Families have their things, little group-idiosyncrasies that come either by heredity or from having spent vast quantities of time together. People who are later additions to the family sometimes can only watch from the sidelines, either bemusedly or maybe even enviously. Maybe eventually they’ll be part of the game, but they have to put in the time first.
In my family, one of our things is bacon.
Actually, I meant Bacon.
Some families play Scattergories or Pictionary. Some families play a rousing game of basketball or football. Maybe cricket or table tennis. I’ve been to family gatherings at which video games were the center of attention.
But the only game for my family is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
It started years ago on long road-trips to various vacation destinations. Like most family traditions, I don’t remember precisely how it started, but what matters is this: We rule at it.(1)
Dad has the old school actors covered: he once connected the Baconator to Charlie Chaplin in under the prescribed six degrees. Tonight he managed Ronald Reagan. My sister is good at popular movies, and I catch us up with independent films and younger actors.(2) But what makes us awesome is that, except for older actors, we view needing more than three maybe four degrees as failure. You’ll often hear, “That was good but…can’t we do better?”
Because at its heart, it’s a game of efficiency.(3) And if there’s one thing my family is collectively good at, it’s efficiency. For all of our individual differences, every single one of us appreciates the shortest path, the quickest way, the no-frills anything. We will analyze things like morning routines and routes to work in order to figure out how they could be better.(4)
So while one can get from Burt Reynolds to Kevin Bacon like this:
- Burt Reynolds was in Smokey and the Bandit with Sally Field;
- Sally Field was in Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks;
- and Tom Hanks was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon;
it’s more efficient to do it like this:
- Burt Reynolds was in Striptease with Demi Moore;
- and Demi Moore was in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon.(5)
See? Brilliant. That’s our thing – not just the game but how it’s played. It’s something you have to be part of to understand how we can spend hours playing it. And, yeah, maybe it’s ridiculous and maybe it’s not the most useful of familial skills, but it’s something that makes us a family. And for that, it rules.
- Except for Mom. In her defense, she really doesn’t care about the game and doesn’t watch movies just sometimes to be better at the game. Weird, I know.
- Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if my brother has ever been around for one of our game sessions. How odd.
- Though I suppose we could throw a wrinkle in the game and require that all six degrees be used. Hmm…
- I always joke that the most useful thing my dad ever taught me was that, on this one stretch of road in a neighboring town, if you went exactly 25 mph, you’d hit every green light. But, honestly, I’m not joking. The lesson isn’t how to get down main street without hitting red lights; the lesson is that just because you do something every. single. day. for decades doesn’t mean you should turn your brain off while you’re doing it. If you keep your brain going, you’ll pick up on things people go their whole lives without noticing.
- I honestly just called my sister to tell her this one, which makes our previous route seem positively baroque.