We may not know this at the time but the games we play as children are secretly life-long lessons and guidelines used to endure the sobering realities of this brand new playground called adulthood. Hop-sctoch, Hide and Seek, Snakes and Ladders. Some are more underlying than others, and while the main purpose of play is to have fun, it also teaches us about competitiveness, outcomes and disappointments; endurance, expectations and goals; strategy, what it's like to be a team player and being sporting enough to take on any challenge, regardless of whether you win or lose.
Whilst summer vacationing with Charlotte at a holiday resort in Pinnacle Point, I was forced to face one of my biggest fears: families and the evil spawn they unleash upon the world. As if getting into a bikini at the height of the festive weight-gain season and stepping out into the harsh UV rays of the sweltering African sun without sunblock wasn't bad enough, I was forced to share the air with kamikaze midgets, dive bombers and walking, breathing brat dolls, some of whom seemed way too mature for their age. I'm sure the maternal gene was buried somewhere deep inside, but when the travel agent that booked your holiday uses the word "private" instead of "communal", I couldn't help but wrap myself in a red sarong and dose up on Urbanol infused with Sauvignon Blanc!
As I observed these relentless terrors running amok and having the time of their uncomplicated, irresponsible lives, I found myself inspired by a game they'd been playing for the past hour and a half. It seemed like an aquatic version of on-on, requiring one person to find the other without the use of vision. While the name and nature of the game reminded me of a three way I once had in Little Italy, Marco-Polo reminded me of another game we humans like to play throughout our lives. It's called The Never Ending Search For Love...
Just like this charming little past time, Marco-Polo requires a minimum of two players, one more willing than the other to throw themselves blindly into the deep until they find that special someone to call "it". While some people find their perfect catch first time, others find it difficult to keep their head above the water. Drowned by thoughts of dying alone, they often latch onto the first person that screams "Polo", thinking they've won victoriously, when in actual fact, they've only lost to the pressures that come with being thirty-several and single.
"I'm not picky, bitch. I just refuse to settle for anything less than what I deserve." Charlotte was borderline 32 and the only remaining single amidst a closely-knit circle of friends. She's been set up, hung up, stood up, beat up and still manages to muster the strength and stamina to keep going for gold. To any other girl, the pressure of not having a boyfriend or potential fiancee would have sent her flying into the arms of the nearest available, semi-decent neanderthal, but fortunately for Charlotte, she had the composure of a self-medicated psych patient. She knew her time would come, and when it did, it would most likely strike like lightning.
"When you finally find someone to share the rest of your life with, you kind of have to be in it to win. It's the only kind of love worth having. Champion love. I see so many girls my age settling with guys that make them feel miserable and unfulfilled, just for the sake of having someone with a pulse." Are we perhaps giving up on the idea of the ideal man a little too soon? Is settling down with any old guy an irrational decision we make based on fear? Are we so petrified to lose out on love, that we'd rather end up crossing the finish line with someone that we aren't that passionate about? And what about those of us who never find "it"? Do we keep circling round pools of desperation until someone eventually screams "Polo" or should we just keep swimming?
Life's all about fun and games when you're young, pretty and reckless, but when you start reaching a certain prime and the pressure to find a partner (any partner) starts taking its toll, it's probably best to grow the fuck up. Why settle just because society expects you to marry and procreate within a certain time frame and if you think about, do we ever really die alone? True, love is blinder than an old bat on crack and at most times exceptionally unreliable, but if you listen with your heart and hear with your soul, then holding out for that special one will probably be the best decision you ever make.
When it comes to finding love in a sea of endless possibility...Marco? Polo?