Written by Grace Curtis.
Art by Bárbara Fonseca.
There are games that stretch beyond the mists of time: contests of strength and skill so embedded in our consciousness that we wonder if we ever lived without them. The sprints of the Olympians. The board games of ancient China. Mud wrestling (that shit never gets old).
One of the greatest and most enduring of these games is “Never Have I Ever.” The premise is simple. The group members sit in the drunken approximation of a circle, each holding a drink. They take it in turns describing some kind of act, e.g. “Never have I ever skinny dipped in a paddling pool.” Participants who have never ever done the activity are safe, but if you have lowered yourself stark naked into half a foot of lukewarm water on a sweet summer’s evening, you are obliged to take a sip of whatever you’re holding. As the players get more inebriated, the activities become more and more outrageous. Like all drinking games the goal is to lose, and the best way to lose is to be a committed hedonist of the highest order.
For most people, this is harmless fun. But if you’re a celibate – voluntarily, involuntarily, or somewhere in between – it might leave you feeling like an earthworm on a hot pavement. Fear not! Here’s four simple steps to avoid humiliation and get through the night:
Attention is the last thing you want. So prepare a statement that targets someone else.
Step One: Keep Smiling!
Just because you don’t get the joke doesn’t mean you can’t have a laugh. On the contrary, staying quiet will make you stick out like a sore thumb. So laugh – but not too hard, or else you’ll look crazy. Find the perfect balance with a wry, knowing chuckle. (You can practice in a mirror beforehand.)
Step Two: Deflect!
Sooner or later the buck will be passed to you. This is bad news, obviously. Attention is the last thing you want. So prepare a statement that targets someone else. Heard an outrageous rumour about another player? Bring it up! If you don’t know any specific stories, just cast a wide net. Someone there will have had a regrettable threesome, or gotten laid in the back of a car. It’s just a matter of discovering who.
Step Three: Disappear!
There are lots of easy ways to vanish in a crowded room. Find a seating position that places you off-centre from the main circle. Avoid direct eye contact whenever possible. Keep your phone in your hands at all times, ideally open on Messenger. Scrolling Twitter or Instagram suggests social disengagement, but texting friends suggests social encumberment, like you’re in two places at once. That gives you permission to be half not here.
Step Four: Literally leave the room
Step four is only to be taken in the rare event that Steps One through Four leave you with unfortunate side effects. You may find that the muscles in your face start to feel stiff and alien. The music may grow steadily louder, pounding in time to the headache you’ve given yourself from swilling cheap beer all evening. You may grow resentful of the other players for not noticing you, even though you’re doing everything you can not to be noticed. You may convince yourself that you are somehow more interesting, more controlled, more enlightened than all these boring, normal people.
The idea that sex is the ocean that all rivers run to; that even if you think you’re walking away, you’re walking towards it, because you don’t really want what you think you want. It’s insulting.
This is a fallacy. There are no normal people.
You might recall the words of a boy who once told you that everything is about sex. He said that all of human society is predicated around a desire for sex, and everything we do – politics, education, art – is all just a roundabout way of getting laid. Looking back you may find yourself bitter that you did not have the vocabulary to combat your own erasure beyond “That’s stupid.” Even worse, the argument itself proves his point: he was trying to sleep with you at the time.
You hate this idea more than you can say. The idea that sex is the ocean that all rivers run to; that even if you think you’re walking away, you’re walking towards it, because you don’t really want what you think you want. It’s insulting. You’d rather be defective.
Are you defective?
The game will have ended while you were zoning out. Someone might say, hey, we’re going to smoke in the garden, wanna come?
Go with them, even though you don’t smoke, because it’s quiet out there, and the fresh air is nice. You might find a chipped mug under the sink and fill it with tap water to try and combat the headache. Try sitting on a bench and letting your eyes slip out of focus while you look at the moon. Say what a nice night it is. If someone agrees with you, talk to them. Ask a question and listen to the answer. If they ask you one back, answer honestly. Listen to the words that come out of your mouth, with surprise, or maybe delight. Watch their reaction. Hear their response. Process it. Offer an alternative.
If a song comes on in the house that you love, stand up and declare your love out loud. Indicate to the person you’ve been talking to that you’d like to dance with them. If they agree, take their hand and go inside. If they don’t, go inside anyway. Slip into the throng and close your eyes. Dance with your whole body. Dance like a moron.
You can repeat this step for as long as you like.
About the Author
Grace Curtis is an Edinburgh based writer who enjoys creating subversive works of fiction and non-fiction alike. She’s got a mean streak and a heart of gold. You can find more of her work via Instagram, including the explosively silly webcomic SUPERFREAKZ, of which she is the author.