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“You’ve had sex once. How was it?”

This is what Ted throws in Marshall’s face during a conversation about who has the most game, back in season three of How I Met Your Mother—you know, when the show was still good and Ted wasn’t yet infuriating. Because Marshall was married, and had actually lost his virginity to Lily, his now-wife (albeit years earlier), he was deemed irrelevant.

This conversation was played for laughs, as most things in the show were, but it raises a valid question that I think remains unanswered:

Are married people still part of the game, or have we been forcibly retired?

When I got married, I thought of it as simply moving into a new league—a majors vs. minors situation. The play might be a little different, but the same general rules applied. Saying that I’d won or lost implied that one group of people was better than the other, when it seemed like we were all hoping to achieve the same thing: deep connection with another person.

But now I’m not so sure I was right.

I mean, I definitely don’t think I’m better than anyone. But sometimes, when I listen to my friends’ horrible tales from the world of dating—the always unsolicited dick pics, the too-early introductions of fetishes, the ghosting—I feel like we’re not even playing the same sport. For singles, it seems like racking up points is what matters, whereas in my game, it’s all about teamwork.

Or, to put it in terms I can actually use correctly (because I know nothing of sports!), it seems like I’m over here playing Quidditch (or even just wizard’s chess), and single people are out there in the goddamn Hunger Games.

Was it possible I had it backwards?

Maybe getting married wasn’t the majors after all.

The stakes, while high, don’t come with the same sense of urgency that is pouring off the single as they battle it out. Perhaps my wedding rings are the equivalent of a championship ring—once won, you’re expected to just hang out with the other marrieds in air-conditioned box seats, watching everyone else try to finish the game and praying that there’s minimal bloodshed.

But even if that’s the case… So what? I don’t think that makes me and my kind irrelevant, as Ted was so quick to decide. I think it makes us assets. I can’t count all the times my best friend has asked me to weigh in on her dating life—plus the handful of times my younger sister deemed me worthy of offering up snippets of advice. It seems like even if we’re playing in separate leagues, or entirely different games, or whatever it is, my status makes me an expert in moving from one area to the next.

So, maybe I’m not a winner or a loser of the game. Maybe the day I got married, I became a coach—here to help everyone rack up some much-needed Ws by combining my experience with players’ talents.

But I swear to God, if anyone pours a bucket of Gatorade on me, you’re all on your own.

N. Alysha Lewis

N. Alysha Lewis is an editor and blogger with author aspirations whose love can absolutely be bought with french fries.

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