Problematic

We all have people we look up to. Friends, parents, neighbors, band members, fictional characters, people from the internet. Conscious or not, I’m fairly sure everyone has someone they admire and look up to.

But what happens when that person becomes problematic?

This sentence could punctuate my entire existence. In my early years of high school, I looked up to people who were liars and manipulators, even to myself, and in my mind, I excused their actions. In middle school, I looked up to a girl who ditched me without a second thought and a devout Christian who was very homophobic as well as not very accepting of anyone who wasn’t Christian, and again, in my mind, I excused their actions. In elementary school, I looked up to fictional fairy characters, 90′s and 00′s anime protagonists, and Winnie the Pooh. Which, I mean, that’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to “non-problematic.” Recently, in the Nerdfighter community, there have been people I looked up to that have seriously fucked up. (If you’re interested and don’t know about it already, Google can tell you more than I can. The names you’re looking for are Alex Day and Tom Milsom.) Tom, I am able to see their mistake, as well as the fact they have no apparent comment on said mistake, and go “…so you’re probably not the best person for me to look up to.” Alex has admitted his faults, is owning up to them, but that also doesn’t excuse what he’s done. But I’m old enough and smart enough to not simply excuse them in my own mind. So now I get to let my brain play tug-of-war over how I feel about him and his actions.

But I think, really, what makes this harder, is the fact that I looked up to them not on a human level, but more on… how should I phrase this… more with a level of detachment. Almost like an idol, but not quite. They were human, sure, but somehow they didn’t seem to be. They were better than your average joe. Above the average joe. And that’s where I – like a lot of other people – go wrong in my looking up to people.

In John Green’s “Paper Towns,” he shatters the idea of the manic pixie girl, states that that’s liking the idea of the person, not the person. “When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside.” At first, I kind of dismissed that idea. How could anyone see just “an idea of a person”? And in that, I kind of missed the entire point of the book. But I’m starting to get it now. When we see these people on a non-human level, when we either raise them up above us, we don’t see them. We see what they do, maybe. What they look like. What we want them to be. What we think they are. And I when I think about it… it’s not something I’d want done to me. Were someone to look up to me like that… I’m just a person. I’m just a human being, the same as everyone else, the same as anyone who might look up to me that way. To borrow a tired phrase, I put my pants on the same as everyone else; one leg at a time.

And this is information that I’m trying to process, something I’m trying to change about myself. With the current situation still playing push-and-pull in my head, it’s hard. But it’s a start. And I’m hoping this can help other people to start seeing the people they look up to as people, not symbols or great beings or anything of that sort. As humans. Not someone you’d want to scream about seeing, but someone you’d like to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with.

Shame

Through my life, my general attire has been the same. Jeans and a T-shirt with sneakers. In 6th grade, I switched jeans out for sweat pants because I could not stop growing, and therefore I could not find a pair of jeans that would comfortably fit me without me growing out of them two weeks later. I was rarely seen in a dress or skirt because I was uncomfortable in them as well as not confident in them.

In high school, I would see these girls with shorts and shirts and skirts and dresses that didn’t meet the dress code, and I generally resented them. Really, it was more because they wouldn’t get called out on breaking dress code because of who they were, and what major they were affiliated with, but other girls would. (My friend Sara got yelled at one day for wearing a tank top without a cardigan to cover her shoulders when other girls would walk around in tank tops and short-shorts all day without a word spoken to them.)

And I told myself I hated the way they dressed, that they looked like whores and sluts, that certainly they could dress more modestly, and with less makeup, to boot. A lot of my friends agreed, even guy friends. But stepping back from those moments, I realize that some of the things they wore were things I would have loved to wear if I had the confidence. The shirts, the skirts, the dresses, most of them were really cute. Their eyeliner was always even and their lipstick was kick ass. And I’m angry and jealous that I wasn’t brave enough to try and pull it off.

But the people I’ve been in contact with a lot lately have a different idea than that. “No,” they say, “no, they’re still just sluts and whores who need to cover up. You’re different, Senna. You’re modest, and no-makeup natural. You’re not a perfect hourglass. Not like those other girls.” And that got me thinking. If I were to wear those things – not to be provocative, or because I wanted anyone’s approval, but because I wanted to wear them – would these people still hold the same opinion of me? Would I lose their respect simply for wearing something that wasn’t finger-tip length, or that showed my stomach, or that exposed my back? Is embracing and playing up a body figure really that horrible? Were these really people I wanted to associate myself with if they thought this way?

The issue here, is what society likes to call “slut shaming” (which, really, can’t we come up with a better term?). If you’re unfamiliar with this idea, it’s basically when you call someone a slut, whore, hooker, what have you, simply because they’re wearing something “immodest” that you don’t approve of, because it’s “distracting” or “inappropriate.” You know what our ancestors wouldn’t approve of? Showing our ankles. Or our knees. And what do we do almost every day when the weather is nice? Show both. I don’t see anyone going off about that, do you? It’s one thing to print “SEX” on a shirt and wear it to school or work (which, by the way, I’ve seen instances like this go unchecked more often than not), but being told “your shirt is showing your midriff, you’re going to give boys the wrong idea” boggles my mind. The wrong idea? That what, I have a stomach? That I don’t have cotton surgically attached to it? That I have legs, that I have shoulders, that I have a back? Covered in skin? What a concept, who knew?

The idea that men can’t keep it in their pants or pay attention because a girl is wearing a skirt is an idea that demotes men to beings that have no willpower. (This idea also is why rape culture is a thing; “she was dressed like that/drunk/passed out, how could he not rape her?”)

It’s also the idea that a woman will dress to sexually distress a man. Which, in certain cases might be true, but by and large, is a ridiculous idea. Unless I’m in my work uniform, I dress for me. I dress so I can feel good about myself. “Well, can’t you do that without dressing so scantily?” the masses of men ask. Can’t you think about anything other than getting into a woman’s pants depending on what she’s wearing? If the answer is “no” or “yes, but…” I’m not the problem. You are.

And this idea has followed me beyond high school. It still haunts me today, with people continually telling me that I’m “better” than other girls because I dress and look different from them. And it makes me look at things I want to wear, makes me try them on, and then sadly put them back on the rack because the people around me wouldn’t approve of them. It was my sister fearlessly wearing whatever she wanted to wear, and my mother’s acceptance of it, that finally made me realize that I could put on whatever I wanted as long as I felt good in it.

“Modesty is hot.” Yeah, that might be true, in some cases. But you know what else is hot? Me in a strapless red dress that doesn’t meet the fingertip test and thigh-highs and winged eyeliner and silver eye shadow and bright red lipstick. You know what’s not hot? Your idea that I need to dress the way you think I should.

The Fairy of the Blue Flowers

When I was a girl, in the spring and summer, there would be little tiny blue flowers in my back yard. They grew in little clumps, and never grew as tall as the dandelions or clover, no matter how many times I tried to save them from the lawnmower.

When Annie was playing on the computer, or reading, or over at a friend’s house, sometimes I’d go out into the yard and pick some of the flowers and put them in my hair. And I’d imagine myself becoming small, so small I could use a dandelion as an umbrella in case it rained. And I would become a Fairy of the Blue Flowers.

I never did anything important as a fairy. I was never a princess, there was never a plot to my story as a fairy. I would simply explore my back yard through the eyes of a fairy. Sometimes I would just lay in the grass, soaking up the sun, pretending that the sun was dappled by blades of grass in front of my eyes.

It was so simple. It was so, so simple, and so relaxing.

I wish I could go back to that.

This post really has no point other than for me to remind myself of a time when I was less lost than I am now. Sorry about that.

Fire Emblem

When I was in the fifth grade, my family and a family close to us took a week off of work and school to drive (yes, drive) down to Disney World. It was a 28 hour drive that we did straight through, and my dad decided it wasn’t fair for my sister and I to share one Gameboy with two games for that long. So, somewhere online, my dad found a Gameboy SP and a huge pack of games and gave them to us for the ride. We were under the understanding that we would have to give them back at the end of the trip; he told us that he got them from a friend, though looking back, I’m certain that he got a bundle off eBay and figured he’d sell it back later.

It was on this trip that I was introduced to turn-based board strategy, rather than Pokemon turn-based strategy. It actually started with a game that I could have sworn was called Castle Quire, but every place on the internet tells me no such game exists. Either way, I found it horribly hard, but despite that, it was wicked fun. It was like nothing I’d ever played before. I got stuck at one level where there was a character I could not control, she was my favorite character and my only healer, and no matter that I did, she died. So after hours on end of trying to get past this level (including restarting the game to redo any casualties I’d suffered) I gave up and looked to see what my sister was playing.

She’d just shut her game off to rest her eyes, so I asked what she’d been playing. She pulled the game out of her system and handed it to me. Fire Emblem. What a weird name for a game. I put it in my Gameboy and loaded it up, asked which file was hers, and started a new one on a different file.

It followed a blue (or was it green? Or black?) haired girl named Lyn, who addressed me directly. Which was weird. I’d put my own name in on a whim (which I never, ever did; I always made up a name much more interesting than mine,) so it was really weird to not only have a character talk to me directly, but to have her also use my real name. It made me feel… important. It was also a turn-based RPG, which at first, made me mad. How dare there be a different game like Castle Quire that wasn’t Castle Quire. Plus, it was 2D, and Castle Quire was 3D. Clearly, then, Castle Quire was superior.

It wasn’t until the ride home that I gave this weird game a chance. And I fell in love with it. I fell in love with Lyn, who quickly turned into a big-sister character for me. She was always asking me what I wanted to do, and even though I didn’t really have a say in what my response was, it still made me feel important. Of course, I only just barely got past Lyn’s storyline (there being three within the game) and had to quit before I got to the next characters, and it actually took me several trips to Delaware to get through Lyn’s story at all. But I loved it.

It would be years later until I would learn that there was more than one Fire Emblem game. However, the other Fire Emblem games that had been released for America (as many of them never got translated from Japanese into English) didn’t do the franchise service. They simply weren’t the Fire Emblem I’d fallen in love with all those years ago. So I played my game from time to time and tried to pretend the other games didn’t exist.

It was last year that my friend Owen got himself a 3DS with the new Fire Emblem on it.

To begin with, I was horribly against the 3DS. I figured it was just a marketing ploy on Nintendo’s part; I’d just bought a DSi not long before, because they’d said it’d be their last handheld in a while, so it was safe to upgrade. The 3D seemed gimmicky, and there didn’t seem to be any good titles for it.

But the DS Owen got… He got the Fire Emblem limited edition one. Which was beautiful. And upon hearing I’d played Rekka no Ken (the only Fire Emblem I’d liked to date,) he insisted I start a file on his new game, Fire Emblem: Awakening. I himmed and hawed and sighed and, finally, I decided to play.

I got to customize my character. This was new. As a tactition character in Rekka no Ken, you didn’t get a real sprite. So getting a full-size sprite, but also customizing it, was new, and welcome. Then, on top of that, I was a story member, rather than just a tactition that told units where to go. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a tactition. But all of the characters talked to me, and more than that, I really felt a part of the story. Plus, I could fight. I had a sword, and I had magic, so I wasn’t a useless character being toted around by the main character. And there were new mechanics that I loved; the new-and-improved support system, the paring up system, the way you got new units… I didn’t like the new thief, Gaius, as much as I’d liked the old thief, Matthew, which was a bit off-putting. But there was a whole myriad of characters and personalities, and very strong female characters. (I still hated the Pegasus knight as much as I’d hated the last one.) Plus, unlike the few other games on the 3DS I’d played in 3D on other people’s DS-es, the DS in this game enhanced the game, rather than feeling gimmicky or detracting from the gameplay.

I quickly fell in love with the game. So much, that whenever I went over to Owen’s house, I’d just barely sit down and start watching him and Brandon play whatever game that they were going to play before Owen would ask me why I wasn’t playing on his DS. The game went above and beyond my high expectations of what I thought Fire Emblem game should be.

For my high school graduation, my gift to myself was buying the same 3DS he had. Because I had to have it. I had to. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten for myself.

Procrastination

One of the most used words in my life is probably “later.” I’ll write later, I’ll eat later, I’ll get up later, maybe later, you get my drift. It’s been an issue as long as I can remember it, and I congratulate any friends I have that have been able to put up with “I’ll see you another time” because I put off seeing them now.

However, if there is one thing I never, ever, ever procrastinate, it’s video games. Video games I play right here, right now, and often cause procrastination of other things.

Someone has found the chink in my armor.

There’s a site I’ve been introduced to called HabitRPG, which basically turns you into a cute little 8-bit character and rewards you for doing things you need to do or habits you want to break. You gain XP and gold for completing tasks, and lose HP if you don’t complete your dailies or do habits you want to break.

There’s also items to buy, pets, mounts, quests… it basically turns you into an RPG character, and makes it feel like you’re completing quests when you’re really just making sure you eat enough, or are writing a little bit each day, or trying to not bite your nails.

Basically, if you’re really good at not doing things you should do, 10/10 would recommend.

https://habitrpg.com/

 

Adult Decisions

Did you ever notice, when you were a kid, that a lot of times when you were little, your parents would ask you to make “adult decisions”? (Or big girl/boy decisions, or grown-up decisions, any variation thereof.) And did you ever notice that those “adult decisions” basically were not very adult-feeling at all, they were still you doing what they told you to do, or what they wanted you to do, or what they expected you to do?

Specifically, I remember several times when I didn’t want to clean my room. (For the record, I’ve never wanted to clean my room. Notice how some of my posts go all over the place? My mind is like that, ergo my room/workspace is like that.) And when I didn’t want to do it, my mom would tell me “come on Senna, be a big girl.” Being a big girl had nothing to do with it. Standing up against her and telling her that I knew where everything was in that “mess” probably would have been the more “big girl” decision. But I’d do it. I’d clean my room, up until the point I got distracted with some object, and I’d have to be reminded again. But I’d do it.

I’ve realized my life has been like that a lot.

My old school district was huge. It was a slew of elementary schools, three middle schools, one junior high, and one senior high miles away from the junior high. Where I lived, I went to one elementary school that was right next to one of the middle schools. But, somehow or another, because of where I lived, I was “districted,” as they called it, to go to another, full of people I didn’t know. But it was okay. I was going to go with a lot of my friends, because they were also districted to go there.

Except not. The parents fought the schools, saying they shouldn’t have to send their kids to a school miles and miles away because there was another middle school sitting right next to the elementary school. And the parents went back and forth with the district until finally, the head of the district went “Fine. Know what? You can choose where you want your kids to go.”

A lot of my friends went to the closer middle school. My dad wanted me to make the call where I went, but he wanted me to make the “grown-up choice” of taking the challenge and going to the one farther away. At this point, I was in fifth grade, and I was one of those kids who if I didn’t get straight As, I’d be seen as a huge disappointment. I didn’t get into the gifted program, which made my father very angry. I knew how things worked by now, and I knew if I chose to go where my friends went, where I would probably be happier, I would never hear the end of it. So I went to the one farther away. Where everyone knew everyone else except me. I was lucky enough to find a friend that I went to pre-school with there, and tack myself onto her friend group. And because I was the weirdo, the outsider, the girl with no fashion sense and no makeup, I was bullied. Not by the boys, oh no, the boys and I got along fine. The girls became demons, spreading rumors, laughing at me behind my back, pretending they were friends with me.

I begged my dad to pull me out. He didn’t listen until my grades started slipping because I was skipping class to hide in the library.

I was put into cyber school. Two kids we knew around the Philly area went to a cyber school, and they loved it. They were a latino family, and in school, the boys were discriminated against by even the teacher, so they were inherently distrustful of anyone with white skin. They didn’t get along well with my sister and I, not until they got into cyber school and realized that people weren’t inherently bad. So we went to cyber school, where, admittedly, I made one of the best friends I could ever hope for.

We went to a program called Art Outreach provided through the school, where we would go to a building owned by the school and learn things for free – guitar, piano, painting, acting, singing. My sister made a friend there, and my father spoke with her mother; her oldest son went to a school called Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, a high school that you had to audition to get into, but was well worth it if you made it.

At the end of my 8th grade year, I lobbied to go back to my home district. I didn’t want to graduate behind a computer screen, I wanted to graduate with my old friends. I was told no, I couldn’t, I would be going to Lincoln Park. “That’s not fair!” I remember yelling, “It’s my life! Not yours!” So my father made a deal with me. I could either stay in Cyber School for the rest of high school, or I could try Lincoln Park for a year, and if I hated it, I could go back to my district. “I want you to think about what the adult decision is, here,” he said.

This wasn’t an adult decision. The last time I’d been asked to make an “adult decision” about my schooling, I’d fucked myself over, and he knew it. But he also knew I hated sitting at home all day, taking classes online that I had no motivation to do because I could do them “at my own pace.” This wasn’t an adult decision, it was manipulation.

I tried out for and got into Lincoln Park.

Which, in the end, was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. As far as what grade you were in, everyone was seen as an equal for the most part. (Unless you were part of the new 8th grade program.) Upperclassmen would help underclassmen find classes and teachers. There were no friendship boundaries between age groups, and most majors had some kind of link between them; Media filmed Theater and Dance, Literary Arts worked closely with Media, Music worked with Musical Theater. I made so many friends that I hope to keep for a long time, both with students and teachers alike.

There came the choice, of course, of college.

I wanted to write books. I knew I didn’t need a degree to do that. But it was another “adult decision” I had to make. So I looked for majors, week in week out, it was always something new. Fashion design, culinary arts, communication, psychology, law. Never English. English wasn’t a good enough degree, not for my family. They were concerned I’d end up with no job.

In the end, I went for English, promising I’d think about dual majoring in communication or business in my second year.

All of these “adult decisions” were ones made for me, ones made because I felt I had to.

I finally made a real adult decision within the past week. I quit college.

Part of it was because of money. College is damn expensive, and I was paying for it with my own money and educational bonds. But part of it was that college was doing really, really bad things for my mental health. It got to the point where I would lay awake in bed and think, you know, I would honestly rather be dead than deal with all this. And I didn’t know how to deal with that at first; you can’t really just tell someone that. You’re dramatic, you’re exaggerating, you’re weak. Or you need to be medicated. But I couldn’t just quit, I’d let my father down.

Except, what made his expectations of me more important than my mental health?

All the “adult decisions” I’d made were just things I’d done to keep someone other than myself happy. But that wasn’t very grown-up at all. Being an adult means taking responsibility for yourself, your needs, your actions. And your happiness.

And that’s what I think is the most important thing about being an adult.

How Manga and Anime Ruined My Life

When I was in first or second grade, my sister and I would go down to the Eagle Video and pick out a new VHS tape to watch every week. Usually, it was Barney or Winnie the Pooh. But at one point, it was a movie called Kiki’s Delivery Service. I’d seen it on previews of other movies; from what I could tell, it was about a witch girl who somehow accidentally crashed a blimp. And to a kid, that was exciting. It took some convincing, but my sister agreed that we’d watch that one that week.

To me, it was just an animated movie, much like everything else I watched. It was a cartoon. I remember my dad calling it “Japanimation” at the time, but I didn’t know what that meant.

The second time I was exposed to “Japanimation” was, ironically, another Hayao Miazaki movie. Around fourth or fifth grade, I was introduced to some friends of the family – racing buddies of my dad’s – who had twins one month younger than me. They came over from Maryland at one point, and asked if we could watch the movie they brought, Spirited Away.

I didn’t want to watch it. I was at an age where my entire life was consumed by Roller Coaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon. I had to make the best zoos and theme parks in the entire world. Walt Disney would come to me begging for advice on how to build roller coasters. So while they popped the DVD into our brand-spanking-new DVD player, I was up in my room, creating exhibits for animals.

There was only one problem. I’d run out of juice.

Juice was essential for me at this age. Any drink was, really. I carried spill-proof cups and sippy-cups around the house nonstop. I was a well-oiled machine that depended on something to drink. Trains had coal, cars had gas, planes had… whatever planes ran on, and I had juice. So I had to wander all the way downstairs and bug my parents to refill my cup. And in the process, I caught a few minutes of the movie.

I walked in  on a girl trying to get her parents to stop eating at a food stand, only to realized that they were pigs. Actual, literal, “oink oink” pigs. To be honest, I was frightened. So I got my juice and hurried back upstairs. I had to make a second trip down later to refill again, and one of the twins asked me to stay. I got a look from my parents that said “if you don’t stay you’ll hear about it later,” so I plopped down on the floor and tried to not pay attention. That was difficult, though; the storyline, though scary, drew me in. By the end of the movie, I had a huge crush on the male lead.

Thus began my decent.

I began checking out Japanese comics from my local library and feeling superior that I knew you had to read them backwards. I devoured any manga that looked interesting, especially if it had pretty girls on the front. (And, consequently, learned more about both male and female anatomy than I probably should have at that age.) I even read the Kingdom Hearts mangas, even though I’d played the game and found the mangas left out more than they needed to. My sister and I bought “how to draw manga” books, and learned how to draw disproportionate, disfigured people that could maybe pass as anime-style. As the years progressed, I continued reading and drawing. I even had a favorite mangaka – Arina Tanemura. I couldn’t pronounce her name (or any Japanese, really) properly, but I loved her art style and her stories. I posted my art on devinantArt and expected people to love it.

I was a weeaboo.

WEEABOO n
1. A person so obsessed with Japanese culture that they ignore their own.
2. Someone obsessed beyond healthy levels with anime.
3. People who ruin activities for other people with overzealous references to said anime.
4. People so oblivious to reality they only care about anime.

Of course, I was never a yaoi shipper, and I didn’t really watch anime (other than Yu-Gi-Oh!, but that’s an entirely different story.) But I stuck (poorly-pronounced) Japanese words into most of my online conversations, I wished I were Japanese, and I expected everyone else to feel the same. I was obsessed with Japanese singing robots called Vocaliods to an unhealthy degree.

In 9th grade, my friends introduced me to anime.

I was trying to grow out of my weeb stage, as I realized it was annoying to just about everyone, but just as I’d gotten out, I was sucked back in with an anime called Shugo Chara!!. It was my first real “magical girl” anime, and I could not stop watching it. Next came Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, followed by Ouran High School Host Club (which I had read a lot of,) Fruit’s Basket (which I had read all of,) Hetalia, and a slew of other animes.

I was trapped. Just as soon as I would rid myself of one anime, another would come tiptoeing into my life and ruin me.

And it has continued. I’ve become less of a weeb through the years; I keep my obsession for girly-looking men with impossible hair, magical girls with sassy attitudes, impossible plots, and big eyes to myself unless someone else brings up the subject. I don’t put Japanese into my every-day sentences anymore, and I’ve learned how to pronounce things properly.

But I am still a weeaboo. Deep down, the weeaboo gremlin still sleeps inside my soul.

God save you if it sleeps in yours, too.

Music Bingo

The sign hung in the window of my college cafeteria as I was walking past. “Music Bingo.” Music Bingo? What did that mean? People inside were setting up, and I checked the time on my phone. I had plenty of time before my hall meeting, and I remembered seeing something about Music Bingo on my peer leader’s event sheet – god, I still could not remember her name, I felt so bad – so I figured I’d flag her down and show her that I was attending. I liked bingo. Heck, I loved bingo. I was good at bingo, and music was second nature to me. I was sure I’d be good.
Of course, the first problem presented to me was where to sit. I didn’t know anyone here, and I’d never really been the kind of person to sit at a table full of random people. For one thing, I didn’t talk much. So I felt like, since I didn’t have anything to contribute to any conversation, that I had no right sitting at someone else’s table and sitting in silence.
So I sat by myself at a table, looking over all of the cards spread across it, deciding which was best; there are lucky and unlucky bingo cards, you know. I waved at my peer leader from across the room to show her that I was there, but I wasn’t invited to come sit, so I didn’t assume I was welcome. Years in middle school and high school had taught me better. So I stuck to my big, empty table. Someone – I can’t remember her name now, because I’m still terrible with names – looked at me from a table away, over her paper-plastic cup of soda, and studied me.
“Is someone coming to play with you?” she asked. It took me a minute to find my skittish, freshman voice.
“No,” I replied, “but it’s okay.”
“No,” she repeated, in a firmer tone, “it’s not.” She pulled out a seat for me to sit in. “Come sit. I hate seeing people sit by themselves for anything.”
I did, albeit cautiously. I was still afraid to speak, afraid to contribute to the conversation she and the other girls at the table were engaged in.
Bingo began, and suddenly a wave of panic hit me. I didn’t know any songs that had been on the radio recently. I was going to spectacularly fail in front of these strangers who had insisted I sit with them. So I faked it. I put random bingo markers down for random songs and never once called bingo. That’s the last thing I needed; to call out “bingo!” loudly and confidently on a card full of songs I didn’t know, proving myself an idiot to everyone in the vicinity.
I stayed to play every round, though, and I had fun. I glanced at the clock on my phone, and groaned, swearing. I’d missed my hall meeting.

Lysia

I can remember the exact moment my characters started sassing me.

I was in the sixth grade. I’d written what I considered to be a lot by this time, and I was pretty cocky about my writing skills. I was a fabulous writing, worlds flourishing over page after page of blankness, ideas coming to fruition in the blink of an eye. I was even too good to write in notebooks or on a computer. Such means were for primitive writers, or writers who had given themselves up to the cold, unfeelingness of technology. No, I wrote on a typewriter. A typewriter. It was not an old typewriter that you’d have to “x” out your mistakes, oh no. It was electric, and had a correction tape. I would routinely turn it on and sit at my desk a while before writing, listening to it purr. I was so sophisticated, I hardly knew what to do with myself.

It was about this time I began to roleplay online. Now, of course, roleplaying was different than writing, meaning I could use the cold, unfeelingness of technology and not feel bad about it. I wasn’t really writing. Looking back, I feel bad for anyone I roleplayed with in my early years. I was an unapologetic God Moder and Power Player. I was unable to differentiate between where my characters ended and another person’s character began; I was used to dictating the actions of all the characters, all the time. After I’d been properly yelled at several times, I simply had my characters start commanding other characters to do things. Which, of course, the other characters would go “No. I’m not gonna do that.” Which frustrated me, but there was little I could do about it.

My characters slowly began becoming less my little puppets and more, well, characters. And they started to get ideas. The first character to get ideas was Lysia. Lysia, at the time, was my baby. She was a strong, sassy girl who didn’t take crap from anyone. So one day, as I was writing out what I wanted Lysia to do, and picturing it in my head, she sucked in her cheeks and put her weight on one foot and crossed her arms. And then she spoke words I had not written for her to speak. “No. I’m not gonna do that.”

I was perplexed. I was beyond perplexed, my character was talking to me. And she wasn’t behaving. She was actively refusing to do what I was writing.

Of course you’re going to do it, I wrote it already, so you have to do it, I thought at her, which was weird. She wasn’t real, why was I trying to communicate with her? But she just stood there, a firm pout on her face. “I’m not gonna do it.”

Well. I was her creator. She had to obey me. I wrote the rest of my paragraph and sent it off to my roleplay partner.

But the rest of that section just felt… wrong. Because in my head, Lysia was standing there, watching the other characters in the scene interacting with each other and acting as though Lysia was doing everything I was saying. But she wasn’t. She was firmly planted where she’d been when she told me she wasn’t going to do what I told her. I stopped replying to that thread and tried to make amends with Lysia. Eventually, I had to let her go, because I didn’t know how to deal with her, and she refused to do anything I said anymore.

Slowly, my other characters started doing the same thing. More than that, they started doing what they wanted. They’d hide from me, they’d demand attention, they’d whine and complain and talk to each other. Stop! You’re not even all from the same story lines!! I remember thinking. The quiet ones, the docile ones, they listened to that. They crept back into their hiding places though, either refusing to be allowed character development or whimpering that they were afraid of the other characters in their universe. Or plotting against me. That happened a lot.

I quit roleplaying. That had to be the problem. I needed to be able to control everyone. So I started strictly writing stories again, on my typewriter, in my room, in the quiet, with just the hum of the motor and the clack-clack-clack of the keys.

But these characters had ideas born into them. They didn’t develop them, they had them before their names even hit the paper.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. Was there something wrong with me? Clearly, there was something wrong with me. First off, I’d heard that hearing voices was a sign of a mental illness. Secondly, my own creations didn’t want to do what I wanted them to do. How could I keep writing like this? How?

I couldn’t, I decided. I couldn’t. So I stopped.

That is, until seventh grade, when I got into cyber school and needed something to do to bide my time.

I didn’t tell anyone about the fact my characters talked to me, still. There was something wrong about that, still, to think about. The last thing I needed was for someone to think that I was insane. I got into chatplays though, where creators would talk to characters and characters to other characters and other characters to different creators. It struck me that maybe I wasn’t the only writer dealing with this. It became more normal.

I learned to deal with my characters. How to reason with, bribe, threaten, torture, and reprimand them. But also to let them do their own thing. “Fine, you don’t like where I’m going with this? Then just what do you think should happen, if you’re so smart?”

I’ve gotten so used to it that when my characters obey my every word, I get bored with them. I find them boring, predicable, unlikable. Flat. Less than noteworthy. And this happens every time I plan out a story; my characters are born into a world where they know everything expected of them, and so whatever ideas they might have are suppressed.

Of course, telling any of this to a non-writer is always fun, because they don’t fully understand, and find it a bit off-putting, to say the least.

Sixth grade me might have hated Lysia for giving me lip, but I don’t know where my writing would be without her.

Mental Dress Code

College has been a much different experience for me than anything else in my life, which is what I’d been told would happen. Living with a stranger; living in a hall way, a residence hall, of strangers. Classes being at odd times of the day. Clubs that meet on a regular basis (unlike my high school.) Students openly swearing in front of their professors, directors, coaches, and vice versa. One thing that really surprises me, though, is the cat calls.

They mostly happen when passing the fitness center. (Which is a fancy way of saying the workout room.) Unfortunately, for me, going this way is the most convenient way of going from the dining hall back to my dorm, and these days, the warmest way, too. Typically, I don’t have a problem. Most of the guys on this campus are actually pretty rad. But every once in a while, some idiot will call out to me. I don’t know what he’s looking at, to be honest. I purposely cover my ass with my laptop bag when I walk, and I’m generally not caught without my hoodie, which hides most of my shape. But I guess what a woman in dressed in has never stopped a douchebag from being a douchebag before. Since high school, I’ve conditioned myself to not react when people call me things I don’t like. I don’t look up, I don’t stop walking, I pretend it was aimed at someone else. And this works 99% of the time.

The 1% was only once.

The 1% was a time when I was just walking from my last class of the day back to my dorm, which, unfortunately, was all the way across campus. And as I passed the newest building on campus, someone whistled.

“Hey, hot stuff.”

It was not a voice I recognized, so I knew it wasn’t one of my friends just goofing around with me. There were enough people around me that it was probably not directed at me. I kept walking. As I kept walking, he called out again, this time from what seemed to be directly behind me. “Hey, I was talking to you. You, in the greenish sweatshirt.”

Well shit.

I kept walking. This asshole wasn’t worth my time or energy. When he kept trying to get my attention, (either going in the same direction as me or intending to follow me,) I flipped him off without looking behind me.

The little baby got all offended.

“Well excuse me, bitch. Learn to take a goddamn compliment. You’re not even that good-looking anyway, you ugly bitch.” He yammered on. I don’t understand why guys do this. Is it to make them feel better about the fact that they’ve just gotten rejected? Is it to make the girl try and feel bad for calling them out on the fact they’re asswads? “Maybe if you learned to dress yourself like you actually cared about yourself, you’d look a lot better.”

And this is where I nearly turned around and clocked him. This is where I wish I would have, but kept walking. I went to the dining hall to make sure he wouldn’t follow me back to my dorm, but he was gone before I got there.

I wear dorky t-shirts and jeans and hoodies and mismatched socks and old sneakers on a nearly daily basis. It’s part of what I’ve come to call my mental dress code. My mental dress code has three rules;

  1. I have to feel comfortable in it.
  2. It has to keep me the proper temperature for the proper weather.
  3. I have to like it enough that if I were to die in that outfit, I’d be okay with it.

This can change depending on where I am, who I’m with, and how tired/sane I am at the time. The younger brother of one of my best friends first met me when I was sitting on the couch in his living room, belting out Disney songs with his sister and our other friend, in nothing but dance shorts and a sports bra, because I was tired and had forgotten my pajamas. He seemed mildly concerned that there was a half-naked girl on his couch but said hello and then backed out of the room. (He’s now one of my favorite people on this Earth.) I’ve also been known to chill in the dressing rooms of Lincoln Park in minimal clothing during shows because the hot lights are SO HOT, and by tech week I’m comfortable enough with pretty much all of the girls to do so. These are rare cases, but you get my point.

I do dress like I care about myself. I care about my comfort first and foremost, and what people think about what I wear second. You can ask anyone I’ve gone clothes shopping with. I will look at the conventionally “attractive female” clothes, try them on, contemplate buying them, but all the while I’ll be tugging at whatever article of clothing it is, trying to make myself less self-conscious about it. If I buy it, I usually wear it maybe once before retiring it to the back of my closet. (See: the blue and black striped t-shirt dress I have.) But usually I just end up putting it back on the rack and getting a graphic tee or a new pair of (not skinny) jeans. I care about myself enough to dress myself in a way that I won’t be worried about how uncomfortable I am in what I’m wearing. Maybe that’s not what other people think I should dress in (“You’re so skinny! You have such a great body type, you should show it off more!”,) but I’m dressing for me, not for them.

So if you’re ever going to complain about how I dress like an ugly bitch, I politely ask you to shut up. You’re wasting your breath and trying my patience.