Blackness Mirrored

I see you all, standing with us.

Mirroring our outrage, disgust and frustration. Those who have to be mindful of their skin tone every day. Those who have the privilege of forgetting their skin color.

Those who don’t see skin color at all.

Which camp are you?

I see my Blackness as part of my genetic make-up; an identity trait holding no more weight than my slim frame, flowing dreadlocks, love of music. But I don’t “experience” my skin tone. I share it. The unpopular minority that doesn’t immediately get offended if another race uses the term “nigga.” To me it’s an urban term; you know when it’s being used inappropriately and the intention of the one using it. You know.

You could be the self-hating Black kind like my ex-husband. Terrified to be associated with anything stereotypical, like Red Lobster, fried chicken and watermelon. Clinging to art and classical music, ties and blazers, to remind everyone “I’m not THAT kind of Black.”

While I seamlessly drift through all worlds at once; projects and spacious houses, Flatbush and Midtown, slang and literature.

Because allies are everywhere.

Internally, i’m not very mindful of my Blackness. Because I don’t “wear” it. I just…AM. But outside my bubble, discrimination continues. And when I watch the viral clips and videos, I FEEL it.

When a Black man needlessly gets shot, jogging in his neighborhood or relaxing in his OWN HOME, I get angry.  When a white woman calls the cops on a Black person for existing…calling her out for breaking the rules, waiting for a friend in an apartment building, barbecuing, playing golf…I get angry. When we’re being choked and cry out that we can’t breathe and it’s ignored, and we DIE, I get angry. When four cops need to pile on top of an unarmed Black mother in front of her child because apparently that force was necessary, I get angry. I wonder why, despite growing up in a blender of culture, after 33 years this insensitivity still exists in 2020. Like it’s been frozen and preserved, retaining all the same intensity as the Jim Crow era. I don’t understand racism. I grew up surrounded by blacks, whites, browns, tans, pales, caramels, butters, peanuts, olives, accents, hijabs, yarmulkes, jade stones and languages I did not understand.

I grew up around tolerance. Acceptance.

So I get ANGRY when I hear this bullshit is still happening. And I feel the collective rage. And I don’t NOT condone the looting. And the anarchy. And the chaos. The wild frustrated will to truly be free when you’ve been walking on eggshells the rest of the time. And the melting pot all over the nation feels it, and the unified support and disgust that these incidents keep occurring that non-Blacks are mirroring is a tearful embrace saying, “We got ya’ll.”

And I’m so proud. To everyone who stares down an armed cop to mirror our indignation in the name of our equality, I’m so proud. I want to absorb your courage.

I love you for marching for us.

And I love those unafraid to open dialogue about Blackness. So many of us are quick to lash out at ignorance. And while I fully understand the sentiment, discussion from both sides NEEDS to take place, not just condemnation.

It’s maddening that ignorance exists and some shit we think is obvious still needs to be TAUGHT to others. But we have to accept that we live in a world riddled with ignorance. And if someone is willing to address that ignorance within themselves, and actively seek guidance and understanding in an effort to rise above it, then that is courage as well, and we need to be willing to mentor and educate with a disciplined mind. On why that way of thinking is wrong. On why that sort of action is inappropriate or offensive. Poke enough holes through a closed mind that wants to be open, and ignorance can filter out like a sieve.

I will never be afraid to have that dialogue. Because it’s knowledge that defeats ignorance.

The incidents of injustice we keep seeing, can make you want to give in so badly to automatic hate.

But, I don’t want to be driven to hate.
Because hate is why we’re where we are now.

But if it makes you feel a little better, do it anyway. Get it out. Hate. Emote. Protest. Riot. Loot.

Teach.

~Tael

Why I Deleted My Dating Apps During The Quarantine

Yes, during the very time that more people are flocking to them than ever.

I was over “dating” a long time ago. Like, before there was online dating. It was a fresh new “sport” to try out back in college but then I quickly realized people suck, and I don’t like perusing through them romantically the same way I once did library books.

Something about dressing up and presenting yourself in the best artificial manner possible comes across as very job-interviewish, and I’m not the biggest fan of those either but they’re necessary to survive.

Dating is not.

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I’ll admit i’m not very good at it because I hate it. Looking back at my track record, i’ve mostly slipped into relationships the “normal” (non-dating-app-initiated) way, with very serial monogamist tendencies. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy being alone; I live alone, enjoy the hell out of it, and am one of the least romantic women you’ll encounter. I never had girly dreams of a fancy expensive wedding (the cost of which could be a down payment on real estate) with a glamorous white dress, kids and a house outta Martha Stewart Living. I’ve only dabbled into the online-dating world in the past 3 years or so, and I wouldn’t call the experience pleasant. I’ve met gamers I didn’t click with, psychos who I’ve fled their apartment, friends-with-benefit failures who couldn’t even be counted on to show up, ONE actual relationship I don’t think I should have been in, and an incredibly disappointing sexual encounter that I had to try twice just to confirm the first was not a mistake. And this was after weeding through incredibly dull conversations, dudes who unmatched me after I said I wasn’t into orgies, dudes who fall off the face of the earth because they were the ones you might have actually been interested in, and a guy who just wanted to be friends but not meet up to hang out with me as friends and continue to solicit me for sexy pictures (???).

When the lockdown began, I saw the uptick in notifications from my dating apps. Strange, seeing as how I hadn’t matched/liked someone on my end since like 2 months ago. That should give you an indication as to how often I actually use them. In 4 months, I’d gone on a grand total of one whole date. Where were these “matches” coming from? Then I realized…OHHHH EVERYBODY IS BORED AND HORNY NOW!!

I let them build and build and build, because I got tired just thinking about reading through the assortment of incredibly non-witty intros and messages that would clearly show up front we weren’t a good fit. You know, like “Good Morning, how’s your day going?” NEXT. I’m sorry, this is perfectly polite, but I’m savage.

When I finally got around to reading through the…SHIT, my eyes glazed over. And I wondered, why subject myself to this if it’s not even fun? Why follow this trend if I see it as a chore?

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I find it incredibly exhausting…to get to know a person. I don’t like just talking to anybody, I DESPISE small talk and “pleasantries,” and can find socializing exhausting if i’m not especially clicking with the socializers. So if I’m going to make ANY effort, it needs to damn sure be worth it. There’s gotta be SOMETHING that makes me WANT to get to know you. Usually something interesting (I know I know, EVERYBODY thinks they are DIFFERENT). When we talk, I need to laugh (actually giggle, chuckle out loud), engage in a bit of teasing, learn something. Then YOU have to feel the same shit, agree to meet up with me, STILL get along with me in person and not turn out to be an ogre (hey, same with me), try to stay relaxed and not overthink and over-expect anything, feel something REAL, and then agree to keep the shit going, OR let them down gently if you ain’t into it without feeling like a complete asshole.

That is WORK.

Work for the right person? AMAZING and completely worth it! But work for countless “let’s sees” who you’ll barely remember months down the line? Draining…as…fuck.
“You should keep your dating apps,” my mom told me several days ago when I proposed the idea. “Just because you never know where you’re gonna find the guy. Just in case.”

Not when simply checking a notification from Random Joe #27 is so depleting. I can’t do it anymore. How do my peers juggle multiple potential daters at the same time when just investing in the PROSPECT of one makes me want to air-gun my cabeza?

So I deleted them. Leaving only Tinder as my “In Case of Emergency,” app (because it’s low-hassle) just in case I get really horny and need some bad-decision sex to take the edge off again. Once the quarantine is over of course.

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I’m seeing articles that the coronavirus is actually changing online dating for the better. People are having VIDEO CHAT DATES. Making plans months in advance to meet new people. Really forming actual bonds because there’s nothing else to do. If it’s helping people get through this, then I’m genuinely happy for them.

But it’s not my thing. It’s not for me. Unless i’ve met you already in person, you’re incredibly charming or witty with words (like a writer!), or you’ve shared some emotional aspect of yourself that allows me to feel connected with you, I have a hard time vibing with you over messages. I hate video chatting. And even though i’m stuck at home with nothing else to do, I don’t want to expend my energy swipe over-driving and video speed-dating hunting for a connection with someone.

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Because no matter how many similarities you have with the person, or boxes they check off from your relationship-person box-checking list in their profile, or even how good the date goes, it still…may…not…matter.

Depressing, huh?

Do I sound like a woman who’s given up? No, my babies; I promise you I haven’t. It’s just not my priority. I’m over the bullshit games that “dating” requires. Because let’s be honest: you CANNOT fully be…REAL. So I’d rather wander alone and stumble across the right soul when the universe dictates it’s my time. But until then…why weed through a revolving door of kindling what-ifs trying to force a spark?

If a spark’s to be had, it will find me.

Ninja…fucking…out.

~Tael

The Tummy Troubles Tribe

You’re about to learn way more about my internal organs than you’d probably care to, and I apologize in advance for that, but I’ll try to “de-gross” it as much as possible. For the past few months I’ve been dealing with digestive trouble that has deeply affected my day-to-day life. I am no stranger to stomach issues. I was your typical problem-picky-eater child, which likely contributed to the constant stomachaches I had throughout grade school. I also found myself exceptionally prone to food poisoning, and motion sickness in cars, but not amusement park rides. Go figure. Once, in middle school, my stomach pains were so excruciating that I was sent to the nurse’s office. She correctly identified my lack of fiber and dehydration; I gulped down a few bananas and chugged water and felt welcome relief as I emptied myself in the school bathroom after.

Some time later, my tummy troubles evolved with enough severity to grant me my first trip to the ER. I couldn’t have been older than 14. A doctor probed my young, previously un-invaded anus with a gloved finger, to which I could not properly respond to his questions and prompts on whether the pain was exacerbated because there was a finger up my butt and I was 14, dammit. So he sent me to radiology for an ultrasound which showed…a whirlwind of gas? They explained that too much air was in my stomach; a combination of carbonated beverages, fried foods, and swallowing air while eating, most likely from talking at the same time. As a result, my bowels had become inflamed. Lesson learned. Even today, I find I still hold my breath sometimes while eating, in a subconscious act to ward off accidental air gulps.

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For awhile after, it seemed to do better, and was well-behaved throughout high school and college. It seemed I was finally outgrowing my membership with the Tummy Troubles Tribe. I tried to reward its good behavior in turn. The more I ascended into adulthood, the more I realized I should take more accountability for my picky eating if I wanted to be somewhat MILF-like and still be a ninja at age 60 (shout-out to Aunt Sandra). I had started incorporating gym sessions into my lifestyle, and learned that fitness and eating better were two-fold, so I’d have to step up my nutrition game as well. At the ripe age of 27, I cautiously waded into the world of vegetables, beginning with sweet potatoes and asparagus (shout-out to NerdFitness for the gateway veggie suggestion), eventually added kale, spinach, brussel sprouts (shout-out to Jo-Jo for that introduction) and got reacquainted with beans and lentils. I severely diminished the amount of processed fast foods I ate, bade farewell to quick meals from McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, etc… (although Sonic and Dairy Queen still get a pass once in awhile) cooked more basic meals at home, stopped buying 2L soda bottles for the house just because they were cheaper, and drank more water. Candy bars in the front of bodegas and drug stores became invisible to me. Junk cravings decreased. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my cookies and cakes and I still indulge when the craving hits, but cleaner eating pulls me now.

Imagine my surprise when, after over a decade of smooth sailing and self-implemented gut improvements, my tummy troubles returned with a vengeance and landed me in the ER for the second time in my life. A debilitating cramp seized the lower right hand portion of my stomach after returning from a trip to Antigua. When it didn’t subside for 3 days, my ex-boyfriend pushed me to go to Urgent Care. After some gentle prodding and mounting concern that it might be appendicitis, Urgent Care referred me to the ER, a place I swear to never return to unless my limbs are dismembered or my intestines are spilling out. After 9 hours of unsympathetic nurses who hooked an IV to my hand because they couldn’t find the veins in my arms, inept doctors who couldn’t make a proper diagnosis, an ultrasound, CT scan, and physical examination by a surgeon later, I was told I had fibroids. While one of the earlier moron doctors had said that wouldn’t be the source of my pain, the surgeon confirmed that, yes, fibroids can absolutely hurt. And a quick Google search confirmed this, especially when they undergo degeneration. Millions of women suffer from fibroids and just as many of them experience symptoms as the ones who don’t even realize they’re there.

At that point, the ER felt like prison: they had not allowed me to eat all day, the hospital-grade pain meds through the IV hadn’t done shit so I had long since ordered them to disconnect it, and I wanted my real clothes again. I was relieved when they released me to go home with the diagnosis: fibroids + take ibuprofen. I was ready to suffer in the comfort of my own apartment. I medicated with Motrin and marijuana for the rest of the week until the symptoms drifted away. And all was well until a year later.

I first felt the crampy twinges in the same spot the brutal pains had occurred a year before, but on a much lesser scale. Instead, it was now accompanied by discomforting bloating and fullness. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to the bathroom as much anymore. Maybe once every 4-5 days and when I did, it was tiny pieces. My body wanted to release, but my booty wouldn’t. Google told me this was a constipation indicator. I tried all the recommended remedies. More apples, bananas and pears. More veggies. A spoonful of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach along with jumping jacks. Coconut oil. Apple cider vinegar ingestion daily. I already log numerous Pokemon Go hours of walking and 2.5 gym sessions a week, so it couldn’t have been a lack of exercise.

A month later, with no improvement, I shakily told my current boyfriend, who proved to be incredibly supportive of my situation. It was time to up the ante. First, I pulled out the big guns and tried a laxative just to make sure, you know, it worked. It worked all right. Then we began a regimen of fruit and veggie smoothies blended each day with chia seeds. I began adding things I never ate. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, carrots. I started drinking kombucha. Tried bone broth. Upped my probiotic count. Abdominal massages. Eight glasses of bottled water a day and I abandoned tap. I kept a food journal for a month and referred to the Bristol Stool Chart more than I’d ever had in life. Someone with a normal digestive system would have been glued to the toilet. I tried removing certain foods for testing purposes. One week I did away with dairy. Another week, seafood. Tried removing gluten for a week before realizing if you want to have a gluten test done to see if you have Celiac’s, you have to actually be ingesting it. Lame. But now it had been two months and I was still not consistently improving, so I scheduled an appointment with a gastroentologist to have my butthole probed again for the second time in my life. They did a bevy of bloodwork testing for food allergies, thyroid issues, diseases and imbalances. All negative. We scheduled an ultrasound to take a look at what was happening in there and make sure the fibroids discovered the previous year hadn’t become an issue. Unlike the last time I’d gotten an ultrasound in my childhood, this one didn’t produce much, except a growth on my liver that needed to be checked out via MRI. One MRI later, they said it was Focal Nodular Hyperplasia, a fancy term for a small, benign mass that doesn’t affect the function of its host. Along with the fibroids and the non-threatening lump discovered in my breast years ago, I’m accumulating quite the collection of benevolent tumors inside my body.

“So what’s wrong with me then?”

My gastro diagnosed me with chronic idiopathic constipation, which basically means, cause unknown. Over $1000 in doctor’s visit’s later (yeah, that’s WITH health coverage) and I get a diagnosis that says “We dunno why.” Her solution: go on Miralax long term. “It’s very gentle, you won’t get explosive diarrhea, and I even have babies on it.”

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It will soon be 5 months since this new ailment has afflicted me and I am slowly learning to accept it. Something like chronic constipation may not seem like a big deal until it’s your body that’s not working the way it should, and until you need to rely on supplements and additives to be “normal,” you won’t know what it’s like to fear what will happen if their effectiveness fails. I am ridiculously thankful that I don’t have the pain or distention of severe sufferers; my liver is working fine, I don’t have the sort of fibroids that make me look 7 months pregnant, nor do they bleed when I work out. I’ve forgotten they’re there since my last ER trip. I’m blessed to be able to still live a relatively normal lifestyle, just one more centered around the bathroom. But at times I do feel like the universe has a very backwards way of rewarding me for attempting to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Currently I’m operating well enough on a daily dose of Miralax, magnesium supplement at night (shout-out to Amazon for the Natural Calm), an almost-daily home-blended fruit/veggie shake and a double dose of probiotics. When I vacayed in Mexico, I saw TSA workers examining the powders in my vitamin containers, questioning my potential to be a drug runner. Some days are better than others. Staying active helps take my mind off the feeling of internal fullness that varies on a regular basis.

It’s slightly annoying when those close to me downplay the situation, even when I know they are trying to help. When my mom off-handedly comments “You and your bestie love to create problems with yourselves that aren’t there,” I answer back, “Yes, because I shelled out hundreds of dollars in doctor’s visits and endured multiple needles because something isn’t REALLY wrong with my body.”

Or if someone says, “Oh, just drink coffee! That always helps me go!” I would think if it would have been that easy, the doctors would have suggested it. But I doubt the COFFEE will solve what the fruit, berries, spinach, kale, chia seeds, flax seeds, oatmeal, olive oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and various fibrous additions cumulatively have not done, as well as hydration that makes my pee so clear, I could probably boil tea with it.

Google (as well as the doc) tells me CIC may vanish just as randomly as it crept in. But there is no way to know. Until then, I keep my stomach prepped for the day it might, by remaining active, increasingly choosing organic, maintaining increased fiber intake, continuing to drink probiotic drinks and include fresh garlic and ginger in my meals, as well as spices like turmeric and cayenne pepper. I practice stretches, abdominal massages, and even kegels, in the hopes that I can rebalance my body and guide my digestive motility back into submission at some point. Stressing about it multiplies the stress, so I try not to let it affect my day-to-day too much, pray over it and adapt to it, though it times it can get depressing.

I’m sharing my story because I’m not the only sufferer, and we need to talk about it. The docs don’t have a cure nor a reason for this condition, so it appears we are stuck in this tribe. If you know someone with similar symptoms, or if you have tips on how to manage CIC that have worked for you or another, please let me know, because the Internet is flooded with hopeless anecdotes on this condition. 😦 It is affecting more of us than you think.

~Tael

The Facets of Feeling

I have a problem with the term “chasing happiness.” It’s too simple. The past 2 years for me were a prison of black and white, upbeat happy or pitfall sad. In-between emotions weren’t recognized or permitted. Hell, even sadness was considered intolerable, and angrily acknowledged if it surfaced. The vivid spectrum of human emotion could not be fully accessed. The only emotion allowed…was “happy.” But denying your palate the varied flavors of life through emotional suppression only creates a disastrous recipe.

Happiness. We hold it as the most powerful, sought-after state of being for a healthy, satisfying life. But there’s a problem with those who ONLY wish to be “happy” and banish the other emotions to the dungeon-like doldrums. Happiness is just one shade. Satisfaction, for example, is not as surface-level as “happy.” Satisfaction can run so much deeper and give you a far higher sense of achievement when attained. Contentment, as well, is a warm feeling that echoes softly through your soul putting you in a relaxed state that “happy” cannot achieve on its own. Exuberance is an exhilaratory upgrade of happiness that heightens your mental state with a gripping thrill.

And then there’s the downside of the spectrum. No one wants to be sad. No one wants to be depressed. And no one should wish for it. But when it happens, sometimes you have to feel it deeply. There is no such thing as a “bad” feeling; there is only a poor way to handle it. Choosing “not” to feel it is one such example. You can never truly face your situation by running from the sentiment. If sadness happens to be your reality at the moment, then face it head on, grieve, and learn from it. Fleeing from feelings conquers nothing and produces 0 growth. It’s simply putting a lid on a pot that will continue to boil and erupt later with explosive, exponential intensity.

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It may feel like a curse to feel emotions magnified other than “happy.” If you’re like me and feel things very deeply (mood swings galore as a child), simple words with an odd inflection may cut you deep. Brutal anger may draw a curtain of red over your world. Unfair treatment might make you curl-up-on-the-floor-sick-to-your-stomach with resentment. But buoyant, spirited vibes resound within you, magnifying to a high better than any hallucinogen.

The individual you run into sobbing in public will be one of the most honest people you’ll meet. Unafraid of the world’s judgment, they are showing you their current truth in raw form, without a facade. That highly opinionated acquaintance who constantly vomits their viewpoints that everyone finds “inappropriate,” likely won’t be “two-faced” behind your back because they give you themselves without dilution. The stranger you’ve just met who heatedly shares his indignation at an injustice he recently witnessed is unafraid to display the passion in his heart. Fearless emotion is an amazing thing.

If your goal is to only chase “happiness,” how can you fully appreciate the facets of feeling? Like a brilliant diamond, there are so many glittering sides to experience that grant you new perception at different angles. Angles that illumine paths to reflections you may not have seen before. Paths that lead you to fellow humans who immediately and completely understand what you’re feeling because they’ve felt it as well. They’ve experienced that facet of the diamond themselves. They’ve tasted that emotion and overcome it before and now you’ve created a powerful connection through sharing and empathy.

We need the jarring rage you feel when a friend is mistreated, the sweltering indignance you feel when you’re spoken down to, and the simmering jealous awe that pushes us to climb and stretch for things out of our reach. Going through life cradling one feeling is a robotic pathway of monochrome imbalance. Celebrate the fact that you can feel a myriad of sentiments. Reactions that prove you’re legitimately interacting with the world and people around you. You hear them, listen, disagree, get angered by what they say, happy at their news, sad at their downfalls. Cry when you’re upset, stomp when you’re mad, yell when you’re frustrated. Shout beneath a waterfall like in A Quiet Place and let go of the composure. Embrace the wild freedom of being human.

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Be wary of those who are only ever “happy,” afraid to come face to face with any other emotion. Those are the ones who hide deeper currents that wash over their hidden truths and malfunction their mechanical myths behind the veneer they’ve put up. If your life is one emotion, you’re half-living, and not viewing the full panorama the human soul has to offer. If you haven’t fallen to the lowest point, clawed your way back out, coped through a mind-numbing loss, been picked up by the kindness of karmatic-hearted strangers, and even had your boss comfort you in the throes of devastation, you might not have truly lived yet.

The ending line from the Fruits Basket manga never resonated so well with me before: Repeat the good AND the bad. Do it all, and pile on the years.

Never be afraid to feel.

~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