I play a girl.

I have ulterior motives, but I also like role-playing. These are role-playing games, I tell myself, and why not play the furthest role from what I am. What I am is a middle-aged man, thick with beard and tattoos, who never lost his love for video games, and I choose a girl. The smallest, most feminine model. Long red hair and eyes like the sky. I know what men want so I shape it in front of me on the screen, fit my design to their desire.

My desire — my ulterior motive, because I have two daughters entering an adult world they know nothing about — is to smash men in the mouth with my shield. I like the idea of this small, frail female avatar slicing them with steel. So I shield her with armor, with bracers and belt, gauntlets and greaves, until she is completely covered. Because I know, from my years walking around in a man’s skin, that the male players are thinking of putting their own swords inside her, at the moment just before she fucks them up. More… “The Princess is in Another Castle”

Paul Crenshaw’s essay collection This One Will Hurt You is forthcoming from The Ohio State University Press in spring 2019. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by Houghton Mifflin and W.W. Norton, Oxford American, Ecotone, Brevity, North American Review, and Glimmer Train, among others. @PaulCrenstorm


I write a column about booze every other week for a major newspaper, and I often travel outside of the country, sometimes simply to drink some type of alcoholic beverage that I will eventually write about in my column. I also happen to be a father of two young boys. It therefore may not come as a total shock to learn that I am regularly seized by the terrifying notion that I am the worst, most horrible parent in the world. These moments usually strike when, say, I am sampling a vintage port on a lovely Portuguese afternoon or tasting a Dutch gin a stone’s throw from Amsterdam’s Red Light District, and then suddenly realize that back home in New Jersey it’s early morning and my wife is likely getting the kids ready for school.

Perhaps this is the reason that I recently took my oldest son, five-year-old Sander, along… More…