Kids, I know you know that sharing is awesome. But I think we need to talk about the difference between good sharing and bad sharing. Good sharing is me telling you all these stories about how totally cool me and my friends were when we were younger. Bad sharing, on the other hand, is when you repeat these conversations to your friends and then somehow I wind up on the phone with their parents explaining why I'm encouraging you to make violence-based wagers.
But clearly, also, I'm not really giving you the full picture. Because it wasn't like your Uncle Marshall was always beating up your Uncle Barney. In fact, over the years of the Slap Bet, I'd say your Uncle Marshall showed remarkable patience...
1. The Time At The Bachelor Party
"I'm calling Lily." Marshall held out his hand. Ted sighed, not that surprised, and reached into his pocket for the phone.
"What? No!" Barney slapped Ted's hand away. "This is your bachelor party, dude, your night of nights! No talking to the fiancee allowed."
"We're in a hospital, in the middle of nowhere, waiting for an injured stripper I didn't want in the first place," Marshall said. "I think the magic is gone."
"Sorry, the rules of the bachelor party still apply," said Barney. "I'm talk-blocking you."
Marshall crossed his arms and started tapping his foot. Barney, unconcerned, pulled out his own phone and started tapping at it. Ted, stuck between the two, looked nervously from one to the other. Further down the row, Stuart blinked his eyes open, mumbled something about "bros before hos" and then went back to sleep.
A man with a knife stuck in his hand walked by. Ted resolved to start reflecting more on his life choices.
"Oh wow, guys, you've got to check out this video." Barney turned his phone so that it faced the others. "It really puts the viral in viral, if you know what I mean."
Marshall started to stand up, glaring at Barney.
"What about a compromise?" Ted offered, standing up between them. Marshall paused and Barney looked up from his phone.
"Like, maybe Marshall tells me what he wants to tell Lily," Ted said. "And then I call Lily, and then no one has violated the sacred rules of standing around awkwardly with your friends while a woman takes her clothes off."
"Acceptable," Barney said. "Though really, it should be me, since I'm the best man."
"You're not the best man," Marshall said automatically. He looked at Ted and shrugged. "OK, fine. Ted, here's what I want you to ask Lily."
"Sorry, man," Ted said. "The Slap Commissioner has ruled: All slaps must take place in her presence. You can't hit Barney."
Barney smirked in Marshall's direction.
"I can," Ted warned.
2. The Time After Robin
"OK, new plan," Barney said, running his hands through his hair. "If you can't find a loophole, we'll just move to the penalty phase of the Bro Code."
Marshall folded his arms and leaned against Barney's office door. "You slept with Robin. It's not something you can just ignore or pretend didn't happen. What are you going to do, pay a fine?"
"Worked that time with the North Koreans," Barney mumbled, looking at his desk. He sighed, then looked up. "Actually, I've got it. This is perfect. Hit me."
Barney squared his shoulders. "I mean it. Take a free shot. Just not in the face. But go on, take a swing."
Right, of course that was Barney's answer, Marshall thought. "Not that I endorse this approach," he said, "but assuming for the sake of argument that this makes sense, shouldn't Ted be the one who gets to hit you?"
Barney sighed and nodded, then shook his head. "No, that's no good. Then I'd have to tell him."
Marshall straightened up and walked closer to Barney. "Yeah, you're going to have to do that anyway. You know that, right?"
Barney looked as scared as Marshall had ever seen him. "I was hoping this could just be like the time with the, uh, you know, and the not talking about it."
Marshall shook his head. "Yeah, it's not that easy. You have to talk to Ted."
Barney's shoulders drooped. "But …"
"You have to talk to Ted," Marshall repeated. "Because this isn't just about you and Robin anymore. This is about all of us. It's time to bro up."
3. The Time With The Red Rabbit
No, you know what, kids, forget about the Red Rabbit. It involves a lot of, uh, sandwich-eating. Never mind. We'll get there.
4. The Time At the Bar
"And did I mention her …" Barney raised his hands in the universal sign for massive breasts.
Lily rolled her eyes.
"Five or six times," Robin said. "We're starting to get worried you might have them stored somewhere."
Barney tilted his head, considering.
"Oh great," Ted said. "That's what he needed. Ideas."
"What did I miss?" Marshall slid in next to Lily. She turned her face toward him for a quick peck and mental check-in.
Everything OK at work, Marshmallow?
Fine, just a lot to do, Marshall thought back. Sorry I'm late.
She turned her attention back to the group in time to hear Barney say: "I wonder if I could get molds made."
Lily rolled her eyes again, this time at Ted, who smiled.
"How did you get rid of this one?" Robin asked. "Wait, no, let me guess, you're a doctor who specializes in separating Siamese twins and you got paged for an urgent case of, uh, Siamesean."
"Oh, I've got one," said Lily. She always liked this game. "He's a scientist and they've just discovered life on Mars!"
"Better," acknowledged Robin. "But what about an admiral, who just returned from ..."
OK, kids. This went on for awhile. Anyway …
Barney raised his hands. "People, people. Those might have worked in a more innocent age. But now, what with the Web and your advice columns and what not, a man needs a more sophisticated approach."
And that's when Barney told us the story of his recently dead (fictional) wife:
They'd met in college, where she'd been a painter and he'd been an idealist who wanted to save the world. They moved in with their best friend Fred after college and spent many happy years wandering the streets of Manhattan, holding hands and buying gelato.
Then, sadly, just after they married, she'd come down with cancer. And now, every year on the anniversary of her death, he wakes up early and bakes muffins to take to the children at the kindergarten where she used to work. He'll always miss Milly, Barney says …
"Wait, Milly?" Marshall said. "Your totally made-up wife is a painter-slash-kindergarten-teacher you met in college named Milly?"
"And I'm dead?" Lily asked. "Why am I dead? Why can't I just be suffering from an incurable disease and you have to drive over to the hospital every morning to bring me flowers and … never mind" she finished hastily, as Marshall glared at her.
This is not cute, Marshall thought at her.
I dunno, it's kind of cute, she thought back.
"Wait, Fred?" Ted said. "Why am I Mr. Rogers in this scenario? What about Ed? Or Ned? Or even Jed?"
"Of course," Robin mused. "To really make this work, you probably have to have a photo of Milly that you keep with you always."
Barney smirked. Then yelped, as Marshall reached across the table and grabbed at his trouser pocket.
"Aha!" Marshall said, holding up Barney's wallet. He flipped it open. Sure enough, there was a picture of Lily. He gritted his teeth and turned toward Lily.
Lilypad, I really think I need to slap him.
Lily looked up at him, her face hopeful. You totally want to get up and get me another drink, don't you?
No, you're right, thought Marshall. That would just make it into something bigger.
Like, a really big one? Oh, and garlic fries. We need garlic fries.
"Can I get my wallet back now?" Barney asked.
"Fine." Marshall flipped it back over the table. "But you're buying the next round."
Lily turned her face toward him again. "Oh, and Lily wants garlic fries," Marshall added.
5. The Time At The Funeral
Barney followed Marshall outside, brandishing his cell phone.
"OK, dude, this one is definitely going to make you laugh. It's got it all: clowns, hockey, woodland creatures and a guy doubled over in pain."
Marshall sat down on a bench and then turned to look at him. "Just stop, OK."
Barney put the phone away. Not knowing what to do with his hands, he stuck them in his pants pockets, then took them out again. He wiped his face with one hand, then sighed and came over to sit down next to Marshall.
"I'm really sorry about your dad. "
"I know, man. It's OK."
The two sat and looked at the snow for awhile.
"Want to make a snowman?" Barney joked. And then a better idea hit him. "Dude, I've got it. You should throw a snowball at me."
"No, really, this is perfect," Barney insisted. "If I can't make you laugh, I can get you to let it out another way. Hit me with a snowball. Or you know, just hit me, period. Whatever."
Marshall smiled. "For someone who winces whenever anyone mentions the Slap Bet, you spend a fair amount of time asking me to hit you."
Barney started to cringe, then realized he'd made Marshall smile. It wasn't a laugh, but he'd take it. He was totally going to rub this in Ted's face when they got back inside.
Marshall lifted one hand and smiled again as Barney flinched.
Barney closed his eyes, then lifted his chin. He had asked for this, after all.
Nothing happened. Barney opened his eyes, puzzled. Marshall leaned in, and patted him on the cheek.