I conducted an bit of an inadvertent social experiment before the holidays last year. I didn't specify the dress code for a party in the invitation, and then when people followed up with me to be sure they were going to be dressed appropriately, I told them it was "casual-fancy". This seemed like a perfectly reasonable statement to me at the time: I knew what dress I was planning to wear, and IMHO it was straight up casual-fancy. Zero confusing. But apparently it was not quite so clear to others. Some folks latched on to the "fancy" part; some to the "casual" part; some - inexplicably - to leather pants; and some to the ambiguity itself - one fellow had debated wearing a tuxedo jacket with pyjama bottoms, figuring they would average each other out somewhere around casual-fancy. (Statistics!) Lesson learned. I now know better for next time.
Turns out I was also subjected to a bit of an inadvertent social experiment at the holidays last year. Before I get started, let me ask you: if you saw the rating "Ages 17+" on a board game, what would it mean to you?
I'll tell you what it meant to me. It meant something like, wellll, it's maybe going to be a little racy, or maybe have some of the more exciting 4-letter-words in it, but if it was really bad it would be rated R or 18+ or something, right? I mean, 17+ practically screams, "NOT-18+". Which in turn meant to me that any older children of mine had probably been exposed to dirtier jokes and rottener words just by virtue of having been around me for so long. (Law of averages and stuff.) Which in turn-in turn meant to me that 17+ would probably be okay for someone who is, say, 15+ and not too sheltered.
Consequently, it meant to Medium Fry that I bought her Cards Against Humanity for Christmas.
And then it meant that when the kids were gathering up games to take to my parents' house for Christmas that I said, "Sure you can bring that."
Finally, it meant that Medium Fry - poor, poor Medium Fry - played Cards Against Humanity with both her parents and her grandparents on Christmas Eve. She didn't even have the option of deploying a booze buffer against the horror of the situation, because alcohol is clearly labeled 18+ so naturally I didn't buy her any of that.
If you weren't already familiar with the obscure 17+ board game age rating, it apparently stands for "do NOT play this with or buy this for any members of your family, ever".
And in one final, bitter social experiment this recent holiday season: Cards Against Humanity is an excellent gauge for discerning who is the most horrible person in the room (apparently by more than one measure). I'm not sure whether I am relieved or saddened to report that that person is me.