Aimless: When the Other is You

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Sophie lived for “WarriorQuest: Bold Expeditions.” It was the greatest game she ever encountered.

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She played it in all her free time, when she wasn’t writing fanfic or drawing fanart.

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It felt like home to her–except for one thing.

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The game offered limited options for women characters.

She couldn’t create any women that she could identify with in the game.

There were buxom Amazons and Raquel-Welch cavewomen.

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There were old witches, retiring hausfraus, or lithe fairies.

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And that was about it.

So, she mostly played as an elf boy, and that was OK, for a while.

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One day, the developers announced they were releasing, for free, a patch that included all sorts of options for creating female players.

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She and her friends at the game forum were excited.

I’m making me! Skinny arms, tiny tits, wide shoulders, pot belly, short legs! Just like I really look! She wrote to her best online friend.

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Me2, replied her friend. Thick waist, thin legs–can’t wait 2 c me in r-mor!

When she went in-game to the Character Creator after the patch, she discovered sliders, hair choices, and voices. She created a character who could, almost, pass for her.

But there were strange cropping issues with the hair.

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And some of her friends had weird glitches with their hips and breasts when they wore armor.

And, due to cropping issues with female anatomy, only a handful of the weapons could be used by women characters.

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She and a few of her online friends asked the developers about these issues at the forums.

“We worked really hard on this! It’s free! You should be happy!” They wrote back.

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“Yeah, we appreciate the effort,” the girl gamers replied, “but we still can’t really represent ourselves in game. The armor doesn’t work. We can’t use all the weapons.”

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The developers replied, “Well, can you send us some pictures of women, so that, you know, when we’re developing the armor and weapons, we know what breasts look like?”

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Author’s Notes: This story isn’t really about girl gamers. That story was written, brilliantly, by Cory Doctorow in Anda’s Game  (credit-where-credit-is-due: the girl playing as a boy elf comes straight from “Anda’s Game”).

This story is about this conversation reported in SimsVIP.

What’s the big deal about representation? Take a look at this article by Karen Pollock in The Queerness: “Cis is not a slur.

What happens when we respond with defensiveness and stop listening?  Check out this article by Donyae Coles in Wear Your Voice Mag, “How ‘Good’ White People Silence People of Color Every Day.”

But we have such good intentions! Sure, and that’s a start. Now turn those intentions into action by challenging yourself. When you feel defensive, pause. Stop and listen. Examine your privilege, explore your biases, investigate your assumptions. Challenge yourself, and listen.

It takes a lot of work–it takes continuous work, continuous self-challenge, AND self-acceptance and self-compassion, to rise to the challenge and walk the talk. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong: as part of this broader society, we can’t help but take in some of the societal attitudes, values, and assumptions. But it doesn’t have to stop there: We can do the work to unpack it.

We can do it when we don’t rest on our laurels, when we embrace our own otherness, and when we are willing to, mindfully and with compassion, continually move towards understanding. It might be more important now than ever.

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Septemus 37

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Dear son,

For the most part, your nightmares seem to have fled. I’m relieved. I like to glance across the room and see you sleeping soundly.

Maybe the dream-fairies have shifted over to me, for I had the strangest dream last night.

While you were at school yesterday, I spent some time contemplating the model of the solar system you made. You cut out a rocket to paste onto the back-screen. I found myself daydreaming about the rocket.

Your song about the far star began playing in my head.

Moonshine! Moonlight.
Smile shine. Smile bright.

–something-something, something else–

And when worlds turn and stars burn
We’ll find where our home is…
By the far star…

One of the parents at the forum asked about the far star. I’m guessing this parent’s kid is one of the ones you’ve been singing to all these years, but maybe it’s something else. Maybe you and the other kids have memories, genetic memories or early imprints, of your home solar system. In fact, the longer I studied the model you made, the more I realized that this was not our solar system. Did this come from your memory or from your imagination? Is that sun in the center the far star?

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You were busy with homework, so I didn’t get a chance to ask you about this. And then you went to bed early.

While I lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing your song.

It’s far. We’re here.
Let’s go. Have no fear.

I’ll see you in my dream
You’ll see me in yours.
And when worlds turn and stars burn
We’ll find where our home is…
By the far star…

I fell asleep with it running through my head.

And that’s when the dream came.

I dreamt of a strange light. I was pulled towards it.

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It wasn’t moonlight: it was a saucer, as in all the old sci-fi movies I watched as a kid.

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I had to chuckle at how, even when dreaming, my imagination was formed by B-films.

With laughter, I woke up inside the dream. I used to practice lucid dreaming often, back before you came to live with me, so the experience felt familiar. I noticed details. The space craft wasn’t really like the flying saucers in cinema. The center glowed like an eye, and strange membranes pulsed with light around the iris.

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I began flying, lifting up, like I’ve done in a hundred lucid dreams before. It felt as exhilarating as ever.

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I was drawn upwards into the eye.

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After that, the lucid dreaming stopped. It’s almost as if the dream stopped. When I think back to that time, I feel heavy. It’s that feeling one gets after a massive study session: the mind is full of data, and the brain hasn’t yet created the structures needed to store or process it.

I felt like I was downloading terabytes of information and knowledge.

When I woke back up, I was still inside the dream. I still couldn’t access what had happened during my non-lucid interval.

A shaft of light carried me down towards ground.

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I heard distant voices, though what they were chanting, I couldn’t distinguish through the echoing.

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I landed softly, without a stumble. I didn’t want to step out of the light-shaft. It felt warm, and surrounded by it, I felt happy.

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I must have sleep-walked, for when I woke up, I was in the living room, dancing, full of an overpowering feeling of peace, well-being, and contentment.

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You came out of the bedroom and found me there.

“Pops?” you asked. “Are you all right?”

Rebelforcesarestrongerthaninjusticefortheyfightthegoodfightwithlove,” I said.

“Pops?” you said. “Spaces, right?”

I chuckled. “Thanks, son. It’s true what they say: Kindness really is stronger.”

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“You feeling OK, Pops?” you asked.

“Kinda sleepy,” I replied, and I shuffled back to bed. I kicked off my shoes, and as I crawled between the blankets, I wondered when I’d put my shoes on in the first place. I didn’t go to sleep in my clothes, did I?

Strange times, son.

–Your pops

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Septemus 29

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Dear Sept,

I’ve learned to trust you to know how best to heal. You’ve been turning to play, like you did when you needed to recover from the trauma of the crash.

I watched you at the house we built together out of Legos.

“I’m so mad!” you yelled in a high screechy voice for one of your dolls. “Everybody hates me, and I’m going to destroy this house!”

You made the doll kick the house, but it remained standing. Again and again, and the house withstood the attack.

“There, you see?” you said to the doll. “Your anger’s not-so-tough! Our house is stronger than the reddest red!”

“How’s the game going, Sept?” I asked.

“It’s great!” you replied. “Nothing breaks that house we built! It’s super strong!”

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Wolfgang dropped by later that afternoon. I’d been debating asking him not to come over. But you were all smiles.

“Hi, Wolfy!” you said.

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“What are you smiling at, kid?” he growled.

“I’m smiling at you,” you replied.

“What for?” he snarled.

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“Just because,” you answered. He almost smiled back.

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I might ask him not to come by, anyway. Not for you, but for me. When I asked him how his college applications were going, he swore at me about missing the deadline for the SAT’s, as if it were my fault. I don’t like you hearing that kind of language. I know you weren’t upset. But I was. I don’t like hearing that kind of language myself.

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The next day, you were back with your dolls again. You asked me to join you.

You looked concerned.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“She just told me that she’sscaredherhousewillgettorndownagain.

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“I think I’ll ask Wolfgang to stay away,” I said.

“No,” you said. “He can come. He needs kind people.”

Then you leaned towards your doll, and you whispered, “Sebastion will fix anything. Nothing goes wrong with Sebastion around. Even if the house gets broken, it’s no big deal. It’s just a house. And Sebastion will fix it. You’re safe with us.”

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I’m glad you feel safe. I can’t fix everything, though. Someday, you’re going to have to learn that. I hope by then you’ll be old enough that you’ve got other ways of feeling safe, rather than just relying on me to fix things.

“She’s says OK. She’s not scared anymore. It’s OK to be a little scared, right, Pops? So long as we’re mostly not-scared. And I’m not scared at all.”

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Before bed, you played with the creepy-eyed doll that came with your doctor set.

“Sometimes people get mean when they’re not feeling well. Are you feeling OK, Patchouli?”

You listened to Patchouli’s heart.

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“It’s just a little indigestion,” you said. “Next time you eat, chew slowly. And think happy thoughts. Like… think about Sebastion’s hair! Or about clouds and moonlight. Or something like that.”

I must have been imagining things because Patchouli looked calmer and more relaxed.

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You would make such a good doctor, Sept, if that’s what you choose to do. Sometimes, just listening to your voice helps me calm down.

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I’m the one who’s supposed to be making you feel safe and giving you a home, but I swear. It’s you who keeps my two feet on the ground.

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Sleep well, now and every night.

Your pops.

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Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook: Laurie and Me

This story was written for the February 2017 Monthly Short Story Writing Challenge held by our writing community at the EA Forums. If you write SimLit, we’d love to have you join us! We have a new challenge each month.

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After Mom moved us to the suburbs, I never suspected that my salvation would show up wearing purple corset pants.

I felt displaced. I stood at the park at the end of our street and looked across the canal to the city. That’s where I belonged. That’s were there were people like me.

At Newcrest High, everybody walked around me like I was wrapped in a 15-foot-wide bubble of cellophane. I figured they’d never seen anybody like me before. Maybe they thought what I had was catching.

Back in the city, nobody cared who you were or what you wore. You wore what felt like you when you woke up that day, and if other people didn’t like it, well, it wasn’t their business, anyway. We didn’t have the poison-look club.

Now that I lived here in this same-old, match-match town, I wasn’t about to change who I was just because the mean girls whispered “Butch Butcherson” every time I walked by.

I’d rather be alone and ostracized than not be me.

Laurie was sleeping on a park bench when I first saw him. Flowers bloomed around him, and butterflies flew over him, and I thought he was a fairy. I don’t mean I thought he was gay. I thought he was fae–you know, like Puck or Oberon. Or Titania.

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While I watched him sleep (OK, I guess I stared. It was hard not to), he sat up, with his eyes still closed, and moaned.

He looked sort of beautiful.

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I sat on the far end of the bench.

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“Excuse me,” he said.

I looked at him.

“I don’t have a long distance carrier! Get over here if you want to talk to me.” He tilted his head, and I scooted over next to him.

“That’s better, sweetheart. So what are you doing here?”

“Um. Trying not to stare?” I replied. It was so lame. I thought he’d get up and walk away, but he just pulled a face and then laughed.

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“I like honesty,” he said.

He stared back at me.

“OK, you’ll do,” he said after the longest silent stare-down I’d ever faced.

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“Do for what?” I asked.

“My new best friend.”

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It was that simple.

I saw him at school the next day, and he stayed by my side the whole day. He was so funny that I forgot about everybody staring at us. We actually had fun.

Within a week, we had a little circle around us, all the other misfits and outcasts. But Laurie didn’t see it like that: He said we were the in-circle.

“This is the happening place,” he said. “We’re the cool kids.”

And it kind of felt like he was right.

One day, one of the jocks was eating lunch by himself out at a lonely table at the edge of the quad.

“Come on,” Laurie said, and we all picked up our lunches and went over to join Bastien where he sat alone.

We knew the gossip. You couldn’t go to Newcrest High and not know the gossip. Everybody said that Bastien had gotten his girlfriend, Christy, pregnant and then dumped her because she wouldn’t end the pregnancy. But it wasn’t true. “Consider the source,” Laurie said. Christy was the fake-news source.

The real news was that Christy dumped Bastien, and she wasn’t pregnant. She was dating the quarterback.

“So now I’m one of the Rainbow Warriors,” Bastien said.

“You don’t have to be,” replied Laurie. “We’ll leave if you want us to.”

“No, stay,” said Bastien.

So we did, and the next day, two of the cheerleaders joined us at lunch, sitting next to Bastien. It felt awkward at first, since these were the girls who made my life miserable before I met Laurie. But then Laurie started joking around, about nothing, really–about veggie burgers and salad wraps. But he’s so funny, that soon everybody was laughing, and I forgot all about feeling awkward.

After that, Laurie didn’t show up at school for a few days.

The first day he was gone, our circle tried staying together at lunch. But nobody knew what to say.

The next day, Bastien and the cheerleaders ate lunch with the populars.

I sat with the kids in our group. But we didn’t know what to say.

The third day, I ate my lunch alone out in the field.

Even though Laurie and I were best friends, I didn’t know how to find him. We only saw each other at school or when we ran into each other at the park. He was always running out of minutes on his phone, so he wasn’t getting my calls.

On the fourth day, I decided to skip school. I couldn’t face the mean girls alone.

I was walking in the park when I saw Laurie sleeping on a bench.

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I sat next to him and waited until he woke up.

“Hey,” he said.

“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at school?” I asked him.

“Why aren’t you at school?” he asked back.

“Because you’re not.”

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“I like my nose the way it is,” he replied. “That’s why I’m not going back.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s just say, I don’t want to run into Darren and his guys in the parking lot. Or in an empty hall. Or in the locker room. Or in the John. I kinda try to avoid physical pain and humiliation whenever humanly possible.”

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“You mean those idiots threatened to beat you up? For what?”

“For all my purple glory,” he replied.

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“That’s so not right!” I said. But I’d known it was too good to last when those circles had started to dissolve into one big oneness.

“Freaks are OK,” he said, “as long as we stay in our freakiness. But when we start infiltrating, then you gotta watch out. Protect the normalcy at all costs!”

“That’s bull shit,” I said. “You don’t believe that. You’re a Kindness Warrior! You’re like the strongest guy I’ve ever met. You’re brave.”

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“I might be brave, but I’m not stupid. People don’t like to be made uncomfortable, and I make people uncomfortable, and so I think maybe it’s better if I just stay away.”

“But what will you do?” I ask. “Sleep in the park all day?”

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“It beats getting beat up!” he replied.

He was thinking about enrolling in an online program so he wouldn’t have to go to school. He said I could enroll, too. We could have our own study group, here in the park, away from everybody.

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“That’s not a solution,” I said. “What about Brandy?” Brandy was this kid with a learning disability that affected the way she talked. She repeated everybody before she said her own thing.

“What about Sean?” Sean was a trans kid. She’d been beaten up seven times before she became part of our group.

“What about Sarah, and Mandy, and Cyan? What about me?”

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“I can’t save everybody,” Laurie said. “I can’t even save anybody if I can’t save me.”

“Maybe we can save each other,” I said.

That was three months ago. Laurie went to school the next day. He got beat up. The day after, Sean, Cyan, and I beat up one of the kids that had beaten up Laurie. We fought them in the park, so none of us got suspended.

After that, we formed buddy groups so we were never alone. It kinda worked, and it kinda didn’t. It worked, in that none of us got beat up again, and the mean girls have stopped calling us names. It didn’t work because we’ve still got circles and they’re still all separate and we still make other people uncomfortable.

I guess we decided it’s sort of our role to make other people uncomfortable. I mean, if people’s comfort is all wrapped up in everybody being the same, that’s a pretty narrow requirement for comfort. And I guess it falls to somebody to try to stretch those borders, loosen things up a bit to let in a few more people, a few more styles of self-expression. If that’s what it means to be a Rainbow Warrior, then I guess I’m up for it.

If I’ve got Laurie by my side, I’m up for anything.

Aimless: A Kindness Warrior Call to Action

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The world is bigger than a single country.

A country is bigger than those its system places in positions in the government.

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A country, the world, is composed of individuals, of you and me.

There’s a reason that you were born into this time, this place. You are needed. This country, this world, need your individuality, your perspective, your own unique shine. Your own singular voice.

During the Bush era, dissenting voices fell silent. And so the Patriot Act passed with barely a murmur, and civil liberties were lost.  Halliburton siphoned at least $39.5 billion from the U. S.

We needed voices then to speak up. Few did.

We need voices now and in the coming years to speak up. And we will.

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The first step–what it all rests on–is for each of us to take care of ourselves. Go outside today, or look around your home or office, and find something beautiful that you treasure. Listen to music that uplifts you. Eat a meal that raises your vibration. Nurture your spirit, your soul, your health, your well-being.

When you’re strong, take care of others, too. Speak your truth. Stand up for yourself and others when you need to and when it’s the right thing to do. Care for your home. Care for the earth. Care for our beautiful, diverse communities.

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What is stronger than fear? Mindfulness.

What is stronger than hate? Compassion and understanding.

What’s stronger than disappointment? Trust in our own ability to care for ourselves, our homes, our gardens, our neighbors and communities, and this beautiful planet we live on. Every day, we have tasks to do, and when we do them well, we make a difference. Even washing dishes while being impeccably present can transform the world.

We have a crucible now through which we can move to emerge transformed.

Change yourself, change the world.

Be yourself, be the world.

Stay strong, Kindness Warriors!

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