Friday, January 4, 2013

The Pursuit of Uncoolness

(I got into this line of thinking after reading All the Real (Geek) Girls by Sarah Kuhn, which I highly recommend checking out for yourself. It and my reaction below are mainly not about dead things, however.)

(Me with my award-winning story, in the back row, next to the principal.)

If you went back and asked ten-year-old me whether I was a geek, I'd probably have looked at you as if you'd grown a second head and said, "I dunno, maybe?" If you then told me that in twenty years people would be fighting over who was a "true geek" and who was a "fake geek," I probably would have replied, "What? Why??" Then I would have realized you were from the future and freaked, exploding with joy and endless questions about your time travel experience.

My dad and I were big Quantum Leap fans. To this day, we still laugh over my reaction to the ending of the final episode of the series, which went something along the lines of: "WHAT?!?!?!" Both my sister and I have been heavily influenced by our father's tastes in TV and movies, thanks to the steady stream of sci-fi, fantasy and sometimes horror that was constantly playing in our house. I didn't think that was a big deal, I think I assumed everybody's dad liked that kind of stuff. But my dad is basically a geek, he loves Star Trek, he's worked in IT his whole life, and he first exposed my sister and I to things like Monty Python, Dune, Alien, The Abyss, old 50's sci fi, Airplane!, video gaming and a whole slew of TV shows and films that we might otherwise not have discovered until later. Hell, he still does-- if it weren't for my dad explaining to me what Lost was actually about instead of what I had mistakenly assumed, I would have never watched it.

But I didn't think of myself as a geek as a kid. I didn't think of any of us as geeks. That wasn't a big deal back then, and if it was, it was because you didn't want that label. Once I hit adolescence my entire life became the pursuit of two things: the weird/creepy/unknown, and coolness. The definition of mutually exclusive, right? But not geekiness. The things that ended up defining me would, in fact, turn out to be the things that made me a geek. But I didn't figure that out for a long time.

I didn't know it while playing Super Mario 3 so much I could beat it in my sleep. I didn't know it while watching Star Trek TNG with my dad. I didn't know it while reading every ghost story and watching every horror movie I could get my hands on. I didn't know it while collecting every single Babysitter's Club book known to man. I definitely didn't know it when I started watching a little show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ended up writing what I now know to be a big chunk of terrible fan fiction because of it.

I could go on (oh God could I go on...) but my point is, I took a lot of this stuff for granted. I was pursuing whatever it meant to be "cool," something that was totally beyond me, not realizing that as an adult I would look back and be grateful that I got exposed to so many things that I could love so much. Things that would become part of my identity when I grew up. It didn't matter what those things were or how much trivia and detail I could stuff into my head, because it was the way I experienced them that ultimately mattered. I loved them, they brought me joy and good memories, they made me think harder about the world, they gave me someplace safe to be when I didn't like what the world had to offer.

And that was way more fulfilling than anything else I've ever done to try to be cool. I tried to get people to like me more, to get them to just talk to me, to invite me to parties or hangouts, but whatever I did, there I was. Me and all my weirdness. It reminds me of a quote from Kurt Cobain, "Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are." I try to remember that when I slip-slide back into wanting to be liked more than I want to be me.

Anyone trying to fake their way into a label has lost their way. Even if they succeed in fooling others, they can't fool themselves. Someday they will realize what a waste of time it was. So why worry about whether someone is or isn't what they say? Who has the right to judge, and what would the point be anyway?

If you asked me, the thirty-year-old, those same questions that you asked of ten-year-old me, I'd have the same answers. It still seems odd to declare myself a geek, and I still don't understand why anyone needs to be geekier than thou. I'd still want to have a lengthy conversation about time travel and parallel universes.

As long as you're experiencing the things you love and doing it as yourself instead of somebody else, it just doesn't matter what you call it.

All the Real (Geek) Girls via Apex Magazine

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