Ellen and her husband had gone to the local nursery to pick out some bushes for their back yard. Natalie had taken her two young daughters to a play date at the zoo. So began the Monday round-robin discussion of weekend events, as I settled down with my bowl of soup on a bright but cold afternoon. As Julie's tale of scouring Lowe's for just the right ceiling fan for her spare bedroom wound down, I sighed quietly to myself, knowing what was coming. The three 30-something women peered at me over their fat-free dressing decorated salads: It was my turn. I explained that I had spent the bulk of my weekend shooting my friends in the head while playing some Gears of War online. To my workmates' credit, their expressions of polite interest dropped for only a few seconds, but those few seconds were enough to reveal the disdain, revulsion and full-blown pity each of them was feeling toward my idea of a "good time."

It's a scenario I've become more and more accustomed to as the years have gone by. While I'd like to say these women are shrewish harpies, the truth is they're perfectly nice, normal folks. They, unlike me, got married at appropriate ages, saved their money to buy the appropriately-sized house and then proceeded to fill it with the appropriate number of children and appropriately-groomed pets. They want to relate to me, if for no other reason than to be civil, but there just isn't an entry in the Surburbia 101 Text Book for the 30-something Female Gamer. So they fall back on vacant smiles, polite nods and none-too-subtle changes of subject, hoping, perhaps, I'll follow their lead and change my ways. I am an aberration in their world - an outsider - and we all know it.

But I'm not alone.

At GamerchiX an all-female gaming forum hosted at Xbox.com, I found a number of other "old" gaming females who've been forced to endure the confused smiles and awkward silences from judgmental or misguided coworkers over the years. I found they shared many of my frustrations. "I'm not considered an adult in the office or with co-workers," says lachica38 (screen names are being used to maintain privacy). "Most non-gamers judge my leisure time harshly as a waste. I've resorted to not talking about my gaming outside of my gamers."

Simply avoiding the topic - dodging it altogether or telling flat-out lies to avoid scorn and mockery - seems to be the defense mechanism favored by many gaming women. "My family and friends think [my gaming habit] is weird," says Trixiebelle67. "I used to keep it pretty quiet at work because I felt embarrassed when I would get the strange looks and the comments about wasting my time on a kid's game. But now I figure if they can spend all their time watching TV every night and talking non-stop about it, I can wear my geekdom with equal pride!"

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