During darker times, when I identified myself in many ways that no longer resonate at all, I was selected to take part in a trip to Morocco with Girlguiding.
In preparation for the trip we met once a month to talk about what we would put in our backpacks and to break the ice, so to speak. We watched films and did Just Dance and sang songs and played Articulate!
It was from these experiences in some church hall in Preston with a collection of people I did not know very well that I developed the illusory sense that I was any good at articulating things. My vicious, shouty way of playing was by no means ‘fun’, but it gave me a sense that I was good at something, that I wouldn’t be dead weight in this expedition the way I had been in others.
I would get a wodge of cards in my hand and start the timer and lose my mind about Sherlock Holmes, or Birch Trees, or whatever the clues might have been.
And, you know, we went to Morocco and we slept under the stars in the Sahara and rode camels and helped women in a small mountain town develop the skills they might need to gain independence. In light of Baden-Powell’s colonial proclivities, I’m not thrilled now about that project. But we went.
And we came back; I went on living my life and my tan faded out, and now, having spent over a decade in Girlguiding, I am not a girl, I am non-binary. It might be too much of a reach to argue that it was Articulate!, and my awkward, rambling, aggressive way of playing it, that relied on certain assumptions and fixities within my understanding of myself, that the desperation in the way I grabbed the cards was a desperation not to win but to be one of them. And, while I value the memories of sand and Marrakesh and the view from our hostel, I am also making peace with the fact of my difference from the women with whom I travelled.
I now take a different name to the one I used on that trip. And there are things I still need to do. Hopefully, the way I play board games will develop more. Hopefully, my vicious, competitive streak will fade to nothing. Hopefully, my sense of irony will not.
The rush of playing Articulate! has not escaped me. When the timer is turned over, and you look at the card you have and you stutter a little bit, trying to figure out the pithiest way of explaining, it’s excellent fun. And I’m very glad now that the way in which I present myself coincides with the person I am much more than it did. And it certainly helped that I had some rudimentary practice at explaining the concept of Mickey Mouse without using either of the words ‘Mickey’ or ‘mouse’.