Playlist: My 2018 Brand Is Masculine Nerd Witch

[Text] 2018 Personal Brand Playlists / Autostraddle [Image] Collage of various images including feet in a blue bathtub, a girl wearing a crown over her eyes, an old vintage stamp, an instamax image of a FEMME sign, veronica from river dale, and an illustration of a crystal.

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I had a really rough 2017, y’all. I mean, who didn’t, but while I started the year with the fighting spirit, I ended it in constant pain with a mystery autoimmune thing and horribly, utterly despondent about it. At one point I was so symptomatic, my hand couldn’t close around a pen. I ended the year with a slew of personal life problems and the newfound excitement of having four panic attacks a day. I realized exactly how low my self-esteem was; I didn’t believe any of my friends when they told me they loved me.

I am just, just starting to see the other side of that. My hands still sometimes don’t work well, and I still don’t have a diagnosis other than “maybe you are out of shape and testing positive for an autoimmune thing for no reason” (to be fair, I am super out of shape, inexplicable pain doesn’t make you wanna hit the gym). And I have decided: 2018 is the year I learn how to live in my body. What that actually means for me is a lot of stuff I’m not ready to talk about publicly on the internet just yet, and also a lot of boring stuff like seeing all the doctors I have put off seeing for literally a decade and actually going to the gym. But the outward expression of all that work—the interesting bit that you’ll see on my Instagram—looks a lot like Masculine Nerd Witch.

I’m taking back power this year, after a year of feeling so powerless. I’ve started doing the Many Moons Workbook and gosh darnit, I’m in love. January’s theme is love for the self and it’s exactly what I needed right now. I’m back to pulling a tarot card for myself every day. And because I hurt all the time, I necessarily have to take a ton of baths. Well, I’m going to make those baths—and a bunch of my self-care—feel as witchy as fucking possible. Bath bombs, salts, face masks that cost literally a dollar and smell like peaches. And aesthetically, I am embracing black as my new color. I’ve avoided it for literal years because I thought it washed me out and now I can’t believe I ever thought I didn’t look good in it. I am all set to cloak myself in the darkness; I have lived in New York City for years, it was going to happen eventually.

I’m also reveling in the parts of me that feel most like me—specifically my weirdo dapper masculinity and my nerdiest passions. I’m figuring out what a witch aesthetic looks like paired with my bound chest and standard bowtie. I’m getting really honest with myself about how I want my masculinity to look and feel, and how important it is to me. I’m having a friend introduce me to their most magical anime (I have never actually watched an anime series!). I got me some witchy dice at PAX that I can’t wait to jump into a new year of Dungeons and Dragons with—I now run two queer, feminist D&D games and most of my players are writers. I’m revising my novel (with agent feedback this time!), which is set against the backdrop of the gaming industry, so I’m even hella nerdy in my personal creative process right now. Let’s be real: I am never not nerdy in my creative process because I am never not nerdy.

Enter the playlist.

My goal with this playlist is to be able to personally use it for pretty much everything right now—am I taking a bath, pulling a tarot card, revising my novel? Or is this the background music to a game of Weave? Or am I just walking through Central Park to a game soundtrack (it happens)? Am I just existing in this world as an intellectual who believes in science and technology AND ALSO is definitely casting spells to let go of really harmful narratives about themselves? Guess what—works for it all. And for those folks embracing their masculine nerd witch sides this year, I hope it works for you, too.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. Very gentle high-five from another auto-immune disease patient whose hand wouldn’t work and couldn’t close around a pen (or doorknobs, or steering wheel). For my case it took over six months for them to finally diagnose me with RA but I’m doing better now.
    I hope you find out what it is so you can address it and start recovering

    • Gentle high-five back and I’m so glad you’re doing better! I tested negative for RA, which is sure what it sounded like, but the doctor was also like, hey, maybe we’re catching it early and it will be RA SO! Who knows! Maybe I’ll be in your boat with you sometime soon, gently high-fiving you often over similar things!

    • Yo, I have proposed D&D content at every single camp and I feel like every time they look at my logistical nightmare and laugh. Which is like…fair enough. It is a logistical nightmare.

  2. I am so excited for this playlist I crawled out of my warm snuggly covers to get headphones! Thank you also for sharing your story. Goddess speed!

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