count Dracula! Hel-LO!"

"It's a province of Romania," Hubs said. "A province."

"No it's not," I scowled.

"Yes it is."

"It's not."

"I'm an expert on Count Dracula," Hubs announced. I stared at him in surprise. He had never mentioned this before.

"Oh, really?"

"Yes," he said, dead serious. "I've read first-person accounts, seen documentation. Transylvania is a province."

Documentation? That did it. My so-called "family" took a vote. Transylvania was out.

"Loser," I whispered darkly, but after that I made a valiant effort to let it go. I was going have to live with this "loser" for the rest of my life, so I might as well make the best of it. A few minutes later, though, he challenged my answer of "Lapdancers" in the category of "Villains/Monsters," and that was just too much to take.

"Why are the police always trying to shut them down, then?" I demanded belligerently. "Because lapdancers are monstrous, that's why! It is so obvious!" Unimpressed, Hubs led another successful effort to vote me down. "Fools," I muttered under my breath, crossing out the point I had added on my score sheet. I looked over at Hubs and noted his smirk. Was this really the man I had married? This man who apparently studied documentation on Transylvania in his spare time, and didn't think lapdancers were villains? My eyes narrowed with steely resolve. It was time to fight fire with fire.

The next few rounds, I disputed everything of his that I could, leading thumbs-down votes on everything from his answer of "Music box" ("That's not an instrument!" I howled derisively), to his claim that "Babs" was a term of endearment. Once, a long, long time ago, I had tried to give this man I loved the benefit of the doubt, but on that fateful night, the sentimentalities we had exchanged over the years evaporated in a toxic cloud of outrage. Where Scattergories was concerned, I would show him no mercy.

By the end of the game, it was clear my husband wouldn't be winning as long as I was around to prevent it. He frowned as he looked at his scorecard, then put on a bright fake grin for the girls' sake while I did my traditional and highly annoying Winner's Dance beside the kitchen table. We decided, finally, to quit for the night, and as we got up from the table, Hubs and I reluctantly smiled at each other.

"Here's to togetherness," I said warmly, opening my arms. As we hugged, I put my lips to his ear.

"Asshole," I whispered.

"Bitch," he whispered back.

Hand in hand, we went upstairs to bed.

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