Forfeits, often thought to be the more exciting part of the evening’s amusements, were paid by the losers of one of the parlor games. After being declared the loser and told they owed a forfeit, the loser would then “forfeit” a small item they had on their person and have to “earn” it back. Common items to forfeit were handkerchiefs, keys, knives, personal deck of playing cards, snuff box, anything small and personal that could easily be identified.
As a person lost, they’d add their item to the collection until there was approximately one item forfeited for each person in the room. Then the forfeits were “called” or “cried”.
Just how was the item earned back?
By doing something ridiculous and making a fool of yourself, of course!
Common forfeits included:
- A gentleman having to kiss all the ladies in the room while having another lady lead him around the room to all those ladies and wiping his mouth with a handkerchief after each kiss (a little weird, but there you go).
- imitate a named animal.
- A lady or gentleman would be made to pay a half a dozen compliments to someone of the opposite sex without using the letter “L” thus nullifying words like: beautiful, lovely, graceful, and other common complimentary words.
- Playing a round of “The Learned Pig”. This game is for a gentleman only. He must get on all fours, just like a pig, naturally. Then he’s asked a series of questions about the guests in the room such as, “Who is the most: lovely, or charming, or intriguing, or beautiful etc etc.” He then would have to “walk” over to him/her on all for and grunt in front of them to let the group know his choice. Fortunately for any man unfortunate enough to experience this type of activity in exchange for his knife or handkerchief they usually capped the number of questions at about ten.
- A common forfeit for a lady was to be made to go stand in front of the room and spell the word “opportunity”. After she spelled it, she had to make a mad dash back to her seat without being caught by a gentleman because if she were caught, he could claim a kiss!
- Pick a sign–rather like pick a hand–a gentleman would turn his back to the room while a lady stood behind him holding up three signs. One read: A KISS, Another: A PINCH and the last: A BOX ON THE EAR. She’d then switch the signs up to put them in whatever order she wanted and the man would unknowingly pick his “reward” by picking number one, two or three. He then turned around and the lady gave him his reward: either a kiss, a pinch or a she’d knock him on the ear.
- Sing, play a tune or dance by oneself.
- A rabbit kiss. This is a lady’s forfeit where she has to pick a gentleman of the group she’d like to share a kiss with then they she has to put one end of a piece of cotton/string in her mouth and he does the same with the other side. They are told to “go” and must nibble down their side of the string until their lips meet in the middle, then they may kiss.
How was it decided who’s turn it was to pay their forfeit?
A lady was blindfolded then had the entire “collection” of forfeits placed in her lap. She’d then randomly select on and hold it up for the group to see, saying, “Is it fine or superfine.” Meaning, does it belong to a lady or a gentleman. She’d be told, then she’d pick a forfeit suitable for that sex without knowing just who would be performing the act!