How to Lose the Affections Of A Fictional Boyfriend
We knew what was in the box the moment we saw it under the tree.
The shape itself was standard, a large rectangle. But this present was ONLY for my sister and I. This meant whatever was contained within was something that we, but not our brother, desired. Clawing apart the festive wrapping, we soon shrieked in glee.
It was Dream Phone.
We took in its quintessential 90s cover. A portrayal of two preteen girls giggling while listening to an unseen boy share secrets. For weeks it had remained an image on a TV screen. Now it was in our sweaty, eager little hands.
The premise of the game is simple enough. Dial the numbers and, by process of elimination, find out which boy has a crush on you.
Basically, it was horny Clue.
The game’s iconic feature was a gigantic pink cordless phone. An exact replica of the one you (or your parents because this is 2018) probably lost between the couch cushions at least once. Battery operated; the hunk of plastic could call fictional boys.
And OH! What good-looking boys they were!
That was the main selling point of the game. You like boys? This one has boys for days! We knew their names, where they worked, and their seven-digit phones numbers. That’s right. Seven digits. Do you remember when we didn’t have area codes? I do, but just barely.
The game never explained how we came to possess these guy’s numbers. I believe the creators assumed that stalking was in our female DNA. A skill that could be tapped into when love required it.
One by one a player would dial up one of the high school (or older!) boys to see if they were her secret admirer. Well, our secret admirer. Apparently the other guys were not interested. We had to fight to find the ONE guy who had a crush on ALL of us. Faithfulness was not a term we, as preteens, grasped, so it wasn’t a deal breaker that that our admirer had a fickle heart. When we played this game we weren’t sisters. We were competitors, vying for the finite amount of love available. The stakes were high.
As two girls on the cusp of puberty, we were sure this game would unlock the secrets of the opposite sex. Looking back, I don’t know why anyone would have bought this game. Did my mother know, when she made that purchase, that she was inviting chaos into her home?
Despite a plethora of boys to choose from, my sister and I were both drawn to Steve.
He was the bad boy. You could tell by his slightly longer hair and that come-hither twinkle in his eye. He was like a brunette Nick Carter. We’d giggle over his picture with friends. I in particular was smitten. It was as if MB Games had heard my prayers and created a one-dimensional being just for me. I wanted to be his girlfriend every game.
But it was not to be. My sister made it clear that Steve was HER fictional boyfriend. And thus the “harmless” game set up the framework for sisterly competitiveness would last until we went to separate colleges.
Every game she claimed Steve for herself. If I dared to randomly draw Steve’s card from the deck she would make her displeasure known.
Eventually she proved her dominance by removing Steve from the box altogether and putting him beneath her pillow.
That night I cried. It wasn’t fair! My ten-year old self didn’t have the vocabulary to clarify why she was so upset. Ultimately it was series of increasing differences between us that I had been noticing.
She already had everything I didn’t. Her teeth were straight, without the aid of braces. She was popular, never one to chosen last for kickball or group projects. And her development was more noticeable than my own. I had to stand in the JC Penny, seething while she chose a training bra. I, and some others, kindly classify what my sister and I had a “rivalry”. But how is it such when the deck is that stacked? At 10 I only knew one thing. She wasn’t going to tell me whom I could or couldn’t love. If I couldn’t have Steve, then no one could.
I waited until everyone was asleep. Then, quietly I snuck into my sister’s room and rescued my love.
Then I did what any sane 10-year-old would. I buried him in a shallow grave.
I would come back for him, once my sister moved on to Matt or some other boy from the game. For I knew her love was shallow. But I would remain true.
The next day it rained…and the next…and the next. Being ten and having the attention span of an inebriated goldfish, I soon found other non-Steve things to distract me. It wasn’t until later, when my sister and I were playing the game, that I remembered what I had done. I rushed out to find Steve. But the rain had washed away all signs of my crime.
We didn’t play Dream Phone after that. Without Steve, the choices seemed boring and safe. At 10, with the our whole lives ahead of us, we girls didn’t believe in settling.
Also, real boys made of flesh soon replaced the card-stock versions.
The game found its way into the Goodwill donation box where It probably found another household with sisters to divide. Although without the magnetic Steve, maybe it lost its power.
Sometimes, when I’m listening to the Backstreet Boys or I see a large phone on an old sitcom, I think of Steve. I wonder if anyone ever found him. How long would it take for the elements to strip the sheen from his hair? Was there any twinkle remaining in his eye?
He was gone, but the lessons Dream Phone had instilled lived on. Sometimes boys would like me. Sometimes (Ok, most of the time) they would like my sister. Often they are assholes stringing along two girls.