The tender side of gaming

Hold me, love me, hold me, love me

For the past couple weeks, the words “hold me,  love me” have been bouncing around in my head like a DVD logo ricocheting across an idle screen.

My boyfriend Hudson asked if I was compulsively humming “hold me, love me” as some unbridled expression of my id. While I do immensely enjoy being both held and loved, the reason I can’t get those commandments out of my quasi-poisoned brain isn’t because of some deep desire to be further held and/or loved, but rather, because I’m a gamer.

Recently, I tried out Beatles Rockband on Wii, and ever since belting out the 1964 hit “Eight Days A Week,” its hook—“Hold me, love me, hold me, love me / I ain't got nothing but love, babe / Eight days a week”—has haunted me like a specter.

In our rough and tumble modern world, seldom will you find a tender space to be held and loved. But as a relatively new gamer, I’ve found a certain tenderness in video games that has surprised me.

I grew up in an all-female household, and never had any sort of interest in owning a gaming console. Whenever I’d play a videogame at one of my male friends’ houses, I would quickly grow frustrated because I didn’t know how to use the controller and wasn’t around anyone with the patience to really teach me how everything worked. I thus viewed videogames as boring and hard, distinctly masculine, something inaccessible to a girly-girl like me. (As it turns out, I have more traditionally masculine than I previously realized.)

I only began to slowly develop a taste for videogames when Hudson and I moved in together, and he brought along an Xbox, Playstation, and Wii. It took me a while to get a hang of all the different controllers, so it wasn't until I started cosplaying as a cowboy in the astoundingly well-made Red Dead Redemption 2 that I really got into gamer life. Since then, I’ve been enjoying various iterations of the Grand Theft Auto series, and despite its reputation for being the most violent and “bad for kids” videogame around, I’m enamored with its humanity and warmth.

Image result for gta san andreas kiss

The kiss.

GTA: San Andreas offers a co-op multiplayer mode, meaning you play with—not against—another person in the same room as you. You and your gaming partner (in my case, Hudson) can traverse the open world together, killing cops and rival gang members. But the only option the game gives for directly interacting with the person you’re playing with is kissing them. That’s it. I can’t recall any other game that has a feature where you can command your avatar to kiss another person you’re playing with. (If you can think of one, please reach out!)

A videogame where I can kiss my boyfriend: How tender and wonderfully silly! It’s literally all a girl could ask for in this cold, hard world. What a strange and beautifully dystopian way to express your eternal human desire to be held and loved.

Check out my latest for Esquire, wherein I write about millennials and the emerging non-alcoholic beer market.

O’Doul’s certainly found a niche demographic upon its debut three decades ago, but it didn’t make the biggest splash. In the U.S., NA beer has earned a reputation as the preferred beverage of retired cops, suburban dads, and reformed alcoholics. Famous fuddy-duddy George W. Bush—who, as you might recall, was the presidential candidate who voters most wanted to have a beer with—is fond of drinking what he’s dubbed “non-beer.” Notable square Mike Pence is also known to partake in a risqué Friday night routine of enjoying an O’Doul’s with a slice of pizza.

Now that a new generation of American adults are dabbling with sobriety, NA beer is finally inching toward something resembling fashionable. (A GlobalData report from earlier this year found that it's the fastest growing product in the beer industry.)

Regarding my last newsletter, I have some updates on our movie grades.

I rewatched the 1990 Paul Verheoven classic, Total Recall, which is one of my favorite movies ever. It got an A-. It’s so visually-stunning and funny and perfectly dystopian. For anyone who wants to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger yell about Mars, it’s ideal.

Also, Death to Smoochy, the Danny DeVito-directed comedy, starring Robin Williams and Ed Norton, is a hidden gem. Would absolutely recommend.

Lastly, I was really high when I watched Monsters University and fell in love. Does it deserve an A-? Probably not. But it made me laugh so hard and cry and feel things, and in that moment, I really needed that.

How grading movies helps me remember the good times

A very cute thing my boyfriend and I started doing at the beginning of 2018 was assigning a letter grade to every movie we watched together. Our list of our grades hangs prominently on the wall of our living room, and is an excellent conversation piece. It’s an imperfect system for assessing films, but it has turned out to be a pretty fun way to quantify our entertainment experiences.

Before I show you our grades, a quick note on the criteria: I assess a movie based on overall enjoyability. My ideal movie is probably not an art film. It’s fast-paced and highly entertaining, but that doesn’t mean it’s void of meaning or import. I like a movie that says something about the world, that’s funny and, more often than not, full of cool action sequences. I have reverence for (some) hoity-toity cinema, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately, I seek a movie that will help me escape from the mundanity of my life and have a good time. (It’s a joint project, but since this is my newsletter, I won’t be discussing my boyfriend’s grades, which are mostly similar to mine.)

The other week, a rando on Instagram kvetched that I watch “wack movies” and instead should be viewing “classics & liberal arts cinema.”

I replied, “I like media designed to entertain the masses. Sue me!!” But moreover, I believe in the cultural importance of mainstream films, and maintain mass culture tells us valuable things about who we are as a society, in a way that a niche art film might not (but also can sometimes)!

Anyhoo, here we go:

Before you panic, I need to let you know:

  1. I have yet to watch something that merits an A+.

  2. As you might have noticed, my only A is WALL•E, which I love and couldn’t find a single problem with. A-’s tend to be movies I believe are more or less “perfect,” and also culturally influential.

  3. A B+ and above is a great grade to me. It means I truly adored the movie. The King of Comedy, a deeply underrated Scorsese / de Niro gem, is a B+ to me. It Follows, one of all my all-time favorite horror movies? B+. My love for the poignantly sweet My Neighbor Tortoro is about as pure as it gets, and I gave it a B+.

  1. A B is pretty good in my book: I gave The Dark Knight Rises, which I revisit a lot, due to my obsession with Tom Hardy’s Bane, a B. I have deep, deep love for that movie but it earned a B because it is too long, and a little stupid. (To be clear, I love stupid.) I also gave a Chungking Express, an utterly charming and bizarre Hong Kong indie flick a B. A critic would probably argue that Chungking Express is a superior cinematic work to The Dark Knight Rises, but even though the former was an absolute delight—and has an amazing soundtrack—the latter lives on in my heart in its own special way.

  2. Many movies I have great affection for received a B-: A Quiet Place, Isle of Dogs and Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, for example. To me that it is not a bad grade. Some movies I kinda felt meh about got similar grades—e.g. some of the James Bonds—because I thought they were structurally pretty sound, and delivered what they promised to the viewer, even if they didn’t make a big impact on me.

  3. Despite having graded upwards of 100 films, none of them have received an F, on account of the fact that we seldom finish any movie that’s a real stinker, and we’re only allowed to grade movies that we’ve watched in completion together as of 2018, when we implemented the grading system.

  4. For whatever reason, we don’t grade any of the documentaries we watch. I guess I’ll save my thoughts on The Fog of War and The Unknown Known—two of my absolute faves—for another time.

The more I try to explain my complex grading system, however, the clearer it becomes that it may never make sense to anyone other than me. (Oopsie!) A simple letter grade cannot express everything these movies made me think about: what True Lies says about the anxiety of marriage; the enduring, delightful campiness of the teen horror classic, The Faculty; the brilliance of John Wick’s nonstop fight choreography; and the utter joy that revisiting Legally Blonde brought to me on a night when I really needed it.

Across the room from our movie grades hangs another list, which describes moments my boyfriend and I have had together that made us feel happy, like “watching our mushrooms grow” (pic below), “smelling the forest and early morning walks in Yosemite,” “admiring our plastic plant,” and “shopping for fruit and nunchucks in Chinatown.”

Ultimately, both lists represent an alternative method of tracking time through experiences—and not just the big, tragic ones that dominate the news. Anyone can remember 2001 as the year of the 9/11 attacks (and they'll certainly continue to), but only you can remember it as the year your sister snuck you into Donnie Darko while pretending she wasn't too scared to watch it alone.

I hope that I'll stumble across these lists again some day and remember that my twenties were about more than just financial, political and emotional instability. Even as I live through these years, it's troublingly easy to forget the smaller (but no less consequential) moments, like enjoying a great relationship, taking bike rides, and watching movies that make me think differently about the world.

P.S. Read my profile of Sam Nunberg on GEN/Medium. I accompanied the former Trump advisor—who among other things, takes credit for giving Trump the idea to build a wall—to his personal training session at Equinox.

P.P.S. If you like what you read, implore your friends to sign up for Evemail. It would mean a lot to me.

Work is bogus

"Is this all?"

Since I quit my job in March, I have become totally addicted to living the housewife life. I spend my mornings pitter-pattering around my apartment, cleaning up the messes from the night before, going grocery shopping and planning dinner for the evening, journaling, laundry, smoking too many cigarettes, and baking various treats—all I need is a house dress, rollers in my hair, and some spawn of my own to fully embody the stereotype.

“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women,” begins Betty Freidan’s seminal feminist text, The Feminine Mystique. “It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction… Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made beds, shopped for groceries…lay beside her husband at night—she was even afraid to ask herself the silent question—‘Is this all?’”

In 2019, housewives are mostly a thing of the past—seldom is a woman lucky enough to find herself in a situation where she can afford not to work, especially in New York fucking City. But the question—is this all?—nevertheless haunts me, just in a very different context. My yen for housewife life is less about my desire to devote myself to domestic pursuits, and more about my skepticism of wage labor.

When I was required to spend 40 hours a week devoting my energies to a corporate entity that I did not hold in very high regard, I found myself completely exhausted and numb during my precious time off. I often thought to myself: Is it this what being an adult is? Will I always be required to spend most of my valuable waking hours time performing labor for a corporation? I don’t know what my purpose in life is, but having a full-time job ain’t it.

Society demanding that I must sell my labor in order to participate in adulthood crushes me—which is why I’ve turned to domesticity. It’s a different sort of work, less alienating because I’m doing it only for myself. As a teenager and young adult, I had little interest in household activities like making food and cleaning, instead opting to focus on being a party girl, writing, and other intellectual and artistic pursuits.

Unlike my troubled teen years, I’ve reached a point in my life where I actually want to be healthy. I so badly want to be sane, completely desperate to become untroubled, dying to escape the grip of technology and the injustice of society. I used to think suffering was necessary in my quest to become a great writer, but nowadays, I think the whole tortured artist thing is baloney. I am tired of feeling bad so often, and crave a way out from career expectations and the burden of wage labor. Domesticity, as it turns out, kinda saves me from being totally miserable. It gets me out of my head, easing the immense pain that civilization has foisted upon me.

Baking allows me to make something tangible, to create a masterpiece out of raw materials that serves to nourish. It is not empty or abstract like the internet. It is a way to take care of myself, to get in touch with what makes me human. It allows me to create outside of capitalism. Even cleaning my apartment achieves similar results. I’ve gotten to the point where I volunteer to do my boyfriend’s laundry, because helping someone I love makes me feel whole—though he has yet to accept my offer.

The public discourse on self-care is generally bullshit—mostly a ploy to get you to buy something, but the underlying anxiety that fuels it is real. People are yearning for ways to love themselves in our brutally consumerist culture. My generation is internet-poisoned, in debt, underpaid, and largely denied the same opportunities our parents had, so the search for a sense of meaning is particularly fraught. Domesticity provides purpose, just perhaps not the only one.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it.

Housewife life isn’t the only thing that makes me feel sane. I also journal, like a lot, and wanted to share some drawings I’ve made with you, my beloved subscribers.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might be aware that my muses include Jimmy Fallon, Chairman Mao, Ellen Degeneres, minions, et al. I will almost certainly explore these obsessions in future editions of Evemail.

One more reminder:

xox, eve

The one thing that makes me grateful for society

On my way to therapy this morning, I walked by an advertisement for United Airlines starring none other than Mr. Spider-Man himself, and proceeded to use the first 10 minutes of my session talking about our fully monetized and cross-branded dystopia, and how this world is designed to make us go bonkers.

Image result for spiderman united airlines

Spider-Man stars in United’s latest safety video.

“Since when is Spider-Man doing commercials for United?” I bemoaned. “I know the world has always been fueled by advertising, but now it feels more inescapable than ever. I envy my parents, how they got to be young in the 1970s, before smartphones and the internet, before our culture became such a corporate monolith.”

My therapist noted that perhaps I am more sensitive to society than the average person, that I don’t have any filter for processing all the images I’m bombarded with, and thus, am too affected by everything.

She makes a good point.

Recently, I have found an outlet that makes me truly appreciate the fact that I live in a society in the year two-thousand-and-nineteen—a reality television program called Naked and Afraid. For those unfamiliar, the premise of the show is as follows: Two lucky strangers, a man and a woman, are dropped in an unforgiving natural habitat. Totally naked, they must live there for 21 days, finding their own food and water, working together to make shelter, and warding off endless swarms of mosquitoes and other nasty bugs. A contestant can tap out whenever they want, and sometimes are required to leave for medical reasons. If you survive three weeks in the wilderness, nude, you win nothing, except for the glory of knowing that you were up to a task that would break the vast majority of people.

Naked and Afraid is next-level excellent television. As I watch a 22-year-old tough-as-nails mom from Louisiana weep over her unending bug bites—they attack at night and she hasn’t been able to sleep for days—I look down at my t-shirt and sweatpants, feeling myself sink into the comfort of my bed, and think, “God damn, am I grateful not to be in the wilderness right now.”

Considering how much emotional energy I spend resenting the fact that modern-day America basically seems to be set up to cause the everyday person an incredible amount of agony, Naked and Afraid is a nice reminder that it could always be worse. Sure, having to go through a whole rigmarole to convince my health insurance to cover my antidepressants is frustrating—but I could be starving in the wild, haunted by bugs biting my private parts, lamenting that it’s been raining too much to make a fire, and the fact that none of my animal traps have worked, separated from all the people I love, and most upsettingly of all, forced to eat giant insects in order to remain alive. I’d probably be too distracted by basic survival to experience the usual depression I suffer from daily; still, without the comfort of society, life would surely feel just as dismal.

I don’t want to sound like a total loony-toon, but I think about the first line of the Unabomber manifesto almost every day: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” When I see my beloved Spider-Man shilling for the certifiably evil airline United, a phenomenon which would be impossible without modern technology—which gave humans the time to innovate millions of new forms of bullshit—I get the feeling Kaczynski is making a valid point. “[The Industrial Revolution has] greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in ‘advanced’ countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering,” the Unabomber argues. Maybe he’d have a change of heart if he would’ve lived in the era of Naked and Afraid. It reminds us that without the terrible institutions we’re beholden to, the world would still be full of pain and suffering, just a different, more primal sort.

I'm addicted to mediocre entertainment

Talk all the shit you want about Joe Scarborough, but ever since interviewing him about his dad rock band back in 2017, one of his lyrics pops into my head almost every day. It’s from a song called “Freaks Love Freaks” (LOL), and it goes, “My life / It's such a mess / Now I spend my days locked in this cell / As inmates whisper / He ain't well.” This is how I feel constantly, especially since I quit my job and now work for myself, meaning I have no impetus to ever leave my house (AKA my “cell”). The “inmates” whispering, “[s]he ain’t well” is a metaphor for my impostor syndrome. What’s the moral of all this? Like Joe Scarborough, I am also a freak-loving freak, and I should probably start listening to better music.

Throughout my aimless days, searching for motivation, I have become completely addicted to consuming mediocrity. I get my entertainment from watching Jimmy Fallon’s fluffy celebrity interviews, staying up to date with NBC’s The Voice, visiting Flavortown with Guy Fieri, compulsively doing inane word search puzzles and BuzzFeed quizzes, reading the latest gossip from Page Six, and silently philosophizing about the cultural significance of Ellen Degeneres.

I gravitate toward mediocrity for many reasons—first of all, it is very hard for me to find media I genuinely like, and if I seek out entertainment that I already know to be pedestrian, I won’t be disappointed by its shortcomings. Moreover, I understand that mainstream entertainment’s widespread popularity makes it important, and in a world where enjoying inaccessible and obscure art carries cultural cache, it feels slightly subversive to be infatuated with minions instead of being a freak for literature or some shit.

Most of all, I’m able to consume hours of Jimmy Fallon because I’m obsessed with the celebs, I love the celebs, I can’t get enough of the celebs.

For years, I have dutifully watched Saturday Night Live on Hulu every Sunday morning, a ritual I cannot seem to break even though most episodes don’t even get me to crack a smile, never mind an actual laugh.

“I have my show,” I inform my boyfriend most weekends, not daring to utter the name aloud.

“Your show bums me out,” he always tells me, making sure to leave the room when I put it on—and most weeks, he has a point.

Despite this shit talk, I can’t imagine a better way to observe the Christian sabbath than with a new episode of SNL. Through the grapevine, I have heard that many Game of Thrones diehards feel the same way, and although I have not seen the dragon show myself, I send my sympathies.

My SNL habit is a way to parse out what important news stories of the week had enough mainstream significance to get picked up, but most of all, it’s a way to see the celebs.

Some comedians tell jokes for laughs, others will say something wryly woke to get applause, but SNL knows how to rile up the crowd—the celebrity cameo. They have Ben Stiller playing Michael Cohen and Robert de Niro as Mueller—occasionally, Fred Armisen will step in to play someone like Michael Wolff—or TinaFeyAmyPoehlerKristenWiig will make an appearance during a celebrity monologue, and of course, there’s Alec Baldwin’s deeply mediocre Trump impression.

“Live from New York, it’s another celebrity cameo!”

None of this is particularly funny, mind you. (Few things are.) But the goal of the celebrity cameo, even in a comedy program, is not about being funny, it’s about getting the crowd excited. Because nothing gets people twisting into ecstatic applause like seeing a familiar face pop up on that stage. “I recognize that person,” I think whenever de Niro makes the trip to 30 Rock to do his best Mueller. “I have previously seen him in movies, and now he is on the television show I am watching. This is a thrill!”

To be real with you, I am jealous of the celebs. Once you reach a certain level of recognition, you can appear anywhere to great fanfare, without having to do anything at all. I am similarly lazy, but do not get rewarded for it. Instead, I remain cut off from the world, stuffing Spider-Man-branded Doritios into my face, watching a YouTube video called “14 Actors You May Not Know Are Dead,” as I procrastinate on doing work that will actually advance my career, alternating between feeling delighted and distressed about the truth of the matter, which is that I’m a big ol’ slut for mediocrity, and hoping that doesn’t make me mediocre myself.

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