Playground games. Don't you just love them? Those nonsensical words that make no sense and have no relevance whatsoever to anything at all, and yet they all seem to make sense because they rhyme? Check it out:
I am the greatest!
No, you're not!
Why don't you prove it?
Under! Over! Pepsi-Cola!
1, 2, 3, 4!
And the actions! Aren't they great, too? Tumbling over forwards, walking on your hands, flipping backwards? How wonderfully injurious those games can be. Even in the case of a more traditional game, like "it", there's always the danger of running into a wall, a drainpipe or, worse, a teacher. But they were all played... over and over and over again, in fact. Playtime was precious, and so we all used it to the fullest of extents.
Yet there are still games which tend to segregate, to divide, to put up gender barriers so rigid that people can be excluded. I've never seen a boy playing "I Am The Greatest"... and yet, back when I was a young ILB, there was one specific game that I certainly remember joining in with... breaking down those gender barriers.
This was a game specifically for girls which was being played around the time I was about nine or ten. A ring of girls with locked arms would dance around in a dizzying circle, with one unfortunate person in the middle, the task of whom it was to pass judgement on a classmate picked generally at random by the rest of the circle, who chanted as they danced:
_____ says he loves you, he loves you, he loves you!
_____ says he loves you, he loves you so!
Turn around if you like him, you like him, you like him!
Turn around if you like him, you like him so!
Stamp your foot if you hate him, you hate him, you hate him!
Stamp your foot if you hate him, you hate him so!
Wiggle your bum if you'd sex him in bed, sex him in bed, sex him in bed!
Wiggle your bum if you'd sex him in bed, sex him in bed!
Orange bells! Orange bells! Here we go again!
Last one to sit down gets a boyfriend...
At which point they would all sit down, the last one to touch the floor being the next one in the middle. It's pretty obvious what the person in the middle would have to do during the slightly pagan-ish dance ritual, although evidently teaching grammar was probably not possible. Although how one would correct "sex him in bed" to a group of ten-year-olds I'm not entirely sure.
In any case, I quite liked "Orange bells". I used to sit and watch my friends play it, my friend-who-is-a-midwife being annoyingly athletic and responsive, thus never being the person in the middle. (Mind you, I'm not sure I'd have wanted to find out who she would have sexed in bed, seeing as I'm still in regular contact with her almost twenty years later.) After a while it occurred to me that I could just as easily join in... so one playtime I did. Robinson and I joined the circle, calling the chant and substituting "girlfriend" for "boyfriend" where necessary. In some cases, other boys - following my example - joined in as well. I didn't see anything unusual about playing this game... although very few other boys were bothered with anything outside their odd variant of football.
At one point, we were in a huddle deciding the fate of one poor girl (I can't recall which), and yet we couldn't think of a boy in our class repulsive enough to cause her the necessary amount of embarrassment (or give her cause to stamp her foot; there was a large amount of feet-stamping involved in this game - what was the most difficult was the mentioning of someone you thought was all right; which action you performed was always in dispute), until the point at which I thought of suggesting my sister. I was all prepped up for arguing that we shouldn't be overly sexist, that my sister is just as much of a person and besides, some people are gay...
...I knew what "gay" meant when I was ten, okay?...
...but at that very point, I couldn't get all the words out. I got about as far as, "how about m...", when the rest of the circle - all girls at this point - decided that meant me, and reformed the circle faster than Billy Whizz on speed, before I could finish with, "...y sister?".
Fortunately, the girl in the middle of the circle rotated willingly in honour of the boy who broke all the gender barriers. But the humiliation was too much for poor young ILB; thus, I didn't play "Orange bells" ever again. But by that point it was back to good old "it" for most of us. Now there's a game where it can't go wrong...
...unless you're it. Then your life is ruined!