Geek Inadequacy

Posted by Thomas Gideon on 24 December 2005

Last week, on Geek Fu Action Grip, Mur read an essay about her being incompetent as a geek. First, I think inadequate might have been a better word choice than incompetent, but in either case, it upset me to hear her put herself down in this way. Especially when the experiences she described seemed to me to be entirely coincidental and circumstantial. My wife is a geek, a self professed and admitted geek. While she has probably always been a geek, she has not always realized or admitted it. In her youth, many of her choices were undoubtedly guided by an unconscious shunning of her own geek nature. Now that she is an adult, she has accepted being a geek and embraced it.

Coming fully into her geekhood so late in life has offered both of us some valuable insights. When Jackson's LotR movies first came out, she was as psyched as anyone to see them. After three hours of Fellowship, she really had had enough. I immediately dug out my copy of the novels and started re-devouring them. She admitted that the movies were pretty, despite our local theater getting one of the bad copies of the first one, but just didn't get their appeal as a geek standard.

This experience has been repeated to varying degrees with a lot of other works that would be considered geek icons. And, yet, her geek nature remains undiminished. She worked at the local renaissance festival for years, and through her self adoption of podcasting, has even re-connected with the music a little after many years absence. She totally geeks out on historical fiction, whether in book or movie form. When we were both avidly into historical re-enacting, she kept us garbed in style that would put some movie production companies to shame.

I tend to fit the more classical geek mold, I suppose, so before meeting and becoming involved with my wife, had never really questioned whether it was the outward expression or a purely inner quality that made one a geek. However, even before I met her, I had some experiences that gave me an unconscious appreciation for the plurality of geekdom.

My older brother and I are separated by a space of five years. As a pre-teen, teenager and young adult, I loved fantasy novels. Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, Piers Anthony, Katherine Kurtz, Jennifer Roberson, Robert Asprin--these and more were my staples. My brother was into science fiction, both hard SF and military SF. Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Frederik Pohl, Poul Anderson; I'm sure I am forgetting some.

At the time, I couldn't understand why he enjoyed such a different set of authors and genres from me. Yet he was my big brother, and I clearly identified with him as a fellow geek. I never questioned his geek nature, based on our difference in tastes. It was clear that we both sprang from the same geek source, my mother, also an avid reader of SF and fantasy.

What I have to come to realize and hope to share with Mur through these anecdotes is that Geek is not measured by some external yardstick. So what if all her friends are fans of Roger Zelazny. It doesn't matter if she could care less for the man's works. Just because all of the geeks around her seem to share the same likes and dislikes doesn't make her any less of a geek if she happens to be locally unique.

Mur, revel in and relish the exploration of your own, unique geek nature. Don't let anyone or anything make you feel like it is diminished or inadequate. If they are your friends, they will respect a difference of tastes or opinions. Don't stop sharing, though, as in my experience, one of the marks of a true geek is the open-ness to, and even passion for, entirely new things over which to to geek out. I hope you get to enjoy the experience of converting one of your friends to one of your unique geek passions. If you have already, I encourage you to reflect on that some more. I think that would go a long way towards offsetting that occasional urge to lie about common interests and give you a much more healthy way to share your beloved geek nature with those geographically close around you.