When I opened my eyes the other morning to a pounding headache and an empty bed, I was instantly in a grumpy mood. Jordan had been out of bed for a couple hours, from what I could hear, his cough was getting worse. Now, I feared I was in the virus’ sights. Thoughts of having an excuse to make chicken soup would usually at least make me a little happy, but today would be a long day with no extra bandwidth. Sitting up, my fears were confirmed as I felt the pressure change in my sinuses and the sound of Jordan hacking up a lung rang sharply through the house over the fan. This was not a day I could loose to sickness so I crawled out of bed hoping that a decongestant and some coffee would get me through.
As I slowly made my way downstairs, hearing the symphony of mucus sounds my boyfriend was making from the bathroom, I began to plan how to make the day happen with the least amount of work possible as I figured I would be spending the day nursing the both of us to some semblance of health while desperately trying to keep up with my job.
When I reached the kitchen, there was coffee ready. While I stared at the steaming pot, Jordan washed his hands and kissed my cheek. “Mording,” he said, his nose so stuffed he sounded like a cartoon, “I tink I’b sick.”
Immediately, I realized my mistake and felt pretty silly. Do a google search for “mansick” and you will have hours of entertainment, however over-generalized and destructive of a micro-aggression it is. We have been together for over three years, why did Jordan’s habitual behavior of being a good boyfriend surprise me?
We all hold on to destructive stereotypes that hold us back in our day-to-day lives. I wasted my last moments in bed being grumpy over nothing. Jordan went on to help me decide on and make an easy crockpot dinner which he helped clean up with no complaints of being ill. At the end of the day, we were cuddled up playing Diablo III, and I felt closer to him because he had utterly destroyed my misconception.
We have all run into the behaviors that founded the stereotypes, so we are well aware that they exist. It is instinct to shield ourselves from disappointments, our best weapon for that is our experience. Unfortunately, it is quite easy to allow our history to get in the way of meeting new people and creating lasting relationships. It sounds so simple, but I’ve seen it time and time again - if we want to be successful in relationships, romantic or friendships, we can’t assume that one trait (for instance, male) plus some circumstance (such as flu) will equal the same response as our previous encounters (or forbid, as something you saw on the internet).
As a funky haired female often working in male dominated fields, I have found a lot of pleasure in breaking stereotypes. People seem to expect me to be an air head because I have blue (right now) hair, like wearing character tees under my blazers and possibly over-use the words “awesome” and “rad”. To a few generations, these are markers of someone who doesn't take things seriously enough. If they get to know me, they quickly learn that I’m quite serious about the things that require it.
Interestingly enough, in the last five years I have noticed a significant change in attitudes. More and more older people are stopping me on the street to compliment my hair and admit that they wish they had done something similar when they were younger. My reaction is always the same - DO IT! Theirs doesn’t vary, “I can’t do that, I’m a _____”. The best so far was the 67-year-old partner in a law firm who stopped me in the post office when my hair was neon purple. “No jury would trust me! But I would love to wake up every morning to a little color, a little fun.”
Since we were in line at the post office, we had some time to chat. Here was a man who had worked his way through law school waiting tables and is all the way up to a partner. This man was wearing a watch that looked like it could have paid off one of my student loans and he was envious of me because he was in an industry that requires manipulation of perception, requires pandering to stereotypes.
Stereotypes keep us all from being who we want to be. They stop us from getting to know someone, make us grumpy for no reason and can be hugely harmful.
The stereotypes surrounding gamers can be particularly unpleasant. Most people are at first shocked that I would rather stay home with Jordan and play whatever than go out and get drunk with my friends on a Friday night. Don’t get me wrong, I love dancing like a fraggle and I live in Portland so drinking beer is practically compulsory, but I would so much rather get a couple 22s of something good, cuddle on my couch and slay something. I don’t talk much about being a gamer, so unless I’ve invited someone over and they are greeted by my rather large TV and five consoles, they may not know. Once they are over, if I don’t rope them into playing something relatively quickly, the conversation pretty regularly turns to gamer stereotypes and the few but loud examples of some of the uglier ones.
I’m looking at some of these more nasty stereotypes over the next couple of weeks in this series. Of course, the opinions are my own but I would love to hear what you have seen and felt. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have thoughts you would like to share.
This is a highly sensitive topic for us all. I firmly believe that by identifying the roots of the most destructive stereotypes, arming thoughtful people with logic, and those of us who are tired of the stereotype negatively effecting us stand up and say “knock that crap off”, we can reclaim the name ‘gamer’ from the racist, junk-food dusted Jabba-looking free-loader. Gamers are diverse, the only thing we absolutely share is our love of games. These stereotypes only persist because we allow them to. Lets make a point of shifting the paradigm.