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February 21, 2005

I Never

(Warning/Enticement: Unseemly yet anti-climatically non-revealing sexual content follows)

A correspondent notes:

Your riff on 10 Things I've Done You Probably Haven't reminds me of a little parlor game we used to play that was almost the inverse: The "I've Never..." Game in which each person at the table, in the car, around the campfire, lounging around the dorm room tries to come up with something he/she has never done that everyone else in the group HAS done. Obviously not as satisfying for Web play as it requires a fairly limited group. (I used to win with the fact that, somehow, strangely, I've never read "Romeo and Juliet." I have no idea how that happened, as I took boatloads of lit courses and even a couple of Shakespeare courses in college, but... well, I won't go on.

Leaving aside the possible inverse relationship between "I Never" and "Things You've Probably Never Done," I think my correspondent grossly mischaracterizes the goals of "I Never," or at the very least is recounting an appallingly bland midwestern version of the game, a version you might play, if, say, you went to Wheaton College or otherwise hung out with folks well-marinated in a Promise Keeper-y sort of lifestyle (not that there's anything wrong with that). But allow me to suggest that if you've won "I Never" by declaring that you've never seen Romeo & Juliet, you're playing it so very wrong.

Here's how you really play "I Never":

1. Everyone grabs a drinkable.
2. You sit in a circle.
3. Someone says "I've never [enter thing you've allegedly never done here]"
4. Anyone who has done that thing -- including the person who said "I've never [thing they've allegedly never done]," since you don't have to tell the truth -- has to drink.
5. If you have done that thing, and someone playing the game knows you have, and yet you don't drink (say, out of a belated desire not to have your drunken friends know your licentious past), they can call you on it. In which case you have to drink twice.
6. Play until boredom/horniness/alcohol poisoning sets in.

Well, you say, what's the goal? Well, clearly, there are two:

1. To humiliate friends playing the game along with you by saying "I've never..." followed by some ill-advised sexual activity they have participated in (oh, don't worry, they'll do the same for you).

2. To get everyone sexually titillated enough that someone -- hopefully you -- is gonna get some by the end of the night.

And does it work? Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but the first time I played "I Never" I ended up fooling around with one of my high school teachers (don't worry, it was legal, by about 12 hours), and the last time I played it, someone (not me) got outed via the phrase "I've never had anal sex in a churchyard at midnight." So, yeah, it works.

Mind you, you have to ramp up. You can't open with midnight anal sex in a churchyard, because, really, where do you go from there? (Don't answer that.) Generally, the first couple go-arounds are things like "I've never kissed a girl," or "I've never gone skydiving," or, possibly, "I've never read Romeo & Juliet." By the third go-round nipple play "I Nevers" come out. Fifth go-round: Oral sex and bizarre masturbation -- "I have never penetrated a melon for the purposes of sexual gratification" is one I recall, and yes, someone had to drink (again, not me). After that, clearly, all bets are off, and you better hope whoever's playing "I never" with you that night doesn't know all the dirty, dirty things you've done, you sick little freak.

Yeah, I don't play "I Never" anymore. I don't drink alcohol, so that gives me an unfair advantage, both in targeting and (an important factor) in remembering. Also, sometime between college and now I came to the conclusion that of all the things I really needed to do, advertising the moist and squishy details of my sexual adventures to a bunch of vindictively drunken so-called friends was not one of them. And let's not forget that, being happily married as I am, I am reasonably assured of amorous activity without having to humiliate myself publicly to get it. So in all, the game has lost much of its early appeal.

Which is not to say that it couldn't be interesting these days. For one thing... well, never mind that. For another, I now know lots of science fiction writers and fans who I believe by law are required to be cheerfully and unapologetically sexually, uh, variegated. The problem with playing "I Never" with these folks, to the extent that you want to call it a "problem," is that everybody would be drinking all the time, and then if they were already enthusiastically libertine (as is not unlikely) they were probably scheduled to get some anyway, and possibly while wearing a vinyl corset and/or furry costume. One does strain to imagine the specificity one would drill down toward to make one and only one particular person drink in a group like this: Midnight anal sex in a churchyard simply isn't going to cut it. More like: "I've never had midnight anal sex in a churchyard dressed as as a transsexual elven princess while my partner, garbed as a Pokémon, recited passages from the Bhagavad Gita in Klingon."

Here's the kicker: You know what the other people in the "I Never" game would be offended by? That's right: The Pokémon costume. And, of course, rightly so.

No, I've never done that. The Pokémon costume was already rented out.

Posted by john at February 21, 2005 06:08 AM

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Tripp | February 21, 2005 10:49 AM

Yeeesh! This sounds an aweful lot like "Truth or Dare," which I've always avoided like the plague.

But - the high school teacher thing - I'm envious!

My high school was not funded the highest, so we frequently got teachers straight out of college. To this day I still remember my Orchestra director. Oh yeah. I'd memorize the music just to watch her.

seratonin | February 21, 2005 11:47 AM

Being a hormonally crippled college student, I assure you that Never Have I Ever (As it's known here) is still fun and horrifying all at the same time. ex: "Never Have I Ever picked up more than three different guys in one night"

As to the sex et al. We play it less for the chance at nookie (given that most of my friends are in happy, stable relationships) and more for the chance to get very drunk very quickly.

T Tripp: Truth or Dare I always hated less because of any horrible possibilities and more because I'm far too lazy to come up with good dares after the fifth round of Goldschlager.

As well, I highly recommend all these games be played with at least one kid who's done pretty much nothing, ever. It makes for some guarunteed drinks and lots of horrified looks at the others present. See also: needing camera.

uhura | February 21, 2005 12:14 PM

I can't even believe that you had to school people in the appropriate way to play 'I Never'. That's hiliarious.

Around these parts, 'I Never' is part of the game King's Cup - ensuing faster drunken mayhem and revelation of many many things you wish you had never come up. And strategy is important, because at some point, being *less* drunk than all of your friends becomes KEY.

And one of my friends revealed his 'I Never' free pass statement: I have never had sex with a man.

erin | February 21, 2005 12:46 PM

I am Shocked, SHOCKED, about you and the teacher. Seems the Mary Kay Latourneau thing is more prevalent than I thought...but at least you were just out of 12th grade, instead of 12 years old. And I'll assume she didn't get pregnant ;) And that she's not your wife!

Mildly surprised that you ever played I Never since you don't drink, but that's never kept you from keeping up with the rest of us drinkers, nor has our behavior annoyed you anough to keep you away.


John Scalzi | February 21, 2005 12:52 PM

Yeah, I'm not a sanctimonious non-drinker; being so severely limits one's choice of friends. And besides, it gets me invited places because everyone needs a designated driver.

Tripp | February 21, 2005 02:00 PM


You are one of my favorite brain chemicals!

I learned awhile ago that parties with cameras were a dangerous place to be.

Bowler | February 21, 2005 02:57 PM

What, NO ONE here watches LOST? They covered this already just last week. Pivotal to a plot point and everything.

As in, "I've never killed a man." Both players drink.

iJames | February 21, 2005 03:26 PM

I was just about to mention that. If nothing else, the episode was a good visual demonstration of the canonical form of the game. (Except that they only two people played. And they didn't get any.)

Eric Zorn | February 21, 2005 04:28 PM

As the unnamed correspondent above I take strong exception to the vile, alimentary twist that you and your perverted friends put on the wholesome game of "I've Never..." The point is to find something that everyone else in the group has done but that you have not, so that unless you are hanging around with a bunch of melon defilers or churchyard desecrators, the game rarely sinks to the levels described above.
I've never been so offended in all my life. Do I win?

Tripp | February 21, 2005 05:31 PM

I've never watched "Lost."

Is it like the episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost make it off the island but then Gilligan screws it up?

mythago | February 21, 2005 08:08 PM

Not to disagree with you, just a different experience--I recall playing "I Never" as a way to see how well you could craft the questions to get somebody to take a drink. When you have law students in this game the knives come out.

Soni | February 22, 2005 12:30 AM

I've never...played this game. And never will. I had wayyyyy to wild of a teen-hood to risk alcohol poisoning at this late date. Thanks for the heads up.

iJames | February 22, 2005 10:10 AM

I've never watched "Lost."

Is it like the episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost make it off the island but then Gilligan screws it up?

No, it's more like Gilligan's Island crossed with Stephen King's The Stand, with a bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for flavor.

One of the best shows on TV right now. And yes, to deter any possible sarcasm, there has been some really good TV in recent years.

Chris Lehmann | February 22, 2005 11:04 AM

Now John,

You didn't even come to the various asg-x parties where I Never was played...

John Scalzi | February 22, 2005 11:20 AM

It's true. I missed out on all the really good Tingles.

Brett | February 22, 2005 11:30 AM

I was introduced to "Never Have I Ever" in the form of a college "get to know the other new people" game. It didn't involve drinking, but it was definitely not as tame as not reading R&J, possibly because it's a group of horny college students, just without the alcohol (and there were no winners and losers; it was just an attempt to get us to get to know each other - anyone who had done X had to step into the middle of the circle). Later I learned of the drinking version, but I've never played it.

Eric Z - They're not perverted, they're typical horny high school/college kids with too many brain cells and too much free time. I mean, this is the same cohort that did the State of the Union drinking game (every time he says "freedom," take a shot. Hell, you can stop there.)

John Scalzi | February 22, 2005 04:28 PM

"Eric Z - They're not perverted, they're typical horny high school/college kids with too many brain cells and too much free time."

Heh. Eric was "shocked, shocked," about as much as the police chief in Casablanca, Brett.

Tripp | February 22, 2005 05:08 PM


One of the best shows on TV right now

Speaking about TV, what is up with Battlestar Galactica? I was looking for some SF and it seems like a bunch of soap opera intrigue and booby shots. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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