No Such Thing As A Fake Geek
By now you’ve heard about the controversy over fake geek girls, the assertion by certain obnoxious persons that women can’t possibly like fantasy and SF and roleplaying games and all the things nerdy types love, because they’re…you know, girls. Which is a lot of crap and I won’t bother repeating what’s been said over the last eight months or so.
Today I saw a video on Upworthy, made by geeks of all genders and notorieties. And it brought me to tears. You see, when I was a kid, I liked reading books better than anything. Sure, I played with dolls and rode bikes and worked puzzles, but if you gave me the choice, I’d read. Worlds opened up to me in the pages of books. I read Nancy Drew and the Happy Hollisters and Trixie Belden. I loved The Four Story Mistake and Misty of Chincoteague and Missing Melinda. I immersed myself in Poe and Tolkien and Shakespeare. A Christmas with nothing but books under the tree was a Christmas straight out of my happiest dreams.
In high school I moved on to science fiction – Asimov and Herbert and Zelazny. The summer I was 15, my mother went off to an education conference and brought me a book she thought I’d like – The 2nd Edition D&D Player’s Handbook. I had not one to play with, but I read that book over and over, learning all the spells and perusing the charts. In junior year of high school, I finally found a group of people to play the game with, and once a week, I was utterly over the moon. I was a cleric in plate mail armor, fighting the forces of evil and helping my compatriots to succeed. We had such amazing adventures, and I always wished I could tell people about the fun I was having. But I couldn’t talk about such things at school. When I did, I was labelled a weird kid. It was okay to talk to me in class, but beyond the walls of the building, I carried social plague. I didn’t get asked to parties and I dated rarely. Boys could like SF and RPGs. Girls were supposed to like curling their hair, shopping for shoes and watching soap operas. I was just too odd to be friends with.
Luckily high school is not real life. I went off to college and met the man who became my husband when I joined a new D&D game on campus. I spent a whole year going to midnight shows of The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night. I screamed at the screen when Riker gave the order to fire on the Borg ship carrying Picard, knowing I had three months to wait for resolution. I waited in the bookstore the day the Unearthed Arcana arrived, gripping my hard-earned $20 that I’d saved for just this purchase. I learned to make my own garb so that when I went to the local Renaissance faire, I would feel like a part of the fun. I took belly dancing lessons, and eventually joined a troupe. My husband and I cried together when we watched the last episode of Cowboy Bebop. We spent an entire weekend in front of the television when the Firefly season discs arrived from Netflix. I decided I wanted to pursue a writing career, so I joined a writing group and when a couple of the members questioned the sense of writing about female pirates with magical ability, the rest of the writers backed me up enthusiastically. It took years, but I’ve found the way to be who I am.
However, the pain of being told I was too weird has never quite gone away. Some days I feel it, poking at the edge of my self-esteem, hoping to find its way back in. It pisses me off to an extraordinary degree. When I’m feeling that “you’re weird for liking what you like” vibe, it’s anyone’s guess what might happen. I wouldn’t recommend you try me when I’m in that state. And what can put me there faster than almost anything? Dissing the things that saved me. Books and D&D and faire, all the fun that made me look weird when I was young. Those things kept me from going off the edge. Somewhere there’s a woman in the same situation I was in then, and I’ll be damned if I’ll allow that. So let me tell you…if I ever overhear you telling a woman she’s not a real geek, I’m liable to go off. In a dangerous way. Because no one can tell me or anyone else what to love, or how deeply to love it.