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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Push-up Monopoly and The Five Stages of Donald Trump

I grew up without any siblings or cousins, the sole child in an adult world. Now that I’m married, I’m surrounded by adults who act like children. I suppose it’s no different for most families. You get around the people you grew up with, and you never grew up at all. I see it all the time at Monty’s family get-togethers, which usually include some weird competition involving foosball, water polo, food tasting, or some other sort of tug-of-war, which often ends in middle-aged man injuries.

The most intense rivalry is between Monty and his cousin, Ted. They’re both the older siblings, both went to top-tier universities, and both are set on proving their superiority. They also attended the same high school, but Ted was a year younger and Monty was always ahead. So I think it’s fair to say that Ted is the one who ignites this cousinly competition, but Monty rarely turns the other cheek. It’s just not his nature.

For example, last week was Spring Break and Ted and his family were in town. We had everyone over for a big family meal and afterwards people decided to play Monopoly. Ted loves real estate as much as Donald Trump loves real estate, so it was a point of honor for him to win. When Robin, Ted’s younger sister, landed on Tennessee Avenue (the last orange property that Ted needed for a Monopoly) Ted convinced her to trade it for two railroads and one of the light blues, of which Robin had the other two.

“Don’t do it, Robin!” Monty cried. “You’re handing him the game.”

“But I’ll have my own Monopoly,” she answered as she made the trade.

“You’re just mad because my properties are better than yours,” Ted said to Monty.

Monty rolled his eyes. “Greens are way better than oranges. Everybody knows that.”

“You’re such an amateur,” Ted laughed. “The oranges have the highest odds of being landed upon. That makes them best.”

“But the green have the highest rate of return,” Monty responded. “I would think you’d understand that, as an expert investor.” Even I could hear the air quotes in his voice.

“They only have the highest rate of return after you put hotels on them, and you’ll go bankrupt if you try.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

Soon it became the battle of green versus orange, as everyone else either dropped out or just barely hung in. The kids fell asleep in front of a movie and the game had been going on for so long, when Monty and Ted reached a stalemate. “I think we need to take this to the next level,” said Ted. “From now on, whenever I land on the greens or whenever you land on the oranges, the other one will have to do twenty-five pushups. And if we can’t manage, we’ll owe an additional $1,000 rent.”

“That’s insane.” Monty took a swig of his beer in an effort to be nonchalant. “You said yourself that oranges are landed on the most.”

“Fine,” Ted answered. “I’ll do thirty pushups but you’ll only do twenty-five.”

All the adults were still gathered around the table, waiting for Monty’s response. Only I knew about the pinched nerve in his back, and how it had gotten so bad that he’d had to sleep in the reclining chair one night this week.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” I said stupidly.

That was all it took for Monty to accept the challenge. Heaven forbid he admits to weakness. 

“You’re on,” he said to Ted.

He and Ted went around the board three times each; Ted never landed on Pacific, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania, but Monty landed on St. James Place once and on Tennessee twice. He attempted the push-ups, laughing through the strain, but on the 68th one his back spasmed and he collapsed with a yelp.

Curled up into a fetal-shaped ball and moaning, Monty conceded the game. You would think Ted would have acted reticent, but I could see his shiny and triumphant smile, even though technically Ted’s mouth curled down. But Monty was no better. He knew the risks of push-up Monopoly, yet he still played. That made it feel hard to bad for him, even when he spent the night on the Lazy Boy, with an ice pack pressed against him.

What had made him act so stupidly, and why are he and Ted both incapable of rationality any time they’re together? My theory is that they’re both going through The Five Stages of Donald Trump, which is just a little thing that many middle aged men (and women) experience.

Stage #1 – Casinos: You’re no longer young, and the need fot something showy (like a new career, trophy wife, or sports car) sets in.
Stage #2 – Bankruptcy:  This can be of the financial, emotional, or spiritual kind. Basically, you’ve established yourself, but after the tremendous highs, come tremendous lows. It’s character building.
Stage #3 – Reality TV: Now you thrust yourself into a public format, forcing the world to notice you, gaining fame but losing respect.
Stage #4 – Accusations and Denial: You feel like people doubt you. You need to prove how right you are and how wrong everyone else is, especially if they’re more powerful than you. So you say whatever comes to mind, possibly even going on YouTube or Facebook to make pronouncements that fall short of expectations.
Stage #5 – Run for President: It’s the only action left to take, because you still believe in yourself, you know you are the best, and it’s time for the world to understand that YOU are the winner.

Obviously I am speaking metaphorically, and the specifics for The Five Stages of Donald Trump will vary from individual to individual. But whether it’s push-up Monopoly or presidential politics, the theme is universal. There’s no gain without pain and no growth without regression. It’s what keeps you a child in an adult world.