What’s Remote Life Like?

When my company announced at a meeting in the beginning of the year that we’d be going fully remote, I didn’t initially celebrate like I’d stumbled upon a winning lottery ticket. Instead I assessed the situation. Cautiously.

You see, I loved our office. We didn’t have the stuffy, corporate cubicle, drag-yourself-into-work-moaning atmosphere. We had a giant, airy, sunlit floor in a Tribeca loft. There was a shiny piano, an enormous comfy couch that made any homeowner envious (most New Yorkers probably couldn’t even fit it into their apartment), and dogs. Office dogs.

20161220_113025

Dogs in the office.

Working from home meant breaking a routine I was accustomed to (and I hate change) and forsaking the social interaction you may not realize you get on a regular basis by leaving your house every day. It meant I wouldn’t be able to indulge in Tate’s cookies or my normal lunch options as often (I’m fairly certain “lunch options” is an urban thing; I don’t know what the rest of ya’ll do, brown bag?), or run that quick errand on the way home from work because you’re already outside. I would most likely shower less and become a recluse. Would I be able to successfully transition without becoming THIS?

i-work-from-home-i-star13-working-unwashed-well-past-noon-12451975

Fast-forward. I am adaptable ninja. It didn’t take long for me to grow comfortable with my new setup. My desk at home is just as messy as it always was at work. A collection of napkins and paper towels, whatever the snack of the day is, scattered old cookie crumbs because cookies tend to be a frequent snack of the day, a birth control pack, and a light-up rubber alligator are currently the staples.

My CEO Ubered my work Mac to my house so yay, my laptop is actually used as a secondary computer for travel. It’s worth mentioning that since we went remote, he now has no real home base. He gave up his Tribeca loft and now travels at random, handling company affairs from overseas or whichever AirBnB he’s staying at in random time zones across the country. Likewise, my boss took the remote opportunity to leave Brooklyn (WAH!) and call an RV home base with her husband and cat, traveling the country and chronicling her journeys on her blog at https://readysetrv.wordpress.com/.

I’m more of a toddler than my work peers when it comes to travel. I thought I hated it. Until I actually traveled; like, did it for REAL. “Travel” and “vacations” in my life growing up generally consisted of long, cramped car rides (HELLO motion sickness!) to family members’ houses where you’d cram in a bed with 3 other relatives or stake out a spot on a lumpy couch or a blanket on the floor. Vacation indulgences were few and far between, expenses tight, and a rare motel stay was a paradise to us. This mentality certainly carried over when I entered self-sustainable employment on my own and couldn’t fathom parting with an entire paycheck for a trip that you wouldn’t tangibly own and keep for the future.

20170624_125014But remote work gave me my first opportunity to leave the country this past June. Our tiny team of about 6 employees all headed to Antigua for a week to work from a breezy island villa where a chef prepared our meals daily and we chose a different beach to visit every day after work. And there were dogs. Island dogs that visited us every day.

I think once you start, and really experience it, then you see the magic. Then you start to feel it. Next month will be my 2nd time leaving the country, and the 5th trip I’m taking this year. The impact of the travel bug is quite exponential.

With a newfound respect for remote culture and it’s perks, I do want to debunk some of the wrong impressions I’ve come across in regards to “working from home.”

I hate when someone responds to my revelation, “Oh, I need to go find me a remote job.” As if you’d simply take any old job you hate just because you can do it from home (although I’m sure there are those who would). As someone who’s been through some hellish work situations, my priority in job hunting was an atmosphere I could vibe with and a job that could provide me adequate challenge. As someone who used to be a “Weekend-Watcher,” one who wasted the majority of their life away anxiously anticipating the 2 days of freedom at the end of the week, it’s amazingly refreshing to no longer be in that mindset. I liked my job BEFORE it went remote. I just happened to be lucky enough to be on the ship when it took that direction. My mom sometimes asks, “Is your company hiring?” As if I’d ever admit to her that it was, lol. But it’s like the industry doesn’t matter to her. The position doesn’t seem to matter to her either or fact that the current abundant benefits she already has would be cut. She’s simply dazzled by the remote aspect. But she can’t do my job.

Which brings me to a more enraging pet peeve; the impression that because I’m working from home, my job is suddenly “easy” or not as challenging than if I’d had to go into the office to do it. Which is bullshit. Software support is not an easy job. The fact that sometimes I can run out of the shower with 5 minutes left to moisturize down before clocking in so I have to sit down and begin the work day topless and if there’s some sort of spyware lurking through my Mac’s webcam then Lord knows they’ve gotten quite a show is irrelevant. It doesn’t make the angry customers calling to complain any less angry because I’m in my house. It doesn’t mean the computer-illiterate need less hand-holding because I didn’t take the A train to help them. And it doesn’t make a poor communicator’s unintelligible explanation of their problem more clear because I have my Hylian Shield slippers on. Remote life simply means “non-conventional office.”

20171116_171352
Yeah, they’re real.

It’s not WRONG to assume I could just have friends over and throw parties while I’m working, because I COULD, but I’d rather not. It takes a certain kind of discipline to work from home and not stay glued to Netflix because it’s right there or be distracted by your cat or the laundry or the latest viral videos circulating on Facebook. My job in particular requires a certain amount of engagement and focus that I know will suffer if my best friend is here chit-chatting away at me about a nonsense situation that only she and will find funny. I mean, if it’s really slow, fine. But my role can get busy and when it’s really busy, I need absolute focus to juggle multiple chats, check in on a glitch that needs to be fixed, and answer the email from the irate woman who THINKS she’s chatting but is only emailing so she’s pissed that our response is not immediate. Exercising that discipline is essential in making sure your productivity doesn’t suffer.

If you don’t have focus, you’re probably not cut out for remote life. But if you are, it’s a great feeling proving that you can be trusted to get shit done without the micro-management of an office. A reward for being dependable. No more bathroom lines. An extra hour of sleep. Easier to incorporate a gym session on my lunch break. Saving money on transportation expenses, and from what I’m seeing in Internet news, MTA’s delays are only growing worse anyway.

As the end of my first remote year draws to a close, I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the benefit. And I plan to toddle my way into remote maturity while the world slowly improves their maturity in remote beliefs.

There’s a book about this. It’s called Remote: Office Not Required. It was our homework before the transition. And it’s a pretty good read. šŸ™‚

~Tael

The IMPerfect Guide (Or FAQ)

I remember the very first video game guide I ever set eyes on. It was the Perfect Guide for Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And it was beautiful. I carried this book with me everywhere, delighted by the whimsical, high-quality images and the nerdy-yet-awesome writing style. It was riddled with jokes that even I could pick up on at that age, snarky at times, other times conveying an array of emotions from shock to disgust to adoration at the game’s moments. I felt like I was carrying around my friends in this glossy magazine.

oot-linkzelda

I wore it down to tattered pages, the spine dislocated, the creases permanent. Because I’d studied the guide so much, I could probably still do an Ocarina of Time run-through with 100% completion off-top.

But once you start, 100% completion haunts you.

While Zelda isn’t technically an RPG, it has mucho similar elements. RPGs have always been vast worlds that maybe started out with a 20-25 hour running time, and can now amass over a whopping 100-hours of gameplay when you factor in sidequests, unlockable bosses, highest weapon attained, etc… No complaints here. But somewhere along the way these clever additions became cruel tricks. Missable sidequests if you don’t talk to this specific person in this one town directly after an event happens. Ridiculous formulas that involve gathering/fighting/completing tasks in a maze-like way to open a secret path.zoot3d-link-and-fairy-bow Bosses that can’t be beaten unless you’ve mastered a certain skill paired with a specific type of armor with a 7% reflective rate, so you just hope you’re in the lucky 7% (which you wouldn’t have figured out without seeking help online). That Shuttle Crash site battle with the suicide android in Tales of Graces? THAT WAS MEAN. The Land of Canaan in Tales of Xillia 2? The most sadistic dungeon I have ever countered. So much so that it makes the infamous water temples in Zelda look like wading pools. And let’s face it, the raising and lowering of the water temples in Ocarina of Time was a difficulty beyond its time. Would anyone nowadays have the patience and focus to figure that out with no outside assistance? (I’m familiar with the younger generation and based on their social media trends, I HIGHLY doubt it).

Thankfully, accessing a guide, or FAQ, when things get rough is only a Google click away from your fingertips. Stuck on a boss? FAQ it. Can’t find the next town? Look it up. That final mushroom needed to make that healing nectar for the sick boy in the forest town eluding you? Search it. The convenience in these answers is a gift, but the curse lies in the necessity to look it up anyway to progress.

After I fell in love with the perfect guide, before I’d start an RPG, I’d have the FAQ bookmarked and ready. I’d consult it before every move I made. I beat Tales of Symphonia easily enough on my own, but when I discovered the guide later I realized I missed out on SO MUCH SHIT. And I’m one who knows to explore every path, click every crevice and talk to every person in town. Somehow I’d still missed out on a good 30-40% of the game! Who could have known how to meet Abyssion on their own? I don’t believe you. And let’s face it; Majora’s Mask was in no way completable without the use of a guide. The Kafei sidequest? Yeah the fuck right. The game was an ingenious concept, but it was TOO SMART. The difficulty level certainly landed it on many’s Most Hated Zelda Games lists. And Skies of Arcadia…while the main story was achievable enough on your own, find me someone who actually discovered the Wanderbirds on their own (unless it was by pure, dumb-luck accident). These development choices almost had me entirely dependent on FAQs.

Almost.

One day I realized I wasn’t having as much fun consulting a guide for every move and double-checking every step I took to make sure I didn’t miss anything. If 100% completion was going to drive me to madness, then maybe it wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t let a goal like that ruin the lighthearted reason why I play in the first place.Link&Epona

Have I abandoned FAQs completely? Absolutely not. But they’re not the same friends I carried around in my backpack so long ago, reading and re-reading with joy. Most of them are clones of one another. The writing doesn’t pulse with a vibrant personality. Unless it’s a leader like IGN, it probably wasn’t done by someone with writing skill, meant to entertain and feel like you’re conversing with them.

I reverted to playing to the best of my ability, scrounging in every corner, busting into everybody’s house and talking to every single person. And if I get too stuck, like I’ve-struggled-for-hours-and-I’m-at-my-wit’s-end stuck, I look it up. But I try not to do it often because I love the sense of accomplishment I feel at finally figuring out what I was struggling with, using my own brain and not the Internet’s. I consulted an FAQ for Twilight Princess just once, and felt supremely proud of myself. Since Symphonia 2, I’ve traversed through subsequent Tales games without an online “map,” back to old-school roots. Like when there weren’t save points. And when you were stuck on something, you could only find out the solution by pouring in hours of puzzle-solving, or getting lucky by knowing a friend of a friend, (or cousin) who knew the answer. If they say there’s two kinds of players, there’s gotta be a happy medium between them. Where you can hunt and gather, but also have fun doing it.

TwoKindsOfPlayers

The latest thing is 100% IV in Pokemon GO. I don’t use an external IV app for the very same reason. Landing a 100% IV Pokemon is 100% luck. You have 0 control over it. I’d rather play a game I love and be happy with whatever I do accomplish, than stress myself out trying to attain something I have absolutely no control over. If it’s meant to come, then it will.

100% completion is to achieve perfection. I no longer beat myself up over not achieving perfection. And I think I’m better off for it.

~Tael

Girl. Gamer. And?

It’s like we’ve regressed while evolving. A month ago when I went to Otakon, I met a transgender individual who shared that some of their female friends who game have gone through some pretty negative experiences with the male gaming community; to the point where they now hide their gender on forums and social media, and are treated fine until somehow the bomb drops that they’re female. When I was growing up, gender in gaming was never a thing, so why is it now?

As a casual gamer, it’s been amazing to ride along the gaming world’s journey. I started out with my very own Sega Genesis at age 7. ALL of my cousins gamed, boy and girl. And when their friends came over, we all gamed together still. There was never any “Girls can’t play” or “Boys club” nonsense. We practiced Mortal Kombat finishing moves on each other, sped through Sonic levels, and bullet-barraged in GoldenEye as equals. We chainsawed Tediz in Conker, helped snag difficult stars in Super Mario 64, and woke up rubbing the crust from our eyes first thing bright and early to grab the controller and take down Wizpig in Diddy Kong Racing.

Going through middle school, gaming was definitely still considered a nerdy hobby, so it wasn’t really broadcast much. We stayed under the radar so as not to become targets. I kept it hidden behind the scenes, indulging with my family and my bestie, who could be counted on to marathon Super Mario World with me in one night, being overly cautious not to accidentally nudge the glitchy console in any way, lest the save not work properly after having played for hours. I quietly played my RPGs in the safety of my room and found gaming companions in AOL chat rooms. I ducked my head in my GameBoy in isolated corners of the school yard.

In high school (and I admit, the fact that my H.S. population was 75% Asian could have something to do with it) it became much more socially accepted. Dedicated teams set up YuGiOh and Magic rounds religiously every day after school in the cafeteria. I encountered my first IRL Zelda fan who loved to share tips on Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. I got invited to a birthday party where we each built our own mini-Gundams to take home (Deathscythe, baby). Gamer T-shirts and swag became more widespread.

College came and my love of Smash Bros. continued to blossom. I formed a purely battle relationship with a dude who’d come around to visit his girlfriend down the hall, and always dropped in just to play a few rounds and demolish me. In fact, there were quite a few Elite Smashers in college, and I was surprised at how many others loved it too! I befriended another girl who beasted in Smash and we took down our friends in Team Battles. And then there were other gamers still, happy to lend their assistance to the excruciatingly tedious puzzles of Prince of Persia or MarioKart training, or collaboratively get back to Funkatron in Toejam & Earl.

The gamer’s life had become a breeze of approval. Twitter wasn’t even a thing back then. Is that why everyone was so nice and accepting? Because in-person, things are different? Because a lot of people gain that web-courage, when they’re behind a screen? Or because the younger generations are more likely to be douchebags now?

Once again, I may have been caught in some kind of bubble (I’m starting to believe myself to be a unicorn in life). I was never once called out for my gender. I was never once interrogated, scrutinized, laughed at, harassed, or belittled for being a girl and having this hobby. It wasn’t considered a “cool” thing to do or pretend to like. It wasn’t a trend, as nostalgic things tend to be now. It was strictly a hobby, done for your own individual entertainment. A gamer was a gamer.

It’s interesting to see a hobby I once kept on the low explode into something that can make you Internet-famous now. But it’s also great to see how much more open and accessible the gaming lifestyle is now. I LOVE that I can find controller earrings on Etsy, Triforce handbags on Amazon, support indie artists geeky tee and hoodie designs, actually be a part of a gaming community on social media, connect with Smashers just by logging into the network on the WiiU, and pop up on the Tetris Friends site for a bit of mind-numbing block-dropping. I love that bars are incorporating arcades, Nintendo World at Rockefeller Center is a thing, Pokemon is still going strong, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this,” has become a meme, and retro-fans recognize and appreciate the question-mark tattoo on my shoulder.

20170928_231443As a casual gamer, (and I’m not speaking for the industry side of things) I don’t feel like women are marginalized any more so than anywhere else. Are there hypersexualized characters in gaming? OF COURSE. Hypersexualization of women is everywhere in the world. We can’t expect it to magically not be in this particular medium. Grand Theft Auto is not meant to be a respectable game (you are absolutely an asshole protagonist), Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball does nothing anime doesn’t already do, yes, Lara Croft is known for having large breasts in the Tomb Raider series, that was their thing, and also seeing Valentina’s boobs jiggle when you attack her in Super Mario RPG is hilarious (because they do jiggle in real life sometimes). But how can we forget about the numerous other female roles over the years? Easy-going Jade from Beyond Good & Evil. Calculating Bellena from Skies of Arcadia (which also happened to have two female co-protagonists). Battle-worthy warrior Marta from Tales of Symphonia 2 (because Lord knows Emil needed to grow a pair) as well as the power-hungry, pint-sized sadistic Alice who put fear in even the largest man’s heart. Xelha from Baten Kaitos was one of my least favorite female characters, mostly because I didn’t find her cute at all. Yeah, sounds horrible, but I like my characters to be cute. I much preferred Mizuti with her crazy mask and garbled voice, who everyone was shocked to find out late in the game that she was a girl anyway. Because if a character is not going to be cute, they should at least be cool and have some depth to them. I see Twitter highly in favor of the fact that Twintelle from Arms has an ass. Sexualization or adaptation of the latest fit and trendy body-type?

Having that knowledge dropped on me at Otakon, that one would have to hide their gender orientation around the community they love to participate in, left me surprised, even though I’ve heard stories before. Over the Internet. I’ve just never heard a real-life story from twenty-somethings in person. I was certain there’s the chill, accepting, mature generation of gamers who love the hobby in person (because don’t Millennials accept everything accept right-wing conservatism?), and then there’s the Internet-thugging 12-14-year-old virgins experimenting with cursing behind their headsets and safety screens because they’re not ready for the real world. And I’m not threatened by children. To my fellow gaming ladies who have experienced such nonsense as this, I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’ve been told I can come off as intimidating. Let some little ignorant troll come at me for being a chick who games.

I would skin them. (And trust me, you could probably take them too).

Just saying.

~Tael

I Won’t Be Your Sub

No, not referring to foot-longs or role-play in Fifty-Shades situations. Someone on Twitter once DM-ed me asking that I subscribe to their YouTube Channel. This happens pretty damn frequently if you follow the gaming community in the Twittersphere, but in this particular instance, I could tell it wasn’t the widely-hated “Auto-DM.” This one was a real Direct Message, so I felt he was worthy of a real response: “Who has time to sit around watching YouTube channels like that?” To which he responded, “EVERYONE LOL.”

He’s right.

Somehow, EVERYONE has the time to do this, and because of it, YouTube gaming personalities, Let’s Play and Twitch have exploded into a streaming marketplace. Back on the ascent of streaming popularity, I remember investigating the Kaceytron debate: was she the ultimate cleavage-bearing troll or nah? I watched a few of her streams to see just what the Twitterverse was bugging out about. What made it interesting was the hilariously obnoxious interactions she had with others. I knew nothing of the game she played (I THINK it was League of Legends, or something very League of Legends-y) and pretty much glazed over the gameplay. My boyfriend plays League of Legends and I can’t fathom how anyone would want to watch a stream of that unless they were hardcore, watching other hardcore players and looking for tips to improve their own gameplay.

Once upon a time, as a young’n, I loved watching my older cousins play video games for hours. But once I got a controller in my own hands, that all changed. Because I could be watching someone else play, or I could be playing myself. Maybe it’s the type of games I go for. I adore RPGs and vast adventures. But I sure as hell wouldn’t watch someone else play Tales of Graces for an hour, unless it was strictly battling and they were showing off flashy, ridiculous combos, and even then, I wouldn’t last an hour. I tried watching a stream for Super Mario RPG once. I love that game with a passion, but struggled to make it through 15 minutes listening to the guy pretty much walk the viewers through what he was doing. Now I CAN watch a good Smash Brothers match on YouTube, but let’s be real, a match lasts about 7 minutes or less. And I’m sure non-Smashers wouldn’t be interested; but since I play seriously, I’d be looking at technique and be super impressed by an amazing recovery or a battle waltz ending in a sick spike KO.

To me, Twitch should be more for showing us something unusual, crazy, that we haven’t seen before. Or eSports. From what I’ve gathered on the Internet, it’s become a bombardment of mediocrity and tactics to gain more “subs.”

Auto DMs:

“I wanted to thank you PERSONALLY for the follow. AlsopleaseseemyYouTubeChannelHere” – But this is an Auto DM. Everyone got this.

“OMG your Channel is AMAZING! I subscribed by the way. šŸ™‚ Here’s mine if you want to take a look.” – I don’t have one you filthy liar.

“Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel here. And follow us on Facebook here. And also add us on Snapchat. Then retweet our Pinned Tweet and send us a screenshot of you having done these things as proof–” GTF outta here.

“I know no one likes these Auto-DMs, but I promise you’ll only get this one. Check out my channel?” ……………………..

Let’s not forget the chicks in thongs getting up to get something from the kitchen and “forgetting” they’re still streaming, or the chesty, low-cut-wearing find-some-way-to-show-some-skin-but-not-actually-watch-my-gameplay girls that Twitch had to make rules of appropriate-ness for. Or the ones shouting out “nigger” in a momentary rage.

There’s just too much streamer scheming. Unless you’re wildly humorous, or your skills are pretty fucking exceptional, you’re showing me something I’ve never seen before, or you’re moderately entertaining in some way, I’m not going to watch your stream. I’m not going to be your sub. How about we play together instead of me watching you do it?

To date, I have only subscribed to 2 YouTube Channels. One is Wilson Jimenez’sĀ here (Wilson, the username XD). He’s not so much a “streamer,” as he is a genuinely funny guy who can pop out some very LOL-worthy videos of a length appropriate to one with an average Internet attention span.

Other video uploads that have captured my attention? The Item Abuse Mario vids. They had me legit holding my breath. That dude who beats Super Mario 64 in like 30 minutes exploiting glitches. That Smash clip of two Foxes battling on Final Destination and they NEVER TOUCH THE FLOOR. That Mario Kart troll video of the guy waiting at the finish line holding a shell for someone to run into and then still winning. The dudes who were going around pranking peeps in the Brooklyn hood. Not gaming-related at all, and my boyfriend tells me they’re completely staged but they’re funny AF regardless and I die when I watch them.

You, streaming average game of Overwatch and making a spectacle by gamer “raging so hard” on camera?

Pass. #SorryNotSorry

~Tael (Mistress of the UnImpressed)

Waxing Experimental

Nope, I didn’t try a Brazilian. I’m not THAT fearless.

I did, however, attempt an ongoing wax-only regimen at the start of spring to those other places we ladies regularly shave: legs, underarms, bikini.

I’m not a stranger to leg-waxing. My best friend started me out way back in high school, on her kitchen floor, with my face jammed in a pillow to muffle the screams so no one would think I was being murdered behind closed doors. Since then, every summer I’ve returned to leg-waxing in my living room, convinced that I was reaping the benefits that come along with it, then gone back to shaving in the cooler months.

Only, if you do a quick Google search on Waxing vs Shaving and why one is better, you’ll find that you are cautioned not to mix methods and encouraged to leave it up to the professionals. The jillions of blog posts on the subject overwhelmingly agree that if you shave in between waxing, you’re erasing your waxing progress, and that the ONLY way to reap full benefits is to stick to a strict waxing schedule year-round, even in the winter when you’re not showing off your skin. Harsh, huh? Welp, I decided to drop the razor for awhile and try out some professionals while adhering to a schedule.

Fast forward to September. I’ve abandoned leg-waxing.

The benefits don’t outweigh the effort put in or the stress endured. A full-leg wax is the most expensive single body part order on any waxing menu, and it also takes the longest. It doesn’t seem like it’s possible to really get…ALL THE HAIR…Yes, I know about differing hair-growth cycles and how it takes a few sessions for them to catch up to one other in perfect alignment for a clean rip-off, but when you think about it, extracting every individual hair from one’s skin surface is a tall order, even for an experienced professional. Sure, I had one lady with an offer that if you discovered any missed hairs to come back within a week for a free touch-up, but who really wants to do that? No one ENJOYS this process. We just want it over with.

Another thing. You will find a general consensus that waxing lasts about a month. Yes, the wax does last longer than a shave, BUT, your hair also needs to be a certain length to be waxed again.

Week 1, you’re smooth.
Week 2, the hairs are growing back in, lighter and finer, yes, but they’re still there.
Week 3, oh they’re THERE and there’s nothing you can do about it because it’s too early for the next wax but it’s blazing hip-hop & RnB out there in the summertime so unless you’re covering up in pants or leggings and risking a heatstroke the regrowth remains exposed to the world. Lighter? Yes. But still there. I asked my bestie what do seasoned waxers do during this period. Her answer, “Pray no one notices, lol.”

Grrrrrr….

The last time I saw her, I observed her legs in the hair regrowth stage. After 10+ years of waxing, the hair growth is absolutely lighter and finer, but it’s still there. And going through a summer with halfway-hairy legs half of the time has not been an ideal experience for me, especially after sitting through an hour of rippage, coughing up a $125 bill each time, planning all your summer trips around your waxing schedule that you can’t break to shave, and hoping the guy across from you on the train can’t see your new growth under that florescent lighting.

I can’t live that life. Give me back my freedom of razor. I never had a problem with shaving. A Venus razor and shaving cream always gave me results that last a few days and no trouble with ingrowns. NO STRESS.

I WILL say that I IMMEDIATELY noticed a difference with underarm waxing and it changed my life. You barely notice the regrowth and even after 3 weeks you have to look closely to tell that it’s there. It also takes literally 5 minutes or less to wax and costs like $15. I will absolutely continue that, as well as bikini.

And I prefer this form of legwear anyway.

20170904_151827 - Copy

 

Wackawackawackawackawackawackawackawackawacka.

~Tael

 

 

That New York Bubble

At the time of this post, I can still say that I’ve never had an overtly racist encounter. Strange, isn’t it? I’m a 30-year-old African American woman with about 12 years worth of dreadlocks. I have never once been called a “nigger” to my face or over the internet. I have never had a backhanded compliment such as “Oh she’s blahblahblah, for a Black girl.” I’ve never had trouble landing a job either because of my race. The only questionable situation I had with a recruiter was when she tried to low-key tell me that the positions she recruited for would likely have a problem with my hair (And well, the hair stays). And as far as I know, I’ve never been passed over for anything because of the color of my skin.

I grew up in New York City, which I consider to be the greatest city in America. I may not have an overwhelming “patriotic” pride, but I sure am loyal as hell to New York. And growing up here, there’s a whole different lifestyle and an entirely unique state of mind. There is no physical divide between rich and poor and race here. Sure, certain neighborhoods are more LIKELY to have a certain demographic (South Williamsburg, Sheepshead Bay, Brownsville) but gentrification runs rampant through the city, low-income/lottery housing exists in the most luxurious buildings (my friend was lucky enough to bag one) and you’ll find everyone in Times Square from the businessmen to the tourists to the teenagers to the hood squad.

There is a certain kind of acceptance that comes with being a New York native. If you went to school here, you were exposed to a mixing bowl of race and culture at a very early age. I grew up brushing elbows with project kids, families who had enough money to treat a group of kids to dinner and the movies for their child’s birthday (an impressive feat in the 90s), immigrant children who spoke little English, young girls wearing hijabs and a boy brought up as Jehovah’s Witness who wasn’t allowed to participate in any of the holiday activities. We had class luncheons where everyone would bring in family dishes, Dance Festivals where we’d learn choreography from different origins, and Spanish class was a requirement for 5 years of my public school life.

The fact that a Confederate flag was recently found displayed in the window of an LES apartment was definitely a surprise, considering I grew up in LES. Because in the New York Bubble, racism is something that happens somewhere else. Growing up here did not instill the fear of cops in me and getting pulled over was never a stressful or scary event. In the New York Bubble, a racist establishment will get slammed and shamed on social media or Yelp; a racist incident in the street will be recorded on a camera phone and make the Gothamist for the city to snub; a Good Samaritan will call someone out publicly for displaying prejudice. Growing up in NYC, I was not taught to see race, traipsing through Chinatown, the only Black person in a swarm of Chinese friends, their parents thrilled with my knowledge of Mah-Jongg without the English characters on the pieces. In the New York Bubble, racism is a shocking and disgusting thing we’ve mostly evolved past, while small towns in Middle America remain ignorant without progress. In my mom’s building, our conservative Jewish neighbor, a mother of 2, has offered my two cousins to come wait inside her house when we weren’t home, and they can look like hoodlums sometimes.

I just had a conversation with my boyfriend the other night about how different my high school experience was from the ones you see portrayed in teen movies. No one was ever singled out for being poor, for being overweight, or for struggling in English class. Those with bad grades or bigger pants sizes or suspicious odors weren’t really treated differently than anyone else. What kind of alternate universe did we exist in? Were we just on a different level of maturity?

Even when I leave New York, I find that the Bubble still follows me. As much as I’ve traveled to visit my family in South Carolina, no one has ever tossed a racial comment my way down the dirt roads, surrounded by deep forests and trailer parks. When I moved to Boston for 2 years, I was met with friendliness abounds, as if the whole New York vs Boston rivalry didn’t exist. When I went to D.C. for Otakon a week ago, nada. Likewise, Baltimore, Virginia and down the East Coast, nothing.

One might see this as a strong sign that our country is progressing. Until you look at your Facebook feed and the news stories, the viral videos of police encounters and personal accounts from across the country of cultural headscarves getting snatched and sneers to “go back to your country.” And you dejectedly realize it is very much still there. And sometimes…it comes into our Bubble and it’s here too. And while I hold my NYC upbringing like a talisman, how far can that Bubble extend? The outer membrane is so thin…

~Tael

Otakon D.C. (My First Big Girl Con)

I have post-convention depression. It’s totally a real thing; it’s on Urban Dictionary. The crowds of nerds, the cosplayers, the programming, the D.C. convention area takeover, the celebration…

It’s over.

My boyfriend took me to my first convention last year: Castle Point Anime Convention in Hoboken. This may be where the addiction was born. Since then I’ve been to two others; Liberty City in Times Square, and Borough Con in Queens. These were all local cons on a much smaller scale, but just the sort of events I’ve been looking for all my life: celebrations of anime culture with a facet for every type of fan. Only now I have money and the means to travel to attend, as well as someone to share it with. šŸ™‚

And now I’m steadily becoming addicted to con-life. It’s made my list of favorite hobbies. And let’s face it, the older you get, the harder it is to make room for new hobbies. Let’s have a recap of this past weekend’s Otakon during its first year in D.C., and what I like to call “My First Big Girl Con.”

20170812_164405_1502571780757

I’ve never traveled across state lines for a con before (no, NJ does not count to a New Yorker). But here I was arriving at my hotel room at the Marriott at Metro Center (EXCELLENT HOTEL CHOICE, by the way) for a 3 day immersive experience. The first thing I noticed was that the streets were flooded with Pokemon hats, gamer t-shirts, schoolgirl socks, dangling Otakon badges, and convention goody-bags. Our kind had literally taken over the streets and it was wonderful to see. No matter what time of night it was (and we strolled the streets at 3 in the morning), you’d encounter someone else in cosplay or with a badge. With our powers combined, we’d erected a bubble of con-dom-ness (Don’t laugh).

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center was a massive venue. Even after 3 days, I still hadn’t mastered the map and still got lost occasionally. The first day, my feet were exhausted from all the walking, and I’m a hardcore Pokemon-GO-er! By the second day, I was a hardened convention-stroller. A few highlights and lessons learned:

1) SO MUCH AC.

They crank the air up good in these places. If you’re wearing a sc20170812_140851hoolgirl costume, steel yourself and be ready. I tried cosplaying something seasonal, but all that goes out the window when you enter the building. You could easily have a fur coat as part of your costume and be good in there.

2) There’s a reason they have reminders all over the place to REMEMBER TO EAT AND DRINK.

At first I thought, who the hell would forget something like that? But then you discover Guidebook, and you schedule a grid of panels and events to attend, and then realize there are lines to get into the panels and if you don’t show up a little early, you may not get in, so you have to factor that in, as well as time spent traversing the Dealer’s Hall during a free time slot, and maybe the last food option you saw was 20 minutes ago on the 2nd floor but you’ve already walked up 2 escalators, made 4 turns and took a connecting tunnel to an adjacent building so are you really going to go all the way back just for FOOD and miss being on line early for the MASQUERADE?? I’ll get better at this with time.

3) Nobody smelled. šŸ˜€

I was warned by multiple people beforehand to expect heavy B.O. I am not sure why there’s a stereotype that nerds are dirty hobos that don’t shower, but I am happy this stereotype was not encountered during my experience at Otakon.

 

4) Arrive at panels/events at LEAST 30 minutes early, but probably more.

When I discovered the Guidebook app, I went CRAZY adding anything that looked like it could be interesting to my schedule. My boyfriend appreciated my enthusiasm, but gently told me in no way would he be accompanying me to all of them. As it turns out, I didn’t make it to 75% of the activities I put on my schedule. Con time is a different sort of time. The breakdown of my valiant efforts were as follows:

20170814_222725

DAY 1

~Nintendo Urban Legends panel at 9:00 am in the morning – MISSED.
Didn’t wake up early enough and got lost on the way to the convention center. -.-‘

~Maid Cafe – MISSED.
I didn’t arrive early enough and there was a line cut-off. >:/

~Opening Ceremonies – Not really a panel but we made it through the traditional Japanese blessing of the con and a list of guests before bouncing early because I expected more excitement and I never actually care about the guests or know their names well enough to get excited.

~Tales series photo shoot – MISSED.
Boyfriend wanted to traverse the Dealer’s Hall in its place.

~Attack on Titan viewing – WALKED OUT.
We tried asking everyone involved in this viewing whether it would be subbed or dubbed, but no one could give an answer. The second the intro began in English, it was a wrap. :/

~All late night activities that required the 18+ wristband – MISSED.
My badgeless cousin with friends in tow showed up to DC so we had to remove ourselves from the convention in search of non-nerdy good times.

DAY 2

~WE OVERSLEPT. T_T
So the panel for cosplay posing was missed.

~Tales of Tales panel – FINALLY MADE IT TO ONE SUCCESSFULLY.
A fun costumed crew took us through the Tales series timeline and asked various trivia questions for each game for prizes. I did not immediately know the answers to a single one. My Tales knowledge is not as good as I thought. I left prizeless.

~Official Gundam Wing panel- Boyfriend never saw this series, and as such, didn’t wanna sit through it with me, so I solo-ed it.
They showed the very first episode to give us all some serious nostalgic feels. Then they did Q &A with the actual writer and producer of the series who flew here all the way from Japan. Katsuyuki Sumizawa was such an animated person and full of personality! He was so much like a character himself, that he had the audience cracking up despite the fact that we needed a translator to actually know what he was saying. A hurried raffle capped it off. I won nothing once again.

~The Masquerade – Easily the most highly attended event I think.
Here is where that “Remember to eat” rule failed me the hardest. Even arriving half an hour early, the line was ruthless. Cosplayed characters performed various skits from singing to dancing to comedic acts to Broadway-like musicals. My fave was the old Team Rocket meets the new Team Rocket skit. But we left early because there were 30 skits and I could only make it through 15 because I was starving, and had tried to survive on Pocky, ramune sodas and the ice-cold rock balls served in the Japanese dining area passed off as onigiri, and the dude directly beside me was smart to bring some sort of warm, meaty sandwich, which I could not sanely sit through the scent. So I hope Team Rocket won something.

After we left the Masquerade, we headed for the Sonic Boombox sponsored after party at the Hard Rock Cafe that we had tickets for. Some drinks and party vibes and, thankfully, a burger later, we were back at our hotel room hosting a very unofficial Smash tourney with fellow con-goers the boyfriend had recruited from the Gaming Room. They seemed overwhelmingly grateful to chill out with us, which warmed my heart.

DAY 3

~WE OVERSLEPT AGAIN BECAUSE EVERYONE GOT DRUNK THE NIGHT BEFORE AND NO ONE WAS WAKING UP EARLY. So final chance for Maid Cafe, MISSED.

~Awesome-sounding Otakon Game Show where audience members can particpate? – CANCELLED.
That one hurt. That one was going to be my headliner of the day. I was looking forward to that one.

~We opted to skip Closing Ceremonies since the Opening ones a few days earlier hadn’t impressed me. One of the cool Smashers we’d met the night before came back to our room to play with us instead.

As we later strolled the D.C. streets, we realized the majority of our kind had already checked out and departed the area. The sidewalks no longer bustled with cosplay frolickers, badged attendees and fellow nerds. Now we saw normal businessmen, families, and the usual dining crowd. The magic had passed. The immersion was over. It was like a reverse culture-shock. Post-con depression is a real thing, guys.

And the best remedy seems pretty clear to me. Moar. Moar. CONS! šŸ˜€

20170813_135000

And more cons it shall be.

~Tael