I am a huge geek. I’m working on becoming a large and then a medium geek, but that is a post for another time. See, ‘cuz I’m overweight, but I’m getting in shape so I’m getting small…er…let me start again.
I am a huge geek. I have been all my life. Even before I found D&D at age 10, I was the nerd in the corner reading tales of King Arthur, Ivanhoe and Scheherazade. I loved math. I did multiplication tables to 20×20 in my head, because I thought that was cool! (I still do; can any of you figure a bar tab with tip in your head? Didn’t think so…) I’m probably one of a handful of guys that considers the lyrics to “Modern Major General” a shopping list of knowledge (hard acrostics, check! Pretty taste for paradox, check!) Dungeons & Dragons didn’t turn me into a geek, it simply gave my geekdom a focus and a place from which to grow.
And grow it did. As the title of my page indicates, I was in to it all; movies, literature, music, gaming…there was nothing geeky I wouldn’t try out, nothing that didn’t excite me about our nerdy little subculture. To put it in medical terms I was a General Practitioner of dorkiness, and I was happy to hang my geek shingle anywhere. But then I noticed something. More and more I was running into the Specialists; people whose geekdom ran deep instead of wide.
I also noticed that, while I had no problem with them (I like talking to experts any chance I get), the Specialists certainly had a problem with me. More and more I ran up against dorks who felt I didn’t measure up to their estimation of geekitude. Since I could easily be outclassed when discussing their specific area of expertise, obviously my geekiness was just a pose, a clever ruse designed to let me fit in.
I was not a true geek.
Complete horseshit, of course, I know that now. I don’t want to brag, but I have enough geek cred to get two degrees and rock the Master’s thesis. But back then it stung. I was somehow not geeky enough to belong to the culture that had first taken me in and given me my first taste of inclusion. I don’t want to pull out the psych terminology, but it sucked hard! And to make it worse I was getting this exclusionary crap from people that really had no excuse;they knew, as I did, what it felt like to be bullied because of our hobby.
That is why, when I heard about all the geek rage over Miss USA claiming to be a geek, I felt that familiar anger and sadness. Is this seriously the point we are still at? Yes, what was once marginal and secret is now being thrust into the mainstream, and that will be scary for many of us. For a long time it was never really that “safe” for us geeks to be out there in the spotlight. Hell, I was playing D&D right smack in the time where folks wanted to burn my hobby to the ground (not hyperbole). I know that it can be frightening to let something you have felt a need to protect for so long, out into the public’s scrutiny.
But, guys and dolls, it has been happening for a while. Like it or not, geek is popular and it looks like it will stay that way to one degree or another. There are no longer “ugly” people and “beautiful” people on opposite sides of our hobby. There are just people, trying to enjoy something that I believe is worth enjoying. We have to release that fear that may have once kept us safe, and embrace the opportunity to revel freely in our geekdom.
My dorkiness in general, and my gaming in particular, has afforded me the chance to spend varying amounts of time being brave, noble, stalwart…a hero, if only for as long as the dice were rolling. And I would be lying if I said that didn’t affect me outside of the game, even if all it did was make me aware of how far I have yet to go in living those virtues. How could I not want others to have that same experience? Why would I want to exclude anyone? I mean, sheer pragmatism here: there are billions of people on this planet. Would it not be in every geek’s interest to have more of the population sharing in the ideals our hobby generally embodies? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take our subculture of heroism, and turn it into a culture instead? I think that would be frakking awesome.
Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. All of the preceding is meant to say this: if you are a geek, a dork, a nerd…then you are my brother or sister or hermaphroditic sibling. Period. You are welcome on my blog, at my gaming table or in my secret screening of “Smurfs 2: Gargamel Boogaloo” anytime. Just call first so I know how much Coke Zero to stock…
There a few other people that have written about this topic in the past while, and I would like to point you towards them:
First up is @GeekyJessica, with a post that is much more succinct than mine would ever try to be. And if you haven’t seen her work on “Awkward Embraces”, treat yourself to some rom-com shorts aimed directly at the heart of nerds everywhere.
Next is Nerdy Bird over at “Has Boobs, Reads Comics”. Her post has a bit more of the background on the whole Miss USA BS, as well as packing quite a punch for the exclusionarily inclined. If her words make you cry, well, they were probably supposed to.
Lastly, for a somewhat dissenting/apologist opinion, head over to Josh Benton’s blog. I like how he says what he says, while agreeing with almost none of it.
So what do you figure about all this, my geeklings? Open your thoughts to me…