Friday, August 14, 2009

Top That!

"My dad's bigger than your dad."
"My mom is taller than your mom."

Did you ever watch kids when they're playing together? Seems like one of them always tries to best the other with something. It doesn't matter what it is, but we've got to have something better than someone else does. "I threw up more than you did." "I broke more bones than you did." I don't know how this competition starts even in a sandbox, but hey, everyone's got to have some claim to fame.

But we're supposed to grow out of that stage, aren't we? And yet so many of us don't. We might be a little more subtle when we're older, but we still want to top someone. Only now we're more subtle about it. Someone tells a funny story about what their child did. We offer advice from an experience (a much funnier one, I might add) that our child went through. Someone tells a funny story about being sick. We can offer sympathy as we tell how much sicker we were.

Hey, we only get fifteen minutes of fame. We've got to try and grab all that we can get in that time. And anyway, we all have stories of family lore. The ones you rehearse every time you get together over the holidays. What good are they if you can't share them?

One woman I know will actually take someone else's stories if she can't use her own to top anyone. I tell a funny story about kids. She doesn't have any little ones, so she'll tell me a funny story about someone else's little ones. If I've got a sickness story or a hardship story, she always tries to go one better. Sometimes I have an almost overwhelming urge to throw sand at her.

As for me, I try to keep my stories in check. Except for here on my blog because, after all, it is my blog. Besides, I've learned a few things. Such as the fact that there is always someone who has a better story than I do. For instance, if I comment on the thirty-two hours of labor I went through to bring Matt into the world, I'll inevitably be telling it to the woman who went through three days of labor when her triplets were born. Together the triplets weighed forty-seven pounds and they used the jaws of life to extract them. My morning sickness stories are topped by someone who was so ill during pregnancy that they had to be hospitalized because they were dehydrated.

There are ways to twist a little knife in while topping someone's story. Bigger is almost always better. Bigger sale at the store. Bigger size of the car, etc. Souvenirs add authenticity. Back up your "more stitches" story with a scar you can show around. If you're claiming to have the most kids, either have them around or at least be able to show pictures so people can really grasp how busy your household is. Stick with your own experiences. If I tell a malaria story, don't try to top it with the story of someone in your neighborhood who had dengue fever. It's not your experience so it loses its punch. The only exception would be if your cousin had dengue fever. Because then you own the story by relation.

And remember, the best stories always throw in a little weight issue.

"I had morning sickness so badly I lost twenty pounds." "My babies were so big that after they were born, not only did I not have birth weight to lose, but I was twenty pounds lighter than before I got pregnant." "Congratulations on losing twenty pounds! You should be proud of yourself because that's really hard to do. I know it was when I lost forty."

As for me, I never tell a story in order to top someone. If a story can't stand on its own, then what's the point of it anyway. I'm glad to listen to your trip of a lifetime. (I trekked the Amazon.) I want to hear about the worst flight you endured. (I swung vine-to-vine through the jungle.) Tell me about the unique foods you ate on vacation. (At night we fried grasshoppers for a crunchy treat.) Describe the best (or worst ever) hotel you stayed in. (We made and slept in tree houses in order to protect ourselves from wild animals.) Tell me about the huge spiders they have in that country. (We fought off poisonous snakes with a machete the entire time.)

Come on, give me a "top that" experience in your comments. Take your best shot. If necessary, suspend reality.

And by the way, I lost twenty pounds on the trip.


  1. Jill, I'm laughing! It's such a selfish tendency to brag, isn't it? I know I'm guilty at times(probably lots of times!). I think it's hard for us to learn to listen, really listen to others. It's definitely something I'm trying to grow in! So with that, I have to refrain from boasting today!! :)

  2. LOL!! Oh my gosh, I love this blog because I have a friend who is JUST LIKE THIS. I think it comes from both of us being in journalism and wanting to have the BEST!

  3. I know I tell a story to try and top another's, but I also haven't told many and when a friend reads my blog she can't believe I really experienced that.

    I just want someone to listen to me once in a while. So many people just talk on & on & on & never give others a chance for an actual conversation.

    I am also blessed with some extremely good listeners and conversationalists.

    I guess my blog is my way to talk w/o interruption. I shant complain too much. HA!

    Take care,


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