Before stepping off of the ship, you take off your shoes. You feel stupid for packing them. Brand name shoes aren’t allowed here, because not everybody has the means to get them. One of Planet Xena’s golden rules is to not be a classist. You unzip your blue backpack, and place them next to the rulebook you received as you entered the spaceship back on Earth. It’s lengthier than the bible. You don’t really mind because you like to read, and you like the idea of perfecting your personality to fit in on Planet Xena. After carefully zipping up your bag, you take a deep breath, and your first step, onto the planet, excited for your new life.
The gravel underneath your feet is cold and unforgiving, like the looks your parents gave you as you told them you were leaving. It’s unfounded, they told you, Xena will fail quicker than it was built. You ignored their warnings, because you were enticed by the idea of a planet built on equality. A planet where you could learn how to read and write for free, in fact, where you could do everything for free. And a planet where nobody could ever hurt your feelings—verbally or nonverbally. Xena was the new paradise.
Your first few days were great. You didn’t have a job, and you woke up every day able to do whatever you wanted at no cost at all. You no longer had a reason to feel negativity, because Xenians were not allowed to say or think anything that could be interpreted as offensive. There was no reason to argue, because everybody was equal.
On your fifth day, you met a kind man who told you your name was exotic. You thanked him. The Police overheard him say this, and arrested him quicker than you could process what was happening. Planet Xena does not tolerate verbal micro aggressions, they told him. He was sent back to Earth that night. Xenian’s were outraged by his words. In fact, they talked about the incident for several weeks.
You thought about how strange it was that everybody seemed to be offended by his words on your behalf, when you had taken what he had said as a compliment.
On your thirty eighth day, you invited you neighbors over for dinner. Nancy and Jay. The three of you laughed and talked over a warm baked potato casserole they had brought, as you introduced yourself and explained where on Earth you came from. America, you told them. They shuddered and told you they were surprised of your tolerance. Despite your confusion over the comment, you thanked them.
Four minutes later, things went dark. You told Nancy that she made a wonderful casserole. Just as the words spilled out of your mouth, the two of them looked at you as if you had taken the dinner knife off of the table and stabbed it into your own hand. Are you assuming I made the casserole because I’m a woman, she asked. I thought you had told me you made it, you stammered. Nancy argued with you over your inappropriate comment, called you a sexist oppressor, and stormed out.
You sat in you chair for ten minutes trying to process what had just happened. You thought back to the Xenian rule book, and realized that your comment had gone against the regulations regarding gender assumptions. Refusing to accept responsibility for Nancy and Jay’s feelings, you shook off the memory of the evening, closed the rule book, cleaned up the kitchen, and went to your room.
And when you got in bed that night, you glanced out your bedroom window. You looked at the star shining brighter than the rest, the place you used to call home. You reminisce about your time on Earth. You think about your parents, and what they had said about Xena. You think about how great it felt to work hard enough to afford a new book, and how aimless it now feels that everybody has the same access to everything you do. You miss the freedom. Not only of speech, but of thought. You miss being able to challenge other’s opinions without being forced off of the planet. You miss having no censorship. You miss your autonomy.
You miss all of these things so much.