A One-Sided Goodbye

I got the news this week that you died.

I don’t know what I want to say, really, but I’m writing. I’m going to try to say something anyway, even if it’s hidden in a slough of disjointed thoughts and raw feelings that I haven’t really sorted or dealt with just yet. So here goes.

I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to another friend. I didn’t want to have to tell another story like the one I’m probably going to tell (ramble about?) here. I like telling stories when I’m reminiscing, not when I’m trying to convince myself that reality really is as shitty as I thought. It’s been a few days since I originally wrote this, and I tried to let my thoughts settle before I made it public. But reality hasn’t gotten any less shitty. Reality is going to hit me in the face like a bag of bricks tonight, when I see you and everyone who loved you together again. Another friend is gone. A friend I used to be closer to; one who I dearly wish knew what I (and so many others) are feeling right now. Not because I want you to feel bad that we hurt, but that we hurt because we loved you, and it physically makes us feel like something has been torn from us. Everyone should know that he or she was loved and valued like that.

I feel defeated. I feel hurt. Grief. Remorse. Foolishness. All sorts of things that are better reserved for an overblown reaction to a shitty job interview than to the death of a friend. But that’s the way it is for me. Feeling guilty about having feelings: If that isn’t painfully Midwestern, I don’t know what is.

I feel defeated by time and life. Like they’re in some kind of terrible pact to wreak as much havoc as possible on people who don’t deserve the shit they’ve been handed. I feel like, despite my and their best efforts to improve ourselves and always look forward, the battle takes a turn for the worse every so often, and good people are tossed to the side as casualties faster than anyone could ever expect. Death, at this age, is rarely drawn out. And yet, I personally never seem to learn from my mistakes: I don’t make enough time to be a good friend. I know damn well how fragile life is, how valuable friendships–even friendships that could use some nurturing after some dust has gathered–are, and I blow my chances to honor these precious things over and over and over again. It seems I never have enough time for everyone and everything, no matter how honest or good my intentions are. Quality time spent with loved ones is always just around the corner–when work has calmed down; when my son is a little older, and I’m not his personal vending machine; when I have all my ducks in a row and feel like I have the time to give. Life is passing me by in some ways, and it’s not stopping for anything simply because I’m busy.

To the contrary.

Before I left Fargo for California, I had my share of problems. But, despite the fight I was putting up, I also have to remember that there were many slivers of happiness made available to me: I lived in the moment; I had friends who I saw regularly; I had the fortune to live with some great people, you included, who cared for me despite what I saw as all of my shortcomings. And despite my tendency to let my deep-seated insecurities and festering past traumas control my life by doing things like drinking too much and caring about myself too little, I was, somehow, accepted. I still count this among my blessings, even though nearly a decade has passed since this time. I can hardly believe it.

In the conversations we’d had over the years, I feel like we’ve covered just about everything. I recall conversations about gaming, music, movies, cars, and your regular ol’ generic stuff that friends do. But then I remember talking about mental illness, being poor and being rich and all the shit that came between, traveling, how to learn a language, and how to be a kind person. We also discussed whether prot warriors were the best tanks, and I never forgot the night we all decided we were going to run a heroic Slave Pens wherein you ended up running directly into a wall until you dc’d, leaving the rest of us in the middle of a dungeon we were painfully undergeared for. I remember bringing you along to Karazhan with my stoner shaman friend (I also miss you, Deeks), and you couldn’t BELIEVE that they would give you such amazing loot as the King’s Defender, even though they outgeared that place by a long shot. You kept insisting they take it because you couldn’t possibly accept such loot. We basically had to force you to take it. This is important, I promise–and it’s because I enjoyed playing WoW with you back in the day, and even when you were playing a game, you were considerate of others. It seems like that’s an oxymoron these days, what with everyone being a shitbag on the internet. You were good peeps, though. (Not to say you didn’t have your trolly moments, however. Because you did.)

We talked about dumb people and smart people and why life was the way it was. You used to message me about things that you knew affected me: the rights of the LGBTQ community, the struggle for affordable healthcare, taking care of a sick loved one. That you told me about the devastating diagnosis of someone close to you meant a lot to me–that you’d trust me and value my friendship enough to reach out and share something so personal. I only wish I could have done more aside from offer you words of support when you did reach out. I didn’t know how to help. I never want to bother or impose. Am I a coward? I haven’t figured that out yet.

To get back on track: We had a weird sort of friendship back then, one where we were sort of “unofficial” roommates and drinking buddies. I slept on the couch and acted like a general loaf. But we all hung out, and I’ve never forgotten the kindness my friends showed me when I was at one of the lowest points of my life. You and so many others were there for me when I felt very alone. It was difficult to see then how much people wanted to help and how much they cared. Depression told me it was pity, and I pretty much acted accordingly.

I have mentioned this several times, but I think this is one of the most touching things that you did: When I gave you my cheap bracelets back in like… 2007 or something, you wore them for years until they basically broke or fell off. I remember you telling me that you’d had them for so long, and I was thinking, “Why?” But you were a sentimental person. My mom always called you “pug guy” and asked how you were because she loved how much you treasured your Izzy. My sister remembers you because you talked to her about things that weren’t so well accepted in Fargo at the time. See? You made an impression on people who barely knew you. That’s something.

From the time I trudged out in thigh-high snow during a blizzard to sit with you in your car because you’d gotten stuck (and I THINK we were listening to MSI, though I can’t be sure; coincidentally, this was the day I decided I needed to move far away from Fargo) to us practicing Chewbacca noises much to the chagrin of Jeff, who had to work early (sorry, Jeff) to dancing to Britney Spears, and to all the times the entire group of friends spent together bullshitting and playing games, I have made some great memories. And who can forget my great nickname for you: McSexypants? Everyone. Everyone forgot McSexypants, except for me and you, probably. Because it was stupid. But I don’t let shit go. I think these jokes are funny forever (like Chris’s iconic “you have no face”).

I made it a point to try to stay caught up when I moved, but I failed to do a good job at it. I got too involved in another crappy point in my life, hitting a pretty low place before beginning my recovery, and in so doing, I made an ass of myself and set myself apart from a group of people who had always been kind to me. I’ve tried to apologize, but I’m told repeatedly that it isn’t necessary. It never sat right with me, though. I was so happy that you came to my second wedding, and when I told you so, you basically looked at me like I’d just said the most ridiculous thing: “Of course I’d come. Why wouldn’t I come?” Truthfully, you hadn’t come out much at all, and I felt happy that you made it to such an important event of mine.

I also feel really bad that I don’t have many photos of us. I was gone for so long that I missed a lot of things, a lot of great times. Anything I had on my old phone that got stolen is forever gone. I can’t get on my old harddrive, and I know I have some good ones on there. But photos are photos. My absence means time that I won’t get back. I am sorry for that.

Finally, our last conversation. After someone started attacking your character on Facebook, I stuck up for you. You messaged me to thank me, and it got rolling from there. You talked a lot about your health and your demons. I am not going to go into that. I just want to say that I listened, and I worried. I admit that I contacted your brother. I was scared. And when you asked me how the baby was and told me over and over that you hoped we were safe and healthy, I tried my best to reassure you that we were. When you told me about the other things you were dealing with, I wished I could help more. But one can’t fix everything, and that’s something I need to accept.

I don’t mean to make this more about me than you. But it’s all I can say because I am angry with myself. I never got to say goodbye. I wish, more than anything right now, that I could run across the room and tell you how happy I was that you came over to hang out. I wish I could hug you and share stories again. But I won’t get that chance, so I am writing this. It helps me to write, sometimes. It’s hard as hell to pull these feelings out and put them into words. But it’s necessary because I don’t want to forget. It’s at times like this when I wish I believed in God; that I thought maybe, one day, we’d see each other again. But my beliefs are my own, and they say otherwise. I want to remember you as you were, friend, kind and flawed, and do my best to part with you in a way that I feel is appropriate for your impact in my life.

So this is my one-sided goodbye. Goodbye to a friend, goodbye to a soul who was loved by so many. We will miss you dearly.

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On the Usage of “Rape” in Video Game Culture

I can’t specifically recall the first time I saw it, but it was probably during battlegrounds in World of Warcraft, back when I was grinding honor for my season 2 pvp set (I was never that great at arenas, being a spriest in early Burning Crusade, partnered with an arcane mage and ret paladin).  I think it was when my team (that is, the Horde! Yes!) were arguing in Alterac Valley over if we should even bother killing Balinda for extra honor points, and I was amused by these comments because it was so easy to kill her quickly and get our honor, then move on.  When I said something like, “It’s a quick and easy fight, it’s easy honor, why not?” Someone responded with, “Yeah, let’s rape her!”

Whoah, whoah, whoah.  Where did I miss the connection between defeating an enemy put there for the sole purpose of being defeated, and raping an enemy?  Oh, I see.  I guess rape means kill.  And apparently it’s completely normal and accepted.  And so it began: I started noticing people using this terminology everywhere.  At first, I thought that perhaps it was a rather twisted victory cry that was only vocalized (or typed?) after defeating female enemies, but I was wrong — it became just as common for people to say “We raped them” when we won a battle as a team (sometimes up to 40 players versus 40 other players, and not one person said something like, “hey, don’t say that”), or sometimes even “we raped him” when a raid of anywhere between 5 and 25 players downed a boss (again, no objections).  This struck me as so odd.  How could I even begin to come up with a reason as to why they’d misuse rape so grossly?  Well, I thought, it’s a group of people.  Perhaps this is something people just say when there’s a bunch of other people around to “shock” them.  Maybe if they’re with friends, or guildmates (a group of people who you regularly team up with to accomplish certain tasks, like dungeons, raids, or player-versus-player combat), whom they probably respect, then they wouldn’t say such things.

But I was wrong again.  People can duel other people in World of Warcraft; that is, do a one-on-one fight with no real consequences (such as dying or losing armor durability) other than having anyone in the area see who won the duel, and then the losing avatar grovels and begs in front of the winning avatar, in a sort of, “Oh, you are superior!” fashion.  Haha, funny.  “I raped you” became just as common as “owned” or “pwned”, which, if you play games, you know these terms have been around for a long time, and are very common in nerdy circles (there are issues, of course, with these words as well; however, that is not the focus of this entry).  It actually succeeded in making me entirely uncomfortable, and, in fact, less willing to participate in player-versus-player combat, because, as a woman, it really unnerved me seeing people use the term “rape” so flippantly; to these people, a very loaded term became nothing more than a joke.  I began to leave all chat channels because the woman-bashing (i.e., “get back in the kitchen”, “I’m gonna rape you”, or “girls suck at video games”) and growing rape culture got to a point of ludicrousness.  One might say, “Oh, just ignore them.  They’re teenage boys trying to piss people off.”  I know.  But the “boys will be boys” excuse just wasn’t flying with me.  Nor should it ever, with anyone.  It’s a get-out-of-jail free card.  That saying allows boys to get away with things that they probably should normally be opposed to, only because they are boys — and I’m pretty confident that they can learn to interact with other human beings in a fairly decent way, right?   Unless that saying dares to imply boys aren’t intelligent enough to learn otherwise?  Yeah, I doubt it.  /snark.

Finally, I wrote a piece for feministing.com on a few things that bothered me when it came to the portrayal of women in video games, and my experiences as a woman who played video games.  Feministing has always intimidated me, because I’m not a woman’s studies major who is incredibly well-versed in everything I write; nor am I someone who can qualify every post as an academic essay, complete with a bibliography.  (Not that I take issue with this, but I felt my post would be too vague and unfocused for a site of that caliber.)  Someone commented regarding my complaint about rape-as-an-analogy-for-defeat, saying, “Well, it’s fantasy. You kill things, but you wouldn’t kill monsters or people in real life.  But that doesn’t mean people get all whiny about you killing people.  Lighten up, it’s just a term… no one would really rape anyone.”

You know what?  I can’t believe people still believe this bullshit.  1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life.  Is that funny? Well, I guess the rape-joke train didn’t stop in Hellytown, because it really isn’t funny to me. Oh, that’s bullshit, people say. Women make up those numbers, no one I know would rape anyone… they just want to take you to court and brand you a rapist for life. No. Most sane people wouldn’t do that sort of thing.  Did you know that most women know their assailants?  Yeah, not all rapists are hiding in bushes and smelling of piss.

This summer I was nearly raped by a stranger.  Yes, even though I just said most women know their assailants, I just so happened to fall into that category of woman-who-was-attacked-by-a-guy she-didn’t-know.  I was drinking with a friend of mine, and we were chilling at a hotel, when we ran into a couple of other guys staying there, too.  They were friendly and wanted to drink with us, so we stuck around for awhile.  We were all goofing around and having fun — or so I thought, it seemed.  Suddenly the two guys weren’t into drinking anymore and told us to get out, so we did.  I realized after walking out that I’d forgotten my purse, so I walked back to ask for it.  As I stood outside the door, I was thinking of how silly it was, and I hoped they weren’t irritated with me.  But the door opened, I was grabbed, jerked inside, and on the bed before I could even know what was going on.

“You look like that kind of girl that likes it rough,” one of the guys said.  I looked over at the other guy, who was standing there, grinning like a douchebag.  Mainly, being drunkenly entertained by this display before him, and doing nothing to stop it.  I don’t know what happened, but I got a ton of adrenaline, kicked the guy and pushed him off me, grabbed my purse, and ran outside just in time to see my friend looking in the hallway for me.

That happened in less than a minute.  That quickly, and that unexpectedly.  And this isn’t all that uncommon. I was one of the lucky ones.  The guys disappeared, and no one could find records of them staying at that hotel.  How creepy is that?

A fifteen-year-old girl was gang raped after her school dance this week by several guys.  And lots of others stood around and watched this happen.  For 2 hours.  She was beaten and robbed, and completely dehumanized.

I could go on.  I know women who were raped, I know women who are beaten and brainwashed into submission.  I know what people do to these women, what they say about them: “Oh, if she wasn’t drunk”, or, “Well she was dressed like a slut, so…”, or even “She deserved it, she turned him on, then she changed her mind.”  This is, pure and simple, victim blaming. The victim did nothing wrong; the rapist is the one committing a fucking crime.  Now, I know victim-blaming is rampant outside of feminist circles.  I’ve heard it all before, and yet, I still get incensed every time I hear it or even see it appear on my screen in World of Warcraft, probably spewed out by some completely naive child.  But it still makes me abhorrent of our society’s excuses.

So, tell me, is this still funny?  I mean, really, if this happened to your girlfriend, your sister, your mother, even a friend of yours… is this really funny? Does it deserve to be trivialized?  I feel re-assaulted every time I have to read people dehumanizing women and making jokes about rape, and I’m sure others do, too.  Especially those who didn’t get away before it was too late.

I play games to have fun.  There is enough sexual violence in the real world to go around (there should be none, of course), and there is enough pain and degradation directed at women outside of the internet sphere.  And, hey, let’s not ignore it: there’s more than enough in the internet sphere as well — just read the comments to pretty much any article pertaining to/written by a woman.

Does this have to bleed into my entertainment as well?