Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A ramble on nerd-dom

I'm a nerd, or a geek.1 I don't try to hide it--it's right there in my bio, if you couldn't guess from the glasses I'm wearing. I'm proud of it. And I'm SO happy to be currently living in a world that celebrates nerds, at least in some ways. When I was in grammar school, let's just say nerds were not celebrated.

*uncomfortable flashback to grammar school lunchroom*

Whew. Okay, zoom right past THAT. Nothing to see there.

Anyway. I've been thinking lately about how varied, and accepting, the geek world is--and how even if they don't realize it, or own it, most people I know and love are geeks in some way. It started with a quote @MarthaMihalick posted on Twitter (via @brainpicker):
"Being a geek is all about your own personal level of enthusiasm, not how your level of enthusiasm measures up to others. If you like something so much that a casual mention of it makes your whole being light up like a halogen lamp, if hearing a stranger fondly mention your favorite book or game is instant grounds for friendship, if you have ever found yourself bouncing out of your chair because something you learned blew your mind so hard that you physically could not contain yourself — you are a geek."
 As I read that, I thought THAT IS SO ME. I don't hide enthusiasm for the things I love. I bounce and squee and grin like a fool at the TV as Sherlock is figuring something out or Chuck kisses Sarah. It's the open, shining enthusiasm that makes a geek, the obsession with little details, the fascination with all things related to whatever we love. It does make us easy to pick on, to mock--but it also keeps us stocked up with joy.
 Over the years I've changed the things I'm geeky about. Of course it's books...it was always books. I've been a book nerd since I could hold one in my little hands, or have my own library card. But I've also been a ballet nerd. A drama geek. A Shakespeare geek specifically. (Even a Chaucer geek! I wrote a book called The Murderess's Tale, set in 1387 England...) A science geek. (Wait, I'm still that too!) A brain science geek. I learned to program computers in Basic in 7th grade. My husband and I were obsessed with Myst, once upon a time, and that Frankenstein video game we still quote. I love Princess Bride and Star Wars (the originals, of course) and Star Trek Enterprise. I'm crazy about Buffy and Jason Bourne and, of course, Chuck.
 Sometimes I doubt my nerd cred, because I don't like Doctor Who, and I'm not a particular fan of high fantasy. I've never read George R.R Martin. But you know what, nerds? That's OKAY. To call yourself a nerd you don't have to ascribe to all the same things as everyone else you know...you just need to love what you love, unabashedly.
 My husband, in spite of playing a few video games here and there, doesn't think of himself as a nerd--he doesn't like fantasy or science fiction, and he doesn't geek out over shows and movies like I do. BUT he's a total airplane nerd. If there's a show or a book or a website about airplanes, he's on it. If you ask him a question about the P-47's use in WWII and how the handling compares to the P-51, he knows. I think that qualifies.
 I think maybe because geeks/nerds are a little out of the realm of the real world in their own ways, they recognize and appreciate the nerdiness of others, even if it's not about the same thing. So yeah, Star Wars geeks might make fun of Trekkies (Trekkers, I know), but in the end they are in the same camp, on the same side. The passionate side of life.
What do you think, fellow nerds? What are you passionate about? What flips your switch? Has it changed over the years?
 And do you think nerds are more accepting of other nerds, even with different passions, than non-nerds are? Or are we all just in our separate nerd camps, with some overlap? 
 Live long and prosper, and Don't Freak Out.

1I tried to decide if I was really one or the other based on this article (http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-the-Difference-Between-Nerds-and-Geeks), but I don't think the differences they cite are valid. I fall into both and neither, as described! So I'm using them interchangeably. So there.


Kelly J. said...

I'm a total non-nerd, unless you count being a fan of nerds a nerdy thing (woah). I have absolutely no nerd/geek street cred except for reading.

Tamora Pierce said...

Books. Geeking out over my favorite authors publishing new books.
Classic Trek.
Female heroes who kick butt and don't apologize for it
Knights in armor jousting or fighting with swords. Better still, women knights doing the same.
Military history pre-guns. Non-gunpowder/electronic weapons.
Epidemic disease.
True crime, but not organized crime.
Medieval history and life.
Not enough knowledge of Bollywood movies to be a true geek, but I still geek out over my heroes.
Wildlife. Will drive off the road trying to identify a hawk.

Susan Adrian said...

Kelly: See, and it doesn't matter. You are totally a nerd. You're passionate about reading and books, and you're SO IN.

Tamora: I love your list. And I can geek out with you on several of your items (esp. the medieval history and life bit. And the female heroes). ALSO, am geeking out a little that you posted here. Just saying. :) Thanks!

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I use both nerd and geek and don't really see a difference between them.

The best thing about being a nerd/geek is finding NEW stuff to geek out about. Like my husband and I are watching Avatar the Last Airbender for the first time, and now I can add it to my list of favorite things!

And I think that's why nerd culture is so awesome, because we want other people to experience all the things we love and enjoy them with us.

Anonymous said...

I attended my first Con this weekend. And quickly learned
that my geek-dom is fairly shallow. I've been doing a half-assed job watching Doctor Who (still only on season one), needed to TAKE
NOTES while I watched Firefly (three times was not sufficient), MUST BUILD A STEAMPUNK COSTUME, and probably bow to the powers and find at least some decent recaps of Star Trek and its various incarnations. I'm such a slacker. If I had
attended ComicCon in San Diego (like I've been thinking of since 2000!), I would have SO EMBARRASSED myself. But I'm on task now, and plan to be a much better geek by this time next year.

Susan Adrian said...

Liz: yes, I love finding new things to love...and evangelizing those things I already do. Best part, for sure.

Rebecca: I don't know...for me, I don't want to feel like I have to bone up to feel comfortable on things I don't necessarily love. Guess I'll just have to be me into whatever I'm into and hope that's enough!

Ben Spendlove said...

Nerds also tend to feel passionately about things they don't like. (I mean, like, ENTERPRISE? Seriously?)

Great post. As for me: bicycles, velomobiles, language, typography, writing, Apple, Star Trek, depression and other mental illnesses (I know--weird), and practically everything I want to write about. (I love Wikipedia. I could read it all day.)

Linda G. said...

I still cannot believe you don't like Doctor Who. *shakes head sadly* But I'll forgive you, because you're such a good CP. :)

Susan Adrian said...

Ben: I knew somebody would ding me on Enterprise. But hey. I like what I like! I love your list, btw. Especially the typography and language bits. And when you said "bicycles, velomobiles" it confused me for a second, because I'm learning Russian, and bicycle is "velocipert" (roughly) in Russian. I thought you were repeating!

Linder: Thanks, bb. I've tried. I may lack some nerd cred, but I've come to terms with it.