An electrifying and vulnerable memoir that invites readers into an intimate conversation about our digital and physical selves, gender, and belonging.
In My Body Is Distant, Paige Maylott writes about her life — both virtual and IRL — as she explores her authentic self and sexuality through dream-like virtual worlds. While Paige dances in online BDSM clubs and hurls spells on virtual battlefields, she is swept into a fairy tale romance that pushes her into discovery mode: How can she transcend her carefully curated computer universe and manifest that happiness in the real world?
As she discovers the person she is meant to be, Paige contends with a cancer diagnosis and an imploding marriage while struggling to convert an online love story into reality. When a humiliation at work provides the necessary push to transition, Paige finds the freedom to explore her new self.
Part trans woman’s coming-out story and part heartfelt romance, My Body Is Distant follows Paige from a childhood obsession with the 1980s game Zork, through a health crisis and divorce, to, ultimately, an affirmation of authenticity and self-love.
About the author
Paige Maylott is a writer, gamer, and explorer of virtual worlds based in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a 2021 Hamilton Arts & Letters Award winner for Creative Non-Fiction, and a recipient of the 2022 Canada Council for the Arts grant.
Excerpt: My Body Is Distant: A Memoir (by (author) Paige Maylott)
I open my notebook and write out the equation. Mrs. Lampman points her chalk at the class and says, “Once you complete these problems, you are welcome to do whatever you like until lunchtime. You may begin.”
Pencil scratches echo through the class, accented with confused groans. Mrs. Lampman circles the room, glancing at notebooks as she passes. “You can draw, review your answers, or —”
I slap my pencil onto the desk and thrust my hand into the air so fast I skew my glasses and the broken arm falls into my lap. When I pull the rest of the frames off my face, the room smears into obscurity. I replace the arm and pinch the surrounding tape. It will probably be another month before Dad can buy me a replacement pair. That also means less for Christmas.
Mrs. Lampman clops to my desk on brilliant white heels, a perfumed cloud of flowers washing over me a moment after she arrives. She crouches, knees clicking, and supports herself with a hand on my desk. Her painted nails are as white as her shoes. “Did you have a question, Paul?”
The question I want to ask is, How do I talk you into letting me skip recess from now until forever so I don’t get my glasses all the way smashed in, but I say, “No, Mrs. Lampman, I’m finished.”
“Done?” Mrs. Lampman scoffs and spins my notebook. She traces through math problems with the tip of a manicured nail. “This is excellent. You can draw, or rest your head if you like?”
Before she escapes to her desk, I hurriedly ask, “Can I study on the school computer?”
She leans in conspiratorially. “Are you allowed to?”
“We’re allowed to play math games. Nobody uses it right now.”
Mrs. Lampman eyes the clock, then her desk and her waiting novel. “I don’t see any reason to say no, you seem to have all the right —”
But I’m already hurrying toward the door, ignoring Kevin’s confused glare, past inquisitive faces glancing up from half-finished work with surprised but unspoken why are you allowed to leave expressions.
“— answers.” Mrs. Lampman calls after me, “Just until lunchtime!”
I flash a bucktoothed smile. “Thank you, Mrs. Lampman.” I close the door and speed walk, rubber sneaker soles squeaking down the empty hall.
Just until lunch. Thirty minutes isn’t enough. I pump my arms, stride around the corner, and duck into the supply room beside the principal’s office. The room is stocked with metal-edged rulers, chalk erasers, reams of paper, and reeks of ammonia from the hand-cranked photocopy press. But, tucked against the back wall dwells, in all its glory, the school’s Commodore 64.
Encased in grey, brown, and black to show it means business, the computer rests upon a repurposed wooden teacher’s desk and is lit from above by a dim hanging bulb. Word on the playground is that the C64 was a donation from some kid’s rich farmer parents when their family upgraded to the new Macintosh. According to the clock, this badass machine is mine for the next twenty-six minutes and forty-three seconds.
Someone left the monitor on, and its intoxicating light floods the room with electrifying promise. I pass through the doorway — the hum of the machine resonates within the small room. Wiping sweaty palms against my pants, I approach the desk with reverence and drag back the heavy wooden chair to sit. The cursor on the screen flashes, waiting for me to interact, to allow it to take me somewhere else — hopefully somewhere things make sense and bullies can’t find me.
Laminated instructions for starting Math Blaster! rest in front of the tape drive, but I have no intention of playing that. I tug open drawers and find instruction manuals and old pens, a wayward key, some gum wrappers, and several heavy data cassettes. Near the back, hidden inside the Commodore manual, is the slender black floppy disk I saw the boys insert. Decorated upon the sleeve are swords, an egg, and a single word: ZORK.
I slide the paper-thin diskette into my shaking hand, insert it into the disk drive, and lock it in place. The screen reads
“Maylott’s gripping debut memoir covers her gender transition, divorce, and experiments with online relationships in thrillingly nonlinear fashion...This will buoy readers facing similar challenges and offer invaluable guidance to their allies.” — Publishers Weekly
“My Body is Distant is beautifully written. And while it may not be glamorous to gush about structure, Maylott has done something very original and creative with the memoir’s narrative, that keeps up the pace and tells her story far more richly than if she’d told it from beginning to end in order. Whose life fits together that neatly, anyway?” — Whistler Writers Festival
“My Body Is Distant is a trans coming out story like no other. Beautifully crafted, propulsive and by turns heartbreaking and funny, Paige Maylott offers us a guided tour of gaming communities and virtual romance, and how they can create collisions and liberation in real life.” —Farzana Doctor, author of Seven and You Still Look the Same
“My Body Is Distant is an odyssey through the pain of bodily betrayal, but it’s also a search for wholeness and refuge, both inside and out, and a testament to the healing powers of the imagination. An incandescently honest portrayal that glitters with raw emotion.” — Charlotte Gill, author of Almost Brown