I announced boldly, with bravado in my voice and an overbearing victory grin that stretched from ear to ear across my face, a proverbial Cheshire cat. The thrill of victory*.
My playing mates, stunned at the sudden end of the game and annoyed at my over-the-top declaration, offered thinly veiled congratulations. The agony of defeat*.
But, to the victor go the spoils. And so they did, starting with high-fives, not once, but twice from our normally staid instructor herself, disregarding all rules of decorum. The air was heavy with envy.
My inner narcissist was soaking up the spotlight, as she unabashedly gloated over her student, me, winning on a ‘closed hand’, with no jokers, a 50 pointer, to boot. Together, we were gitty, sportsmanship be-damned, as the class looked on with slumping shoulders and narrowing eyes. For a moment, I thought we might celebrate with a leaping chest bump, the ultimate alpha male celebratory gesture. But, I doubted either one of us could leap, and why risk cracked ribs at our age?
Finally, the trophy, a reach into the grab bag of prizes. Yummy, Craisinettes! As I raised them overhead, I thought, “this is my Stanley Cup moment”, finishing Mah-jongg class with a stunning win, the teacher’s pet, and a box of Craisinettes. Life is good!
Winning is exhausting. Losing is, well, losing…
Mah-jongg, from the Chinese, is an intricate game that challenges your capacity to remember, identify, strategize and capitalize, in other words, it’s a thinking person’s game. There’s no running, hitting or throwing. Swearing, if at all, is under your breath. Drinking and smoking is tabu. And the stakes are low. But, like any contest, there is tension, anxiety and a bit of stress to keep you alert..
With Bams and Craks, Dots and Soaps, Jokers and Dragons, players pick and place, discard and call, mix and match tiles, thirteen each, in various combinations based on instructions from a ‘master card’. When a match is made to one of the 51 patterns on the card, the game is over and you have a winner.
If you like ‘thinking’ games and victory celebrations, then you’ll like Mah-jongg. And don’t be fooled by the transparent accolades when you win. No one really wants the game to end until they end it with their own shout out …
Dedicated to a wonderful Mah-jongg instructor with a big sense of humor, Linda Dinino.
“The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat”
(Wide World of Sports, ABC)