How I Learned to Love the Geek

I’ve been a geek since before I knew what a geek was. I was definitely a geek before it was acceptable to be a geek. I don’t remember a point in my life before Star Trek, Star Wars, Highlander, Lord of the Rings, or any form of fantasy and sci-fi. Pretty much anything I read was fantasy, sci-fi, or horror (which I, personally, find highly related to the other two). I even threw myself into my more “typical” adolescent girl interests—horses, for example—with a geeky fervor. You know what I’m talking about—the drive to find out everything about a subject, to surround yourself with the things you love, and to develop a passionate relationship with your interests.

I’m tempted to list out everything that made me into a young geek, but I know that’s not necessary. It ultimately doesn’t matter if you were into comic books, science fiction TV shows, or writing fanfiction—if you’re a young nerd, it tends to show through very easily. It reminds me of part of my favorite quote from John Green—he says that nerds are ultimately just “too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.” This enthusiasm often can’t be contained. It’s similar to the look someone gets when they talk about someone they love—except for nerds, it comes about when we talk about Harry Potter, World of Warcraft, or Battlestar Gallactica. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with unbridled enthusiasm, and there’s nothing wrong with letting it show.

Unless, apparently, your enthusiasm makes you appear “different.” In my case, I already stood out in my small-town Catholic school. One of the terms that best describes my looks is “ethnically ambiguous” and this was even more apparent when I was young. If you coupled the fact that I looked decidedly “other” with the fact that I would always have my nose stuck in a book adorned with knights in shining armor—therefore acting obviously “other”—it was a recipe for disaster.

Without getting into too many details, my family eventually moved to a new town due to the bullying, but it really didn’t stop. I became a little less withdrawn than I was at my old school, but I had learned to treat my geekiness like a horrific disease—it was as if I felt like I was plagued with a disease that I had to keep secret from everyone else. I made a few friends throughout middle school, high school, and my undergraduate career who liked the same things I did, and that was nice. But I still felt the need to restrain my inner geek. I wrote fanfiction in secret. I hid comic books in my bedroom. If anyone made a joke at the expense of another geek, I would awkwardly chuckle but wish I could just disappear.

The stereotypical male nerd is annoyed by the role the internet played in making geekdom an acceptable subculture. I, on the other hand, can’t thank it enough. It hasn’t changed life dramatically—people still look at my strangely when I walk around in my Star Trek hoodie, for example—but it has given me a sense of belonging. When I was younger I felt like an outsider, like there was something different about me that made me love things that no one else cared about—and that they would make fun of me for loving. I was able to meet other people through the internet who did enjoy these things, though, and it made me comfortable with myself again. It let me once again embrace the enthusiasm that defines the geek community. Another helpful thing was going to graduate school—nerds purposefully put themselves into this environment, and many people enjoy the same things I do.

These communities allowed me to become comfortable enough with myself to the geek inside me roam free once more. And I have to tell you—I’m much happier with life now that I don’t care about a discouraging look or a snide comment about my nerdy hobbies and interests. If anything like that does happen, I can turn to the internet community and people there will make me feel better and confident again. I’m only sad that it took me this long to embrace the geek again. I really missed out on collecting some badass action figures over the last twenty years.

About Amanda

Amanda
As a card-carrying member of the Justice League, honorary Star Fleet ensign, and a Ph.D student in political science, Amanda doesn’t have much spare time on her hands. But when she does, she spends it gaming, nerdcrafting, marathoning shows on Netflix, debating Tolkien online, sewing costumes for cosplay, and writing on Geekphoria.net.

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  • Sarah Destrehan

    I empathize with you so much on that kind of fear. It's so isolating to be different if you're not a "cool" or acceptable difference. I'm glad that you are back to feeling more like yourself.

  • Krystelle

    I love almost everything you listed. I didn't fit in much when I was younger and was teased endlessly because I was raised by a single father (kids are cruel). He let me dress however I wanted, so it was usually a little weird (I still don't have any fashion sense). I still have huge anxiety when having to speak in front of people or meeting new people because of all the bullying that happened back then. I am happy to have found such great communities here on the Internet that make it a little easier to be myself. I'm sorry all that happened to you, but I'm glad that you are embracing the geekiness once again :)

  • BittenUsagi

    I sometimes wonder if being a geek is more accepted or if it's just that it's so much easier to find others that love what you do. Either way I'm so thankful for the internet's role in it. Through high school I had no idea there were book release parties or midnight movie premieres or any of those things. Hell, I didn't even discover Harry Potter until I think like the 3rd book had been released. I was in a town in the middle of no where, no longer had access to comic books, a movie theater that got things when they came out (not 2-3 months later), internet other than dial up (though part of that does have to do with my age, haha) or even people my age that liked what I did. If I talked about X-Files or Star Trek it was like I had burst into another language while doing an interpretive dance as I sprouted horns. I really don't miss those days. I still get that reaction from certain people or even nerd friends about something new to them on occasion but I can always find someone who gets it now and for that I am SO thankful.

  • http://www.joiefatale.com/ Joie_Fatale

    "The stereotypical male nerd is annoyed by the role the internet played in making geekdom an acceptable subculture. I, on the other hand, can’t thank it enough"
    My sentiments exactly!