Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm a Geek

Anyone who knows me now probably finds the post title a little obvious and it is... but accepting this has been a weird journey for me.

*I know which of you turkeys are laughing and I won't forget it*

For most of my adult life I've labored under the delusion I lean toward the geek because I married a geek.

When Charlie and I were first married, I brought with me only a small collection of my favorite books. Most of those, young adult fiction, biographies of Helen Keller and only a couple of sci-fi or fantasy titles.

I was a voracious reader who, in my early teens, read entirely through our library's young adult book collection, regularly taking home the limit of 6 books every 2 weeks and sometimes finishing an entire book during our regular visits. When I had read through all their offerings, I went back and reread them as I didn't know any adult authors (except Stephen King) and wasn't keen on taking a chance only to find myself disappointed. I did branch out a little beyond Stephan King, but mostly to titles and authors I recognized from late-late movie titles.

The fantasy book in my collection was Johnathan Livingston Seagull and my sci-fi books were E.T. & Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Compared to Charlie's small collection of entirely sci-fi (mostly Asimov) and technical manuals (I didn't know people kept that stuff), there seemed nothing geeky or different about my reading preferences.

During our first year of marriage, I didn't have a license and the library was too far for a reasonable walk, so I read every one of Charlie's books. I can't say I enjoyed them despite the fact I've spent years trying to find the title of one specific book lost in a 1992 fire that had been the coolest book I'd ever read. But no one seems to recognize "Set in the future where brain transplants are an experimental procedure. A rich old man talks his hot young assistant into allowing his brain to be transplanted in his body upon his death. Shenanigans ensue"... so if the book is still floating around somewhere, I've yet to find it.

Also during our first year of marriage, a new station called FOX announced they were bringing back the Star Trek franchise with a show called Star Trek the Next Generation.

I was excited about the show because of Wil Wheaton (Stand By Me was a movie for the generations) and LeVar Burton (Kunta Kinte, duh!) but not because I was a Trekkie. Sure, I saw every episode of Star Trek in syndication at least five or six times but only because there was nothing better on after school. I was one of those people who thought William Shatner had been brilliant in his SNL sketch calling out the basement dwelling fans. Clearly, I was not among that weird group.


Okay, so I knew all the cast members real names but that's just a freakish gift and not in anyway a fan thing. Let's get that clear now.

Also, my childhood M*A*S*H addiction wasn't a fan girl thing either. That I had a good chunk of 10 years of a series memorized, used M*A*S*H quotes in daily life, had a giant crush on Alan Alda and received the entire action figure set from my parents the night of the series finale didn't make me an obsessive fan girl... But only because fan girl wasn't a term at the time.

Wait, that came out wrong.

I had the complete commemorative boxed set. Stupid fire. It was at least as upsetting as losing my wedding dress.
The fact I sat through Charlie watching Doctor Who on PBS then Danger Mouse on Nickelodeon every single weekday afternoon was merely a testament to my love for Charlie. Not because I enjoyed them. Honestly, The Doctor looked pretty stupid running around in that scarf and wtf is up with that stupid screwdriver thing?

My entire understanding of Geek came from Revenge of the Nerds movies and there was NO way I could ever be compared with nerds. Seriously. I had more in common with Ogre than Skolnick, Lowell or *gags* Booger.

*Strangely enough, I can never remember Curtis Armstrong's name unless I see in it a show's guest star list. He was and will always be Booger in my memory. Weird*

I did think Stargate was the coolest Kurt Russel film I'd ever seen. And it was among one of the first 20 or so movies we purchased on VHS... but still.

Fast Forward a few Star Trek incarnations, Quantum Leap and the birth of the Sci-Fi channel later...

I should have known something was up when I pressured Charlie into adding Showtime to our cable because it was the only way to consistently see a new series based on Stargate. Perhaps my over thinking the irritating changes between film and small screen should have been a clue.

And then came Matrix... and Charlie going into business with a group I called the Three Geeks. The next thing I know, I'm standing in midnight, opening night lines with people dressed as their favorite characters from one franchise or another. Anyone else might look at herself and acknowledge she's taken this fan thing a little far.

Only I could still point to Charlie and say it was because of and in support of him.

By the time I realized purchasing entire seasons of SG-1 on DVD was more for me than Charlie, comprehension was finally sinking in.

And then came Christopher Eccelston and the ninth incarnation of the Doctor on BBC America.

When I started growing jealous of friends going to cons... and referring to them as cons and not Sci-Fi Conventions... it was time for a little self-reflection.

I'd like to take this moment to mention that yes, I saw the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters and enjoyed them... but if I ever had Happy Meal toys or other related memorabilia, it's been blocked from conscious memory never to be retrieved. Also, Luke was only cute in the first movie. After that it was Han all the way. A Third trilogy is criminal.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, still thinking I wasn't a geek.

Somewhere after joining Facebook, my understanding of geek changed. I also noticed that my choice of social circles leaned heavily toward what I was coming to understand as geeks... people who threw themselves into a passion so thoroughly, they could possibly be considered obsessive. It didn't matter if the subject was fiber art (big, big clue) or comic books... erm... graphic novels.

In hindsight, things like John's refusal to wear anything that wasn't Blue's Clues related for a full 3 years and Rachel's rather frightening obsession with all things Barney the creepy dinosaur or our entire family's love of Veggie Tales were indicators of a family of geeks and not a way to convince myself that if we each had our obsessions then we were totally normal... right?

SHUT UP! Wasn't asking YOU.
It's been the 6 years on Facebook with all of its easy linkage and longtime (in at least once case, lifelong) friendships with other geeks that has opened my eyes to reality.

I am a ginormous geek.

My reaction to a trailer for a film from Marvel studios is on par with Elena's reaction to finding out she had a Disney Princess Singing Castle waiting for her at home... or Dora's reaction to seeing her gymnastics coach's floor exercise routine. In short, undisguised glee with possible happy dancing and perhaps a tiny bit of awestruck squealing.

Seriously. Shut. Up. I can hear you laughing from here. You know who you are.

Rachel (Theatre Geek) spends a lot of time on Tumblr... a site I have not really embraced, mostly because it seems entirely peopled with weird fandoms and fanfic. Now, I'm sure there are some places where you can find really well written and interesting fan fiction. As a Mom of kids who are the same age as the actors in the series, the first time I stumbled on Harry Potter fanfic I was scarred for life. All I ever seem to stumble upon is the homoerotic variety and, sorry, that just doesn't do it for me.

Though I will admit I joined Tumblr specifically to keep up with a page called Memos From Fury which I learned about on Facebook, of course.

When memes and fandom got to be a bit much and I was contemplating a serious return to writing, I ventured over to Twitter, where I heard you just had to have an account if you wanted to promote your blog/site/self/stuff. Three years on Twitter and rather than gaining a huge readership to my blog, I've surrounded myself with 2,000 other freaks and geeks of various shades and styles. Twitter is the preferred setting for my snark and anti-social tendencies wrapped in a format best for one liners.

And, apparently, word crafters, poets, hashtag gamers, grammar nazis and people who play competitive Mario Cart.

Now I'm on Google+ and noticed, of the couple of dozen communities I've joined, a full half are essentially fandoms (Marvel, Sherlock, Who, Sci-fi/fantasy and mash-ups of any number of the previous) and two thirds of the remaining groups are for people whose love of art/crafts/upcycling/fiberworks/gardening is what gives them reason for living. You know, people just like me.

Couldn't resist
What really drove the geek point home was a conversation with my Dad a few weeks ago.

It was the most bizarre thing for me because it was the longest comfortable conversation I'd had with Dad in ages. He let me ramble on about the various things going on with the kids and grands.

I explained how we'd come to realize Elena remembers the violent birth father who was out of her life by 14 months, her terrible fear of the "Bad Guy" and how the wonderful heroes of Marvel and DC (mostly Teen Titans & Super Auntie Rae) helped her overcome the fear and the memory. When I told Dad about the weekend Elena spent her flea market money on hair bows and her first comic books, he said "I didn't know those were still around."

Boom, in one sentence I realized the single thing that truly makes me different in my family... I'm a geek. I'm a fangirl in a family of mostly academics.

A study done last year from sampling Twitter posts.
See? It's science!

We started discussing comics, superhero movies, Dan and John's games, Doctor Who and all these other things Dad only understood in the most vague sense... I talked about how science fiction has always been a commentary on present day politics and society... but when I mentioned Matt Smith hails from Mum's hometown and one of my cousins had a teacher who played with him when he was a footballer, Dad's interest was piqued.

It was almost as if Dad sensed the same thing I did. Here in this world he's not really paid attention to is where the South Carolina branch of the family lives and we both saw the potential for common ground. He said he'd seen Doctor Who DVD sets at the bookstore and would explore the show. I'm genuinely interested in his perspective.... even if it turns out he doesn't get it.

I truly don't know how to explain it, but that time spent with Dad on the phone was a revelation for me. My entire family was very athletic but I was the only one who dreamt of the Olympics and was obsessed with gymnastics. Everyone in the family has people they respect and look up to but only I took my adoration for Helen Keller to the extreme of learning braille, the manual alphabet (and eventually sign language) every fact I could of her life and performing a scene from "The Miracle Worker" for an 8th grade English Project.

My parents saw that even then. When we made the trip to Alabama for Michele's college graduation, Mum and Dad made a surprise pre-birthday stop at Ivy Green, where they led me on a tour of my hero's home, fulfilled my dream of seeing the water pump where Helen first learned things have names and secretly purchased the definitive biography of Helen and Annie Sullivan for my actual birthday.

We all have our passions... at least I hope you do. Passion, and not merely the over-exposed sexual version of it, is important. A friend and author, Jaime Wyman wrote about joy today. Like her, I believe joy and passion are things that make life beautiful.

So, yes, I am a geek. It's not about hobbies but about passions. The things that bring me joy, entertainment, escape or cause to think are things I throw myself into because that's part of who I am. It's possibly even written into my genetic code. Who knows?

That whole finding out what it is to be me... to be one person... this is part of it. Learning who I am and accepting it with joy.

And that's a good thing.

Now, excuse me but I missed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week and have to catch up.