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Playing Magic and Getting Married


I’m getting married at the end of March. The person I am marrying does not play Magic. I do. This is my side of that story.

I have started and stopped writing this article so many times. Most of the time, it barely makes it off my notepad before I scribble over the words and declare it “crap.” At first, I hesitated because there are some people in some corners of the Internet who do not like me (link is not safe for work), and the vitriol visited on me I didn’t want visited on someone I love. To set my mind at ease, I did what any sane person would do: I asked for permission.

Once permission was received and outlines were set, we made a decision to protect her privacy. I made a decision to be a public figure, and my fiancée never did. I am not going to force anyone to be made easily found to serve my ends.

I then hit a wall regarding privilege. Just the sheer fact I can legally be married is evidence of my privilege since there are many people in this country who cannot legally be married. To me, that’s a load of bull excrement, and every person should be allowed to marry any adult that person loves. Period.

Politics aside, Magic has a privilege problem, and I felt out of place taking time to talk about my life from this stance when there are people out there experiencing discrimination. I am trying to reconcile this, and I feel that by recognizing my own position in the world, I can write a better piece. If I am wrong, I can only hope to learn.

For a long time, I never thought I would reach this point. I am what you could consider a stereotypical nebbish nerd. I found Magic around the same time I discovered fantasy novels and dove into them both head first at the ripe old age of ten. My only real break from the game came before Ice Age, and I was roped back in at my friend’s Bar Mitzvah, which was themed around Magic. I am hopelessly hooked, and that’s fine. The nebbishness, though, comes from so many other places. I’m Jewish and short. Those seem like simple things, but when those things conflate, a person can be pushed into a very specific society ascribed role. I was supposed to be smart—supposed to be funny. I wasn’t supposed to be successful at dating.

If that sounds stupid, it’s because it is, but when society wants to impose certain things on the world, it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to push back.

Crystal Shard
When I reached college, I was able to start reconciling who I was with the social scene. I eventually met and fell in love with someone. We bonded over music, Star Wars, and the sorts of things people do in college. She knew I played Magic, and she found a way to bond with me over the game through the art. I was a year ahead of her, and the relationship was never meant to last. In fact, it ended at one point the summer after I graduated when, one night, I decided to stay home and play Magic Online. We didn’t have plans to see each other, and I didn’t feel like going out, but she found staying in to play “that game” instead of going out drinking to be a rather unmanly activity.

We got back together in short order. We shouldn’t have.

I mention this story because, for a very long time, my love of Magic, in my mind, in some way detracted from my masculinity. Once again, that’s another load of bull excrement, but it took me a long time to reach that realization.

I went on to graduate school, find a job, and start dating. I had been in and out of therapy between college, grad school, and my first few years on the job. I eventually started to reconcile who I was with the structures of the social world, and I began dating. I switched jobs and moved to Brooklyn—where I was born. All the while, I was playing Magic, growing my social network, and enjoying myself. This where the story begins.

I had been going on dates for a while and was starting to feel dejected. Nothing was sticking, and I was past the point in my life when dating just to date was enjoyable. I had always envisioned myself settling down, and my time dating had only reinforced that idea. It was the spring of 2012, and after a series of rather poor experiences, I resolved to take a break from dating over the summer.

Chittering Rat
But I had already started talking to this woman on the dating site we were on. She was different than the kind of person I had been dating previously. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I had always sought out people who shared surface elements with me—musical taste, for example. From the profile, this person and I had very little in common on that top level—punk against country, Frank Turner against Dave Matthews, Brooklyn-born-and-raised versus Florida roots. She was like no one I ever dated.

When my mom asked me about what made me reach out, to this day, I reply, “She was different.”

May 4, 2012 was a very weird day for me. Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, had died. You have to understand that for a Jewish kid who grew up in Brooklyn during the Beastie’s heyday, this was a true gut punch.

It was also the day of our first date. She was late. It didn’t matter. We hit it off and kept going out. I never made a secret of my Magic-playing but she never really understood how the game fit into my life. Upon first learning about my hobby, J (the stand-in for my fiancée’s name) expressed interest in learning all about Crystal Shards and Chittering Rats. She never did. It didn’t matter.

Magic was always there in our relationship. J understood my role in the community and how it allowed me to sustain my involvement without investing a ton of money. Time, on the other hand, meant I had to make some choices. Simply put, spending time with her meant I was able to spend less time alone. As such, certain other interests slipped away, but Magic never did.

I proposed after the 2014 New York City Half-Marathon at the finish line. She had set a personal best, and she had no idea why all her friends and our families were waiting with their cameras out.

The wedding planning began later that day.

Setting up a wedding (or any large-scale life event) requires a huge shift in priorities. Whereas before, I could make plans to go play Magic on weekends when we had nothing planned, now those dates were now reserved for checking out venues and setting up details. Evenings once spent in a bar playing Commander were now spent with vendors trying to figure out which ones were right for us.

Magic can be an all-consuming aspect of life, but it is simply one aspect. The second episode of The Girlfriend Bracket discusses the possibility of being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t play Magic or “nerd out” about specific things. J has her interests, but she doesn’t play Magic. Has this been a problem?

Curse of the Swine
The long answer is no. J still struggles with seeing Magic as anything other than a toy, and while this has made discussing my involvement a challenge, it hasn’t made it impossible. Rather, it has encouraged us to become better at communicating. And that is of vital importance in any relationship. Would having J be a mage make these conversations easier? Absolutely! But the fact that she doesn’t game isn’t a true obstacle. Rather, I like to think it has helped me be a better communicator—it has forced me to explain exactly what I get from this game and community and why it matters to me. J may never shuffle a card (although she does love the Boar token from Theros), but she understands why I do.

That is more than enough.

I didn’t give over all my time to the wedding. I was maintained my membership in New York’s Team Draft League for the Magic 2015 and Khans of Tarkir seasons. Fate Reforged season overlapped too closely with my nuptials, so I took my name out of the running. I hope to return one day because the games provided something vital to our relationship: time apart.

The nature of our professions means that I tend to arrive home before J. This isn’t a bad thing, but being confined to a small Brooklyn apartment means that finding personal space can be tough. When I get home, I have an hour or more to put dinner together, play some Magic Online, or catch up on the DVR. J doesn’t have that time and space.

Silumgar, the Drifting Death
Team Draft League, though, took me out of the house regularly. It gave us space to do things we enjoyed separately, and that is vital. J and I are both fairly independent people, and even though we are additive to each other’s lives, we still have our own interests. Not sharing Magic in some ways has been wonderful—it is a way for me to have my own space—the portable man-cave in a deck box.

Sometimes, that separation can lead to undue stress. Take, for example, J’s bridal shower/bachelorette party weekend. Taking place in Florida, I ordered flowers to be delivered to the end of her shower. I set this up a few days in advance and confirmed their delivery that morning.

Then I went to a friend’s house to play Commander.

Of course, just as I was shuffling up for the second game, I received the note from a friend in attendance that the flowers had yet to arrive. I called the flower shop, who assure me they were on the way, and I went back to trying to cast Silumgar, the Drifting Death. Twenty minutes (and two turns) later, there were still no flowers. I went back and called the company, who offered me a discount. Thanks to their errors, the flowers didn’t cost me a dime. They also arrived almost an hour late. I also held up a game with three friends.

It wasn’t a good day, but Magic, despite how intertwined with life it may be, still has to come second to actually living it.

Weddings are costly endeavors. Part of my job is to plan events, so I know more or less what goes on in the backend. The mere fact that J and I can get married where we are is a sign of the privilege we have and the hard work we’ve put in to our lives (and, yes, the hard work of our families).

That being said, there were more expenses than I anticipated. I made the decision to pick up more work—I attempted to market myself as a private tutor.

Personal Tutor
Let me tell you: You have to have better credentials than mine to make that work in Brooklyn.

All the while, I never stopped writing. I was able to parlay that into some supplemental income, but then the site I was working for let me go—while I was on vacation. That was tough.

Thankfully, I was able to get my feet under me again and continue writing, both at a new site and at Gathering Magic. I kept plugging along, and opportunities arose—opportunities that pay.

Simply put, after eight years of writing about Magic, I was able to make some decent money—money that helped to not only pay for my hobby, but to pay the bills. As I told The Stybs, Judaica is expensive.

J works late and makes better money. J also understands that I sometimes have to work and write on weekends. I do what I can on my own time, but occasionally, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a piece while one of our shows plays in the background, my left hand typing while my right rubs her calves after a long run.

Magic really has become part of the fabric of our lives.

I do more than play Magic. Being a Magic player is part of who I am. It’s the same identity that struggled with masculinity and being a nerd in college. It’s the same one that gets to marry a wonderful person in a few short days.

And that’s why this is important. Shedding part of your identity isn’t something that should be done for another individual. J loves me, Magic and all. My goal wasn’t to meld perfectly, but to find the fit that worked for me. For anyone who plays and is about to undergo a change in life, this is what I can offer:

  • Figure out how Magic is going to fit into your life during the change—and after.
  • Communicate why Magic is important to you.
  • Never let Magic get in the way of the end goal.
  • Never stop having fun.

I’m getting married at the end of March. I’ll be playing Magic in April.

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