A couple weeks ago I went bowling with some friends. Bowling’s really not my favorite pastime and I was miffed because the night was supposed to be a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon until it got colonized by some of my more extroverted affiliates. I honestly would have just stayed home, and probably had a better time, but it was one of said extrovert’s birthdays and also my last chance to see several colleagues before they left the country for research. And while I don’t like bowling, I do, from time to time, enjoy good company. So I went.
Let’s be clear about something: I am a terrible bowler. I know a lot of people say that they’re terrible bowlers, but I have yet to meet anyone quite as bad as I am. I have multiple total game scores in the single digits. If I break 40 in a single game, I’m positively excited. On the other hand, I really don’t care. First of all, if I’m gonna suck at something I’d rather suck epically than just be mediocre. Second of all, of all the things in life I care about having skill at, bowling isn’t one of them. My several years long inability to make hashbrowns upset me. Being the worst bowler on the planet? Meh. Who cares? Tell me I’m the worst writer or worst scholar or worst acrobat on earth and I would be devastated. I really don’t care about my bowling stats.
Ordinarily I can still have a good time bowling because I can be social for a limited period of time, laugh at my lack of skills, laugh at people who care about bowling, etc, etc. The only thing that really spoils it for me is when other people start caring about my suckatude. For whatever reason, my dearth of bowling skills is much more offensive to those around me than to me. So on this most recent venture several of my friends decided they needed to help me with my game. Every frame meant more pointers, more analysis of how I was doing things, more tips and techniques.
And I have to say, it’s one of the least fun experiences I’ve had bowling in a long time. Ordinarily if I roll a gutter ball, I shrug and dance my way back to the seats (got to love the bad music bowling alleys almost always provide). Instead, every gutter ball prompted several people clustered around me analyzing exactly what went wrong and telling me what I needed to do different next time. And my game didn’t get any better. In fact, it got worse. And for the first time in ages it bothered me that my game was that bad. And bowling wasn’t a fun social activity anymore, it was a place where I was inferior to everyone.
So anyway, it will be a long time before I go bowling with that crowd again. But public service announcement if we have any of those “helpful” types out there: if your friend seems okay with not being good at something, sometimes the best thing you can do is buy her a beer and dance along with her. Your “helpful” tips can be a mood killer.