on video games, depression, and learned elitism

My laptop is broken for the fourth time this year, and along with my ability to effectively HUSTLE! for writing work, I’ve lost access to my Steam account and thus my only two video games. So far I have Stardew Valley and Life Is Strange, two very different games — in SDV, you play a city girl sick of her corporate job who moves out to her late uncle’s farm to try a new way of life; in Life Is Strange, you play a girl who attends boarding school (in maybe Maine or someplace), who learns she can turn back time just in time to discover a deadly hurricane coming toward the town, and also she’s possibly queer and that’s why I’m playing.

I’m somewhat of a noob in everything in my life right now. Like… I’m 23, what the heck am I even doing most of the time?! It feels overwhelming and underwhelming all at once. (Is this it, then?) A noob to life, just floating around, basically. Definitely I’m a noob to (for? about?) video games — these are the first two I’ve played semi-seriously since I was a kid, and then barely. Suddenly it feels like so many people in my life play games — at school this wasn’t the case, but also being at school was… a lot. Also I have never used the word noob this much in my life, okay.

But y’all, how wild is it that video games and media are all kind of about mental health now? In Stardew Valley, you move out to nature because living in the city feels depressing and pointless (hello, hi) and almost every character at some point exhibits symptoms of depression or anxiety. Life Is Strange is about a girl who discovers a superpower — but it’s also about the effects of toxic male violence on women. I’m into it. I like for the stories I consume — and video games, at least a lot of them, are really just liveable stories — to reflect in some way my reality. And games these days are really nailing that. I’m watching my girlfriend play Night In The Woods now, which is about this aggro, depressed, totally loveable character named Mae who drops out of college to return to her dying town and all the people who she left behind, who are stuck there with no sense of forward motion. Like. Okay. How did I not know games could be about this?

I didn’t play many video games growing up. Looking back I think there was a degree of intellectual elitism that played into that — my parents fed me “good” books, aka books from the literary canon, books that were met with critical acclaim from those who Know. Actually my little sister was allowed to read “junkier” books than me — she’s dyslexic and her reading level was lower than mine — but the fact remained that they were junk. Fantasy was junk. Science Fiction was junk. “Catch 22” (a book that I have picked up and thrown down, bored to death, at least five times now) was Good. Jane Austen was Good. Dickens, High Literature. I read chunks of the Animorphs series in secret shame; I snuck into our basement to watch W.I.T.C.H. at night when I was meant to be asleep, and only read the manga when I was away from home and my family. I was really discouraged from playing games (not true for my brothers, but definitely my sisters and I were not allowed to play, really) and encouraged to do more “intellectual” or artistic things.

For sure my parents thought they were doing right — filling my brain with high, well-regarded writings. But like… well-regarded, critically acclaimed writing has always just meant the writing of white men, with a sprinkling of mostly-wealthy white women thrown in. And really truly not because they were the only ones writing — but because those are the voices who have been empowered and given value. Happily we’re getting away from that, and the voices of authors of color, queer authors, have finally been receiving mainstream (white) notice. And overall I feel like the idea of The Book as this Great Thing, the idea that nothing new can hold a candle to the old, is just steeped in elitism and classism and racism. And that’s not even beginning to touch on how little guidance most of us were offered while reading books from the canon, many of which are extremely racist and sexist, leaving us to navigate toxic ideas and lessons by ourselves (and muddle ourselves in these toxic ideas that we have to spend years unlearning later! sigh).

Anyways. I am typing this now on a keyboard I bought today for my tablet — it’s baby-sized, truly, and I’m not sure how long I can make this work. New laptop is first on my list of priorities when I finally get some secondary income coming in!

Happy Tuesday, everyone :^)

a small violence (TW: sexual assault/violence; writing prompt)

Prompt: write about a small violence.

 

I tried to do it to myself, the small violence. It was August, and heady. I just wanted to do something meaningless, moorless; I just wanted to have my body do a meaningless act. I didn’t want to bother with emotions. I wanted the kind of solitary feel-nothing hookup sex that everyone else seems to have. I brought him to a party where the theme was finding a date online — I operated through Tinder.  We kissed, and if I had thought harder I should have realized that it would be no good. It was rough, no finesse — rote moves, squeezing chest, ass, rubbing p*ssy through jeans in quick, cyclical succession. (Wearing a path.) We kissed shamelessly against the brick wall holding up my friend’s apartment building; I reveled in the randomness of it, the publicness. I guess I’ve got some exhibitionist in me — I relished the cars behind us, paused for the traffic light, doubtless (blessedly) watching. Anyway.

Later, when his body rose up over mine — I still didn’t realize. He left the lamp on and we removed our clothes, separately, and he rose up over me, stroking on the condom. I lay there and felt as detached as I had wanted — I forgot myself and the reality of my body, forgot the thick heaviness of my middle, weight I’d put on during a recent sad spell, forgot that I had worried I’d feel embarrassed, naked. Then he was on me and that’s when I realized it wouldn’t work. Literally would not work — my body would not let him in.

And the harder he tried to enter — lube and fingers and more and more pressure — it hurt and I felt the frustration rise, a bile, and then quickly, panic. It wouldn’t fit, it wouldn’t work, it hurt it hurt and then suddenly I was back under the boy who raped me, my first time having sex, having sex done to me, even though that time he hadn’t been on top, I had been on top, kissing and then suddenly pain and burning and I was crying but he was still having sex with me and that’s all I really remember. He’d come home with me after we’d danced, after we kissed outside, laying on the dusty ground, after I’d thrown up all over my shoes and some on him too, after I’d begged off and he claimed to have been locked out of his own room and couldn’t he stay in mine? After – after – but really I barely remember.

It’s not uncommon, actually, though I only heard it called by its name a few months ago. Vaginismus. Painful sex, extreme tension — from trauma, from anxiety, my body tightening to wall out intrusion, a sort of inverted vagina dentata. The “cure,” if it’s to be taken as such, is to go slowly, so slowly, with someone you trust. But the reason I chose a boy to fuck, senselessly, is that I wanted the senselessness. I didn’t expect it would be good. I just wanted to drown myself in another body, detach. I couldn’t do that with a girl.

It’s frustrating to have even the ability to be reckless with your own body taken away from you — swallowed, somehow, into your trauma. It’s frustrating that my body won’t do what I want it to, makes me make much of something that I don’t want to have to think about, forces me to look at a trauma I rarely think about and thought I had recovered from and see that it’s lingering (festering, waiting). It makes me feel weak and angry — I didn’t think it would be a big deal but my body made it a big deal. My body feels like it somehow belongs to my trauma, not to me — a small, terrifying violence.