Monday, November 22, 2010

You shall neither smile nor laugh

My friends and I used to play a party game called "Darling, if you love me." I haven't played it for years and can't really remember when I stopped playing it but it must have been when I moved down to the States because I can only seem to find a sprinkling of references to the game online—perhaps this will be my foray to writing Wikipedia articles—most of them British or Canadian.

Basically, the game runs like this:

One person is selected to be "it" and stands in the middle of the room. All other participants sit in a circle. The person who is "it" has to try to make someone laugh by saying, "Darling, if you love me, won't you please, please smile," in the silliest manner possible. Anyone in the circle can laugh except for the person being addressed. That person must answer, "Darling, you know I love you, but I just can't smile," in the most solemn manner possible, without smiling or laughing. If the victim laughs, they become "it." If they don't, then the person being "it" will choose another person to approach.

The game gets quite silly, as illustrated in this video of school children in Victoria, BC, playing the game in class.

At my cousin Heidi's bridal shower on Saturday we played an earlier version of the game that my mom played when she was young. My cousins grew up abroad and thus missed the evolution of the game, so they had never played "Darling, if you love me," and I had never played this version of the game.

The premise of the game is the same, except a little funnier, I think. My cousin Shannon had brought a bunch of props—an apron, hat, wig, glasses, and a broom—that the "it" person had to wear/carry. Once they had dressed in the costume, they would hobble into the room and say:

I'm an old lady with a broom and a staff
And you must neither smile nor laugh
But say I do, straight out.

They then ask any question they want to their victim, who has to answer nothing but "I do," without smiling or laughing, of course. Anyone else can laugh of course, and laugh we did, which makes it very difficult to regain composure when you're the one being questioned by the "old lady."

Heidi insisted that the words were:

Here comes an old lady with a broom and a staff
And you must neither smile nor laugh
But say I do, straight out.

Though that only seems to make sense if the circle says that when the old lady is walking in after donning her costume. Shannon was having the old lady say the poem so it made more sense to say, "I'm an old lady..."

My mom says she remembers Auntie Colleen playing this game at hr birthday parties. And, my mom said, she might have even played it at her own birthday party (she only ever had one because she was a little bit naughty and ungracious as a hostess—"This isn't what I wanted...") but she can't remember.  

Anyway, do Americans know of this game? (Aside from the Facebook group I found that has 15 members from Connecticut and, randomly, Indiana—like those states are even near each other).


  1. I have played "Baby, if you love me. . ." at least a few times as a teenager, but I've never heard of the second version.

  2. I played the "Darling, if you love me" version as a child! It's one my grandmother taught us. Wow, good memories. Haven't thought of that in awhile.

  3. We used to play "Honey do you love me?" in elementary school. The answer was "Honey, yes I love you, but I just can't smile."

    Never heard of that second version.

  4. We played 'Darling' all the time. From when I was little to a 4-H camp counselor in high school. I grew up in Northern Minnesota, Alaska & Eastern Nebraska. Go figure.

  5. Agreed with others. I played various versions - "Baby I love you but I just can't smile" being the most common, I think. I've not heard of that second version either though - I like it!

    Now one I wonder if you've played: Wink-'em. A circle of girls in chairs with a boy behind every chair. One chair is empty (so one less girl than boy overall). The boy behind the empty chair winks at a girl who then tries to escape her chair and get to the empty chair. The boy behind her must stay looking down at her back (no cheating and seeing who was winked at) and, based on sheer reaction of her movement, try to grab her and sit her back in her chair. His arms must remain at his side when he waits. Anyway, it's fun too! ...and now I've written another blog post in your comments. Sorry!

  6. We played "I love you baby, but I just can't smile" but not the old lady game. I'm sensing a new Halloween tradition in that one though!

    Plus the winking business sounds like party! What fun.

  7. Yes, I've played the wink-em game, though we called it "Wink'em'n'grab'em."

  8. I do think that we said "witch" not "old lady" back in the day...

  9. So my name is Hess and when researching this game my grandmother played with us I came uPon this blog. Thank you!

  10. My mother is 76 and from Salt Lake City, UT. I just know that sometimes she says, "I'm an
    old lady with a stick and a staff. Now don't you dare smile. Now don't you dare laugh."

  11. My wife played this game as a kid and she plays it with my kids.
    She says "I am an old man with a stick and a staff and you must neither smile nor laugh..."
    She grew up in northwestern Wyoming. He mother grew up Mormon and surely it came from my wife's Mormon grandmother.

  12. My grandmother must have grown up in the same area in Salt Lake. She taught us to play,

    I am an old lady with a stick and a staff
    and you better not smile nor laugh but say right out I will!

    The person in the middle would wander around in the circle looking and adressing at every one but when they got to "I will" they turned and faced one individual staring them straight in the face. That person had to say I will with out smiling or laughing or they would be it.