The Glitch in the Game
I started writing this yesterday, and I’m reshaping it a bit as we go because the world feels a little bit different today, so bear with me.
You feel the tension, right? I’ve been thinking about it often, as we race towards the end of the year and the holidays: the idea that you’re walking down the street and suddenly there’s an entire chunk of pixels missing, or like you’re in the first level of Super Mario Bros World 1.1 and the walkthrough said there’d be a 1UP hidden right above you, and you jump and jump and nothing happens.
(When we used to play Super Mario Bros as kids, every once in a while we’d jump and jump and that 1UP wouldn’t be there. I don’t know why.)
Because the holidays are tradition, every time they come around again you get this tightness inside of you, the Grinch not realizing his heart could shrink, and you look around and all you see are glitches.
• You’re supposed to be flying home to your parents but you’re not
• Or you are flying home to your parents but the flights cost $600 each and you have to put it on a credit card which you don’t want to do but it’s the holidays
• Or you’re dating someone and they say you can’t spend Thanksgiving with them even though you’ve been dating for nearly two years, and you know what that means and you don’t want to look it in the eye
• Or you’re trying to keep two kids quiet on a 5 a.m. plane, because the only time you can afford to fly the family home for Thanksgiving is on the 5 a.m. plane, which means you had to wake the kids up at 1 a.m. to get them to the airport by 3, and you’re sitting in the seat wondering how you got there, because when you were a kid you spent the morning sleeping in and then watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then walking over to Grandma’s, when did that switch over to this
• Or you’re quietly sad that the people you love no longer want to say grace
• Or you’re thinking Thanksigiving is the one holiday that isn’t religious, that you can just enjoy the day with Instagrams and impunity, but then someone on Tumblr reminds you that Thanksgiving is still linked to internalized and systemic racism, that you are still linked to internalized and systemic racism
• Or you’re cranky that the stores are open on Thanksgiving Day
• Or you’re getting ready to work on Thanksgiving Day
• Or you’re reading all of this and thinking “You’re only seeing the glitches in the game now? They’ve been here the entire time, we could have told you that, Ms. Lowest Difficulty Setting”
• Or you’re on Twitter and wishing you could skip Thanksgiving
• Or you’re on Twitter and wishing you could stop everything else for a day so you could have a good Thanksgiving
• Or you’re angry that Thanksgiving has become Black Friday Week, because why does everything have to be about shopping and spending
• Or you’re angry that everyone is trying to make you feel badly about wanting to shop on Black Friday
I could keep going. I think you’ve picked up on what I’m trying to say.
The holidays combine our hopes that we can have everything with the desire to keep everything as it was.
You feel, every year, as if you were playing a game and it’s time to collect your ending: You get the Friendsgiving ending! It’s not as good as the At Home With Family and Loving Partner ending, but it’s not the Drop Your Kids Off at 24-Hour Daycare and Go to Work ending!
And then they ask for the money. You get your ending and the game says and now please pay us $600 for plane tickets!
And the whole time you’re thinking “The game is broken, there was supposed to be a 1UP there, I read the walkthrough, I thought we had uploaded the patch to fix the judicial system bug, I picked Study Hard during the School chapter but didn’t unlock the Career achievement and got the Debt ending instead, I mashed B during the Online Dating chapter but didn’t unlock the Partner achievement, has someone already mapped out the dialogue paths for being a good ally at the dinner table because I’m really nervous that I’ll pick the wrong thing, I don’t have enough in-game money for this, I don’t want to pay for this thing that is only half of what I actually want.”
You can feel the tension, yes?
I feel it every year, around this time.
This year feels even worse.