A Karmic Sandbox (karmasoup) wrote,
A Karmic Sandbox

How Did I End Up Cool???


Being a half Native / half Irish mutt means I have become somewhat accustomed in my life to having ‘muggles’ make less than deserved claims to what has apparently become deemed a desirable heritage, particularly around the middle of March.  Thanks to the Trail of Tears, most anyone in the nation whose family didn’t come directly over on a boat within the last generation or two might stake a feather in their cap and call themselves some ridiculously miniscule portion “Cherokee” (I am from the Seminole nation, myself), and then there’s that one day a year where everyone drinks something green and wants to be kissed.  I’m not saying I’m okay with any of that, but I learned long ago to pick your battles, and that there are a lot of ignorant morons in the world.

I don’t feel the need to try and change them, and it would in general be an outright futile use of my personal energy to try.  So I don’t.  I just grin and bear it, and get on with my life, knowing it will pass, and there’s no sense in getting hyper over it.  But there’s one area that I don’t have quite that same level of inner peace about; some aspect of my identity that has been taken over in a way I can’t condone.  There’s one sacred place of my way of life where there’s one too many posers trying to get the jump onto MY bandwagon — and I am NOT okay with it, and not afraid to say so.

What is this classification I’m not really all that happy about having to share with the non-deserving?

Well, I’ll tell you.

         I’m a Geek.

And... I’ll tell you something else, too.

         I’m also a Nerd.

Let me explain.

         No, there is too much... let me sum up.

Okay, I’ll start from the beginning.   You see, I have five brothers.  I grew up with three of them.  Learning to survive as the only girl in a house full of older boys requires a healthy amount of patience and the development of a fairly thick skin.  Boys like to tease.  And poke.  And prod.  And nag.  And tease.  Did I say that already?  Well, they do.  If there are buttons to be pushed, boys will find them.  And push them.   You might rightly suppose that led to some complexities in my childhood, naturally, since bookish young girls, as you may know, are just full of big, bright, shiny, distracting buttons.  For me, there were lots of spaces where my brothers could throw out barbs that it took me a while to learn to take with grace and not be stung.

Mind you, all of my brothers are amazing people I adore, and they never really tried to hurt me.  They were just boys being boys.  But, I have to admit, one insult in particular was a little harder to take than most.  It was the early 80s when it flushed my face a little to be called a Nerd.  Gals like us didn't have Lisa Simpson or Felicia Day and their such ilk as role models to aspire to back then.  We were just consummately aware that the designation left us hopelessly uncool.  Though I didn't want to admit it then, Nerd was certainly an apt title (and, still is, to this day, but that's a bit for the part of this story that comes later).

I grew up the type who would fairly regularly stay after class to talk to the teacher because I was fascinated by the class discussion.  I finished homework in class, and was always at least three chapters ahead in any assigned materials.  I didn’t think anything of being invited over to my fourth-grade teacher’s house for an afternoon of writing and making craft projects.  (I’m still in touch with her to this day.  She’s 80 years old, and works for the state legislature — one of my few pen pals.)

I was always the first in my class with my hand up, and I genuinely wanted to be picked so I could share the answer.  I often heard my Mom yelling, “Get your nose out of that book and go DO something!”  (Because expanding my mental horizons is doing nothing, right?)

A visit to the library was a perfectly reasonable way to spend my entire lunchbreak, recess, mornings before class, and after school.  I've worn glasses from age 10 on because I'm nearsighted, as having one's nose in a book from before the time one could speak tends to do for one's occular abilities.  (And, they were never as “hip” then as the retro cat-eye designers I wear now — all plastic owl-eyed frames the size of tennis balls that took up half your face.)

        So, yeah... it fit.

But wearing glasses didn’t make one a Nerd.  And neither did being smart (though I do think a requirement of being a Nerd is that you have to have an IQ of more than 2 significant digits).  Nevertheless, I accepted the label reluctantly, and just tried to make the most of it.

But Geek?  That was NOT me.

I had to draw the line somewhere, and I was not going to let anyone get away with THAT one.  No way!  Those were the weirdos, the creeps.  Those bug-eyed, bow-legged, scrawny little fellas with pocket protectors and flooding hipwaders who whined and snorted when they talked about stuff that no one cared about and made no sense.  I may have let the Nerd label slide because I simply didn’t have an effective argument against it, but, you try calling me a Geek, and, man
... them’s fighting words, boy!  I would let you have it, I tell you what!

And that’s just the way things were.  That’s how it was in those days.

        And then... something happened.

I don’t know if it was a slow evolution, or a long, drawn out, revolving process
... I don’t know if it was a change in the advancement of our civilization as we progressed in some cases full steam (or full bandwidth?  Maximum Engine Capacity?) ahead at warp speed into the age of technology, or maybe just a social evolution on the wind beneath the wings of counter culture.  I don’t know if it happened over a month, a year or a decade.

But I remember noticing at some point that the term “Geek” was coming into its own cult following, while “Nerd” was still somewhat closeted as anathema.  “Geeks” began to acknowledge one another with secret handshakes.  They began to recognize one another in a crowd, and cling to one another in settings of their own establishment.  They bonded over their hobbies and interests, particularly as those pertained to activities in the scifi world and table-top gaming.

But hang on, though, wait a minute...


                   ...did that make me a GEEK?



The only role playing game I’ve played was the first, the original, Dungeons and Dragons.

The only fan club I’ve ever been in was for Doctor Who.  I was a charter member.

         But... but, but... that was 1984.  I was 10!

That was going back such a long way (it was around the early-mid 90s the change first began to be prominent enough to take notice), that history couldn’t be held against me... right?

And yet... then again... Geeks didn’t have to be in hiding anymore.  They weren’t running from anyone.  They were no longer ashamed.  They banded together in a unified release from years of oppression from so-called peers.  They stood tall in their maturity, and reframed entire childhoods.  Like disadvantaged classes claiming a derogatory term for themselves, geeks wore their brand like a badge of honor.   They were empowered.  They were bold.  They were proud.

Over the next ten years or so, while I was figuring out not just who I was as a person, but who I could relate to, I started to realize, these geek folks weren’t so bad.  In fact, they were pretty cool, in my book.  Easy to relate to, always open, up front and honest.  (That’s particularly refreshing in Minnesota!)  I started to think of myself as a collector of geeks.  Most geeks I knew told me I didn’t qualify to be considered one of them.  I was too cool, they said.  Geeks would never do anything as outgoing and daring as getting up on stage to front a rock band.  ( What?  Says who??!  Who gets to decide the rules? )

But, we could talk so easily, and got along so well... Geeks were often as smart as me, and had extensive knowledge into fascinating subjects... Geeks could keep up with me, and I could keep up with them.  Eventually, I started to feel a little bad that I couldn’t call myself a Geek.  (Is that progress?)  After all, all my friends were Geeks.  We all did geeky things together.  Why wasn’t I a geek?  What did this nerdy chick have to do to be cool enough to be considered geeky?

Of course, somewhere along the way, as the process continued, I figured out that I was geeky.   GEEK didn’t have a specific set of requirements that had to be met.  There could be cool geeks.   There could be nerdy geeks.  In fact, in time, one had to acknowledge sub sects and splinter groups within the greater whole.

Nowadays, we have to ask what FLAVOR of geek you are in order to understand how to relate.  (No, I don’t get Halloween and Christmas confused.  I’m not THAT type of geek.  And, while I do work at the Renaissance Festival, I do not look forward to Renfest {or CON!} more than any other holiday.  I DO have a life.)

So... what type of NERD am I?

  I’m a writer who can’t start a sentence without a keyboard.

   I talk to my computer.
      (On occasion even without being sarcastic or raising my voice.)

   I've IM’ed someone sitting two feet away.
      (I pretty much do it every night.)

   I know what it means to consult the hive mind.
      (In fact, I did so, just this afternoon.)

   I have more than four email addresses.

   I always have a flash drive on me.

   I make reminder notes by texting them to my email from my phone.

   Whenever possible, I prefer to disseminate data alphabetically,
      and categorize materials by classification, with a coordinated assigned color code.

   I have had to retrain myself to learn to NOT correct people’s spelling and grammar errors.

   I learned Latin as a second language, and I’m not Catholic or in the legal field.

What type of GEEK am I?

   On occasion I have intentionally misused the word inconceivable.

   I know the difference between a Trekk-IE and a Trekk-OR.
      (I am the latter, btw.)

•    I can get my character to beat a greater foe if I just make sure
      to be carrying enough enhancing bonuses at the time of battle.
      (And I have been known to shed real tears when it was killed.)

    I know Han shot first.

    I know the Cake is a Lie.

   I believe Tetris has improved my hand-eye coordination, and I use the term
      (and the skills) as a verb in relation to issues of spatial acuity.

   I could spend more than half my annual salary at ThinkGeek.com.
      (I have my wants categorized into 12 SEPARATE wishlists.)

   All of my T-Shirts are purchased online from RedBubble or Teefury.

   I can never seem to get enough Mythbusters.

   I know that real shows BY Geeks FOR Geeks look more like Chuck and Eureka and House,
      and that The Big Bang Theory was created by people who KNOW Nerds to laugh AT Nerds,
      not people who are ARE Nerds.

And, as you can see, therein lies the catch 22.

As one might expect, geeks never do anything half-assed.  Well, not anything geeky, anyway.  When in time we as a people came to the slowly morphing revelation that the greatest threat to the survival of our kind was the isolation by which we were perpetually surrounded, we adapted to survive, as geeks are wont to do.

We multiplied.

         Only problem?  We were TOO good at it.

                  Suddenly, being a GEEK somehow become COOL.

This is fantastic news if you’re a geek wanting to make friends with other geeks, right?

Wait.  Wait, no... no, in fact, it isn’t.

       This is awful!

How does one geek know if you’re his or her kind of geek?  Geek stopped being something that you ARE, and became something that you DO.  How did that happen?  Was it Bill Gates?  Steve Jobs?  Time Magazine?  Somebody had better answer for this, dammit!

How can a whole consortium of personality types who never strived to be popular suddenly find themselves in a group so large it’s lost all meaning?

Wanting to connect with “my own people,” I’d helped organize a dot.com social club for Geeks, Nerds, Dweebs, Dorks, and Other Assorted Social Misfits.  Inside of a few months, we had several hundred members.  Yay for us!

Except, it didn’t turn out quite the way we’d hoped.  The fly in the ointment, of course, is a double-edged sword.  For one thing, it’s a social group for people who, by nature, are not generally that social, except with each other.  For another, it’s a group that allows membership by self-identification, and, that is an identification that seems to be becoming increasingly popular by the day, and less and less valid by the hour.

The practical application is, I can get 17 people to come out for an event like KARAOKE (which is an activity that crosses the boundaries of multiple territories), or SUSHI (another non-specific taste), but when I schedule something that’s actually geeky, like Musicals (Evil Dead, BatBoy, Shrek or Avenue Q, to name a few), or a trip to the Pirate Exhibit at the Science Fair or the Renaissance Festival, I get crickets.  Why?  Because, not everyone who claims they’re a Geek or Nerd actually IS.

So, in our popularity, it seems, once again, we have lost ourselves.  I've seriously been thinking of making everyone take a 500-point qualifier test to prove how geeky/nerdy they are in order to join the group.  Geeks and Nerds would LOVE it, and it would filter out everyone else.

I scheduled a sushi outing for the geeks group last week, and was happy that we had 10 takers.  The “sushi” place turned out to be a hole-in-the-wall converted gas station in a far out suburb, and we were as much amused by the setting as by the company.  A tiny little place, we were the only ones there, and I think we made the owner's night, being so many and spending so long (and so much!).

As folks began to trickle in, I watched the faces compared to the RSVPs, to identify the ones I knew, or hadn’t met, but could recognize from their profile photos.  One we hadn’t been expecting pulled up in a parking space a little too hard, and we watched as his bumper ran over the curb stop.  It jostled him a little, but he looked at it, shrugged nonchalantly, and actually shook his head with the irrelevance of the situation.

We could visibly SEE him stop and think,

                   “Oops.  Huh.  Meh.  Oh well.”

We all about died laughing.  I declared to everyone there,

         “I don’t know who that is, but if he doesn’t know who we are, then he needs to.  We’ll invite him to dinner whether he came here to meet us or not.  Clearly, he is ONE of US!”

As it turned out, he had planned to meet us there.  He just hadn’t RSVPed, because he was nervous that we wouldn’t be who we seemed to be
... who he was hoping we were.  We wouldn’t be REAL geeks.  He came prepared with five minutes or so of conversational small talk, and an excuse to bolt if he realized we were not really his type of folks.

And I get that.  Because that’s how it is these days.  We all ended up having a blast getting to know him and everyone who joined for that night, and I feel certain claiming him (and he us) as among our number.  But it’s still a challenge.

Of the more than 400 official “members,” I think there may be maybe a dozen or so that I’m actually becoming connected to as real geeks and nerd friends.  I’ll keep soldiering on, though.  Because anything worth doing is worth doing well.  And we’re still out there.  We’re just
... in hiding.  Again. But I WILL find us.  (And Peeps, when you come up with a "new" word that defines US, don't keep it a secret!  Just shout it right out, and let's lay claim to OUR new title from the absconded label that got too big before it gets taken over, too!)

Last Friday night, I got invited last minute to a party I hadn’t planned on attending.  I was more or less going as the driver.  I didn’t figure I would know too many people there, and I didn’t expect to be in an outgoing enough mode to make conversation naturally, so I didn’t plan on staying long.  Oddly enough, I lasted the whole night, mostly because I hadn’t bothered to change shirts before going.   I was wearing a Doctor Who / Beatles hybrid-mashup that was a natural ice-breaker and an opening topic of introductory conversation.  It’s nice when you have an “in.”  So, hurray for geekdom to come to the rescue of what could have been an otherwise socially awkward setting.  How's that for irony?  I got 4 new Facebook friends out of that night.  Four more faces in my collection of geeks.  I feel like Nick Fury gathing together The Avengers.

Still trying to take over the world.

One intelligent, goofy mind at a time.

LJ Idol | Season 8 • Week 19 - Topic: APPROPRIATION
This post has been brought to you by an association with the online writing community forum, LJ Idol.
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Tags: geekery, kms, lj idol, lji8, non-fiction

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    SEDATION Around the turn of the latest century, I was in my mid-20s. I wasn’t making great money, but it spent like plenty, for living…

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