Fictional companions and goth concerns.
While living in Seattle, I once asked my then-boyfriend, Jack, to carry my bag. “It’s heavy,” I whined.
He groaned. “You just want me to be more like Farkas.”
“Yes. Please increase your carry weight.”
Jack’s computer had a better graphics card than mine, so I often played AAA games like Skyrim on his Steam account. While dating Jack, I was also married to a lycanthropic warrior named Farkas in Skyrim. Farkas and I met while working for a warriors’ guild in Whiterun. He was strong, simple-minded, and wore eyeliner extremely well. I let him follow me around, and at a certain point, realized how much I enjoyed watching him kill monsters while carrying my stuff. I wanted us to be more than traveling companions. My other prospects lacked Farkas’s thick eyeliner and dark, greasy hair. Farkas was Skyrim’s most goth bachelor.
I put on my Amulet of Mara — the bauble that signals romantic availability —and found my man dicking around behind the mead hall. “An Amulet of Mara,” he said. “You’re looking for marriage, then?”
“Interested in me, are you?” I asked.
“Won’t lie, I am. And you?”
“I won’t lie, I am.”
“Then it’s settled,” he said. “You and me.”
I dream that one day a human man will say to me, in lieu of proposal, “Then it’s settled. You and Me.” Just kidding! That sounds terrible.
* * *
I have a lifelong tendency to ask people to carry my things. Self-sufficiency is great, but if someone else agrees — or offers — to hold my coat, purse, suitcase, or coffee, I am going to say yes (exception: strange men on the street who offer to “carry my purse and walk me home”). Once, on asking a guy to carry my coat, I was accused of playing into gender stereotypes. I disagreed. This tendency is not related to my gender identity. It’s just who I am: lazy.
Growing up, my parents expected me to help carry whatever was being schlepped, and I took any opportunity to get out of it. In the winter, I never wanted to wear a coat; sometimes, the only way for my mother to convince me to wear one was to tell me she’d carry it after we reached our destination. After shopping with my aunt and uncle one day, my uncle asked if I’d like to help carry in our bags. Assuming it was a genuine request, I very politely said, “No, thank you.” Not much has changed.
While my desire to have other people carry my things is not part of my gender identity, it does play into gendered stereotypes. According to some Quality Journalism, “It doesn’t matter how secure you are with your masculinity, handbags are a girl’s accessory, period!” Another website argues that “A woman needs to respect her man, to feel attracted to him and desire him. A man carrying a women’s handbag has no part in that kind of relationship.”
According to Clark Wissler’s “Man and His Baggage,” a 1946 essay in Natural History, “The popular belief is that the savage woman always carried the heavier load, yet here the loads for women and men are about equal.” Looking forward, Wissler wrote that “unless man casts off civilization and returns to savagery [he really liked that word] . . . he must bravely face the future, striving for more mechanical devices to carry and house the increasing load.” Wissler meant “people,” but he didn’t mean me.
I ask people of all genders to carry my stuff. In the past week, my friend Melissa held my wine while I went to the bathroom, my roommate Cecilia brought my hamburger into a movie theatre, my boyfriend helped me carry groceries, and the cat, Catboy, lifted my water glass by getting his head stuck inside it. I’m lazy regardless of my company. When I married Farkas, I leveled up his stamina at every opportunity. If I’d married a woman in Skyrim, it would have been Aela the Huntress, and I’d have leveled up her carrying capacity with equal fervor.
* * *
I don’t need to spell out most fantasies fulfilled by marriageable game companions. For me, the idea that a kind, handsome, eyelinered husband would help shoulder my burdens (without saying “this is the problem with feminists — they want it both ways!”) is a fantasy indeed.
After Jack and I broke up, I left Seattle — and Jack’s Steam account — behind. Jack and I still hang out when we’re in the same city, but I never saw Farkas again.