‘It’s not about winning
But taking part’
This is what we’re told as kids
We grow up, conducting our lives
By the participation proclamation
Marching to this decree
As though hard work is the key,
Believing that trying
Gets you somewhere.
(No matter if it isn’t where you want to be)
But nobody warned you
That when sandcastles morph
And hopscotch to
That when you fall in love
Coming second -close second- doesn’t count.
Second place is more pain,
The main source of your agony,
And ‘at least you tried’ doesn’t cut it.
Reality is one cruel bitch
Who doesn’t take orders from the stars,
No matter how hard you wish it.
The silver medal becomes
The brand of failure,
The dunce’s cap on the child’s head.
And your eyes will give the game away
As you watch the gold plated girl
From your lesser platform.
But great sport!’
Onlookers cheer from the sidelines,
Misreading your tears
As you mentally add up the years
You have wasted.
But politeness – you were told-
Is always best,
So you’ll smile at day and
Cry at night,
to salvage others from awkwardness.
You handle grief with political correctness,
You make it an art.
And so who can blame him
When he picks up the phone
To tell you he has fallen in love?
It’s ignorance not callousness
That will make him ignore the breath
That catches in your throat,
He listens for the obligatory
‘I’m so happy for you.’
So you choke down your own words:
The staple diet of a best friend.
You’ll wonder who to tell about
Your egotistic dreams.
It was painfully pompous
To imagine you’d come first
And painstakingly obvious
That you never would.
You wonder what it’s like
To be a girl of firsts.
His first flutter
The first person he sees in the morning,
The first this.
The first that.
The first everything.
The genesis of his experience.
Arrogance and intangibility combined.
Instead you are his exodus;
His safe place when he is extradited.
And you’ll lie at night
trying not to think of her arms around him
And when he asks you for advice,
You’ll play matchmaker
Rather than risk-taker
And you’ll be the idiot that
A ring, a speech, a wife.
Yes, it’s not the winning
But the taking part
And you never even entered the game.