Video games let men indulge the boy inside

I thought we'd outgrown it. When my boyfriend and I first started dating, about eight years ago (yup, eight -- don't ask about the matrimony thing, we're happy as is), I would lose him every few months to a new obsession.
"Madden." "NBA Live." "NCAA Football." "Tiger Woods PGA Tour."
I called myself a video-game widow, made plans for more girls' nights out and left it at that. I wasn't about to try to change the man. At least he didn't play shoot-em-up games, I reasoned, while the canned sound of a marching band filled our apartment. He was playing college football, Penn State against Michigan.
Later on, he came home with a little game called "Grand Theft Auto 3," also known as the mother of all that is violent and lewd in videogameland. He plundered shopping malls, stole pimped-out rides, beat up the occasional streetwalker.
The violence is so over-the-top, it's cartoonish, I told myself as I cleaned the kitchen. No one's really getting hurt. Eventually, he'll lose interest.
When his parents called, they'd ask me, "Is he still buying games for that PlayStation?"
In their voices I heard my implied failure. Why was their 30-year-old still acting like a teenager? Why hadn't he grown up yet?
I finally thought he had. We moved to a new town, where there was more to do. A year went by, and he bought only three games. He hardly played them. Instead, we went to the gym, watched movies, hung out at the bar with friends. We talked, read magazines, snuggled with our cat.
"He still messing with those games?" his mother asked.
"Not really."
I should have known better. When they become men, our sweethearts still nurture the little boys inside. Whether it's a custom hot-rod, a team they've always followed or a closet full of gadgets, there's always something that brings back that boyhood glee. For my guy, it's his "vids."
Call it what you will -- a mental block, a moment of denial -- but I forgot all of this when our tax refund came. My plan was to pay off some credit card debt, maybe get new bedroom furniture. Instead, at his suggestion, I bought a new TV -- 42 inches of high-definition fun. He pitched in for surround sound. He also traded the dusty old PlayStation for an Xbox 360.
It took a while to get the blasted little box set up, but once the cables were attached, the gains of the past year disappeared.
Forget going to the movies. All of a sudden I was sitting outside Gamestop at midnight on a Wednesday, while he waited in line with a few geeky teenagers for the first copies of "NCAA Football '07."
When we got home, he popped it in for a few test rounds while I slunk off to get ready for bed. When I pulled on a black nightgown, it felt like widow's weeds.
You've gotta see this, he called from the living room. The colors are so much richer. The graphics are so much sharper.
I fell asleep to the canned sound of a marching band, in full surround sound.

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