Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Thoughts On Being A Geek - Regularly Scheduled Programming to Resume Soon

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I've always been a little strange. At first it was the sort of normal things that children with overactive imaginations did. I went on safari with imaginary friends under tables, I had fantastic explanations for everything, and like every small child I needed to know why. Not just why I was supposed to listen to adults or look both ways before crossing the street, but I needed to know how things worked. I read incessantly and absorbed knowledge like a sponge. I had a microscope and was making slides of drops of my own blood, small sections of plants, fleas that i caught on my dog. I took a scalpel and dissected the organs that came bundled up in parchment paper inside of the chicken my mother was making for dinner that night. My fascination with why didn't exactly make me popular and I certainly never felt like I fit in.

I was most often found with my nose buried in a fantasy or science fiction book, books so large that other kids who would rather be running and playing tetherball at lunch or recess teased me for reading the dictionary. I volunteered in the library at my school - something reserved as a punishment for most kids at my school - because I found comfort in alphabetizing and order. In high school this translated to me retreating to the second floor of the library to read poems in languages I barely understood where I knew no one would bother me. Or hanging out in the computer lab.

For me, being a geek wasn't a label. It wasn't a way to define myself. It was just who I was. And you can say that it was something I reclaimed, a name that other people called me as a child in an attempt to hurt me, but that's not really the truth. As a kid I was never the sort of girl to shrug and say "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me". I was the sort of kid who sat there and let you run your mouth until you pissed me off enough to get a warning and after that I felt completely justified in nearly giving you a concussion with the spine of the book I was reading at the time - say what you will about Robert Jordan but his books made excellent weapons for a scrawny fourth grade girl.

The point is that I spent at least eighteen years of my life NOT fitting in and then I discovered I had something of which to be truly and genuinely proud. All of those eclectic little interests that I'd gathered up over the years, my love of video games, my growing interest in comic books, science fiction and fantasy novels, weird movies .... there were lots of other people like me. I discovered the geek community and suddenly I was embraced for being strange. There are all stripes and color of geek. We are a varied group of people, but there is a place for everyone. We're the island of the misfit toys and there is something so beautiful about that. When you spend a lifetime thinking that you're unusual and vaguely hoping that by some mistake you were lost by alien parents who will eventually come to take you back to your home planet, it's an unbelievable relief to find that you are not alone.

And then I read something like this article about "fake geek girls" and it makes me incredibly sad. I suppose that when you've spent your life feeling like an outsider and you begin to watch what seemed to be an exclusive part of your culture go mainstream, you start to become slightly territorial. There is always a sort of inner subculture "well, i did it first" attitude. You are always going to have your snobs who become concerned with the authenticity of everyone else. The sort of hipster geeks who are playing table top role playing games that you have never even heard of and will abandon them the second they become mainstream. What I have learned is that no matter what culture you're in - except possibly for some strange testosterone fueled frat boy bro subset - nobody likes a douche. Like Wil Wheaton says, "Don't be a dick."

I'll be the first to admit that I've been guilty of my own little inner geek subculture cattiness. I tease a demographic I call casual frat boy gamers in a good-natured ribbing sort of way. And yet I don't think there is ever a time when I would want to be participate in the exclusionary clique behavior that seems to encompass nearly every other subculture. I'd like to think that most of the community shares this view with me. So let's not ever exclude people for  being "not geek" enough or question their authenticity. Offer to share the geeky things that turn you on because you might just find someone who never realized how comfortable you can be once you learn that there are people who will love you for being just as strange as you can imagine.

No comments:

Post a Comment