Last week, I mentioned my playlist of Patriarchy Pounding Pop songs that I frequently find myself listening to while I’m at work. Especially on days immediately following some news story that makes the fight towards equality seem Sisyphean, this playlist I created a few months ago (and continually add songs to as I find them) helps me draw on the wellspring of power and perseverance of the billions of other women in the world who are fighting the same fight I am.
The idea of the playlist stems from my theory that if depression is isolating and isolation is depressing, then the we’re-in-this-together feeling is empowering, and empowerment necessarily includes a sense of camaraderie. Revolutionary, I know. Literally no one has thought of this before.
I have a very vivid memory from middle school of being at a birthday party sleepover and all the fourteen-year-old girls staying up late and talking. We started with the typical conversations: boys we liked (we were pretty hetero-normative in those days), teachers we didn’t, and other transient things we thought would be important for our whole lives. At some point, the conversation gradually shifted to talking about periods. The conversation was tentative at first, but then, like when a dripping faucet becomes a steady stream, we were talking so loudly, so exuberantly, and so intimately about this very taboo subject that the birthday girl’s parents came downstairs and told us to be quieter. We talked about how much of a pain sanitary napkins were. We talked about how we were all a little scared of tampons at first. We talked about our tricks for washing blood out of our clothes and bed sheets, and how some of us had started volunteering to do the laundry specifically so our siblings and fathers wouldn’t see the shame of our leaks.
I still remember this conversation, now 14 years later. And I remember the feeling of unity that it gave me. Especially at that time, I really hated my period: it was embarrassing, painful, and something that I went through entirely alone. But this sleepover was maybe the first time I realized that even though you experience something alone doesn’t mean that you’re the only one who experiences it. That is an empowering feeling. And maybe it’s silly, but when I listen to this playlist I created, I feel like I’m 14 again, re-learning that some struggles, while in themselves isolating, can bring us together as women, and, more widely as humans. Some days I really need that.
Find my favorite of my google playlists here.
Being a Dungeon Master
I maybe should title this one “Being a Game Master,” since Dungeon Master is specific to Dungeons & Dragons, and I have lately gotten really into other RPG systems, including GURPS, Shadowrun, Fate, and Monster of the Week. However, I think Game Master sounds gimmicky, and even though Dungeon Master is proprietary, and I rarely preside over proper Dungeon Crawls, I prefer it.
When I was in high school, there were three types of kids: theater kids, not-theater kids, and kids who wanted to be theater kids but, for whatever reason, couldn’t bring themselves to take that leap. I was in the third camp. I had a lot of theater friends, and I had even gone to a few theater camps when I was younger. But I was always too self-conscious to really put my heart into anything, for fear that I would fail, or that someone would make fun of me. In a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons, I feared the vulnerability that came from trying.
Looking back, there are a lot of skills I wish I had tried when I was younger: it would be sweet to be a martial artist, and I could benefit from being more into sports or anything active. Acting is definitely one of those things. I love making people laugh, and I love the challenge of thinking on my feet and the reward that comes when that quick thinking is done well.
More than my nostalgic regrets, though, I think the ability to improvise is a skill that is important in a lot of different arenas. There has been some recent experimentation with “Improv for Scientists” classes that have resulted in the students getting better at explaining to non-engineers what their specializations and dissertations are about. And, as a former teacher, a present therapist, and an introvert who enjoys periodically being the life of the party, I can attest that even rudimentary “yes, and” skills are invaluable outside the acting studio.
A good Dungeon Master has to be at least a passable improviser, has to be willing to do a bit of acting, and benefits significantly from exposing themselves to that vulnerability of trying. My career as a Dungeon Master, now going on 8 years old, has had a symbiotic relationship with my own self-confidence. Every little attempt that has succeeded has given me the thrill that makes me want to jump right back in. Every big attempt that crashed and burned, or at least didn’t have exactly the reaction I wanted it to taught me that the pain of failure is nothing compared to the blandness of not even making the attempt.
If you think you might want to get into Dungeon & Dragons or some other group RPG, let me point you in the direction of some of my favorite podcasts that can give you a really good example of Dungeon Mastering and playing done well:
The Adventure Zone by Maximum Fun – These boys do have a background in acting and their dad is a retired radio DJ, so they know their stuff. They sort of stumble into a long-form improv Dungeon & Dragons game that is both hilarious and dramatic. I highly recommend this; however it has language and…mature themes that may not be suitable for all listeners.
The Film Reroll – The cast of this show are all actors, and it shows. They have the energy and skill that you’d expect from people who rely on their wits for their paychecks. They use the GURPS system, which I have gotten pretty excited about recently, because it is incredibly flexible. They do games that are based on well-known movies, but that, due to the improv element, don’t go predictably though the plot. I highly recommend the “Homeward Bound” episode as a good place to start, because it shows off a lot of the best features of the podcast and highlights well the cast’s different quirks and strengths.