Give Geeks a Chance

Even Boba Fett Needs Friends, Image: Kristen Catalano

Not every person that calls themselves a Nerd or a Geek has been an outcast. We weren’t all the last one picked for the team in gym or the only one without a date to the big dance. We didn’t all wear thick black glasses held together with tape, or play video games, or read comics, or play DnD. But, for most of us, there has been a moment when we didn’t quite fit in with everyone else.

It might have happened during a show of enthusiasm for something we love. Plenty of people like Star Wars, but get too excited, chatter too much about how you and your friends cheered when the opening credits rolled, and you’ve outed yourself as a geek. Adults will give you a funny look then quickly check themselves (as you check your enthusiasm) and move on to a safer topic. Kids, well, we all know how unkind kids can be to one another.

I’ve learned to ignore the funny look when it’s cast in my direction. Go ahead and laugh as I wax poetic about the Millennium Falcon or the crush I had on Dirk Benedict when he was Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. Roll your eyes when I say my favorite toys were action figures, especially the Spock with a little button on his back that made his fingers split into the Vulcan greeting.

Popeye had it right. I am what I am.

One of the most difficult parts of being a geek, though, is not dealing with the people who don’t get you, but finding the people who do. It’s hard to open up and let someone see who you are with the hope of discovering a kindred soul. There’s no guarantee you won’t get that funny look, although we all hope beyond hope that we’ll get a smile of understanding instead.

We’ve all taken that risk and as a result we have friends we’d otherwise never have met. It’s scary, but it’s worth it. But what if we hadn’t been given the chance? What if you walked in to that room full of cosplayers, or Browncoats, or gamers and they’d all snubbed their noses and not given you a chance to fit in? It’s one thing to be snubbed by everyday people, but it’s entirely different when they’re people just like you.

So the next time you’re hanging out with your friends at a convention, or a movie, or a comic store, and someone tries to join your conversation, remember, they’re taking a risk. You have the choice of giving them a chance or snubbing them because you have the upper hand. Remember though, you wouldn’t be standing their with your circle friends if they hadn’t once upon a time taken a chance on you.

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9 thoughts on “Give Geeks a Chance

  1. I agree! When I go to cons, there are the groups of kids and the loners. You know they are there to meet people just as obsessed as they are, but it’s hard to take that first step– even in cosplay.

    As an older mom, I figure I’m not intimidating, and always go up to loners and compliment them on their costumes, hair, whatever. Just to encourage their geekdom.

    ps. For those of you reading this who are the loners at cons, go to the board gaming room. Seriously, everyone will invite you to play a game. I’ve never seen snubbing in that room in any con. Even if you don’t like the game, you’ll meet some people.

    1. Yes, the boardgamers are some of the most accepting people I’ve met at cons. It’s one of the things that makes GenCon so much fun. You can wander into a room knowing no one, and come out with a bunch of new friends.

      It is really hard though, when you se that someone is trying to fit in, trying to make friends, but being ignored.

      We all were there at some point, and the people we call friends wouldn’t be friends at all if we hadn’t given each other that first chance.

  2. Wow. I’m not even into Star Trek, but *I* want a Spock figure with a button in the back that gives the Vulcan greeting.

    Seriously, though, lovely post. I am so shy in real life, even around people who obviously love the same things as me. It’s always good to stretch out a hand to someone new!

    1. I have searched my Mom’s house trying to find that Spock, but I think he’s been lost to the ravages of time. No, I”m not crying. *sniff*

      I think most of us are nervous, even around those we think will understand us, and it takes courage to put yourself out there!

      The key is for each of us to remember how this feels once we’re on “the inside” of a group and someone new comes along.

  3. I think “normal” people need to calm down. I feel bad for them that there is nothing in their lives they can feel so passionate about. Or maybe they do but they’re ashamed of it – which is so silly – so they try to act superior when someone else flies their geek flag. Can’t we all just get along? And you’re so right – remember what it felt like to be that outsider, scared of taking the first step, and be more generous with someone new risking that first step with you.

    1. Thanks, Jessica. It is so difficult for people to really be themselves, even when they’re “normal” but to exlude others, that’s the part that gets to me. It’s just cruel. Kids do it to each other all the time and as adults we tell them it’s wrong. Suddenly, we’re adults and some of us think its okay to do it? Grrrr.

  4. This is interesting. You’re absolutely right, but I also see why it happens. A lot of us are introverts, and so once we are over that hump of having to meet new people, and we’re cozily ensconced in a group we feel comfortable with, it feels like a big effort to have to deal with a new person coming in to the mix. So I don’t think it’s so much snubbing as it is a feeling of not wanting to muster up that social exertion of interacting with a new person. But your post is a good reminder of why it’s worth it.

    1. Ellen, I agree, we tend to be an introverted bunch and that makes it a challenge from both sides. There are times when all of us just aren’t interesting in making new friends. I guess it’s more, not that we aren’t willing to make someone a new friend that bothers me, more that some aren’t even willing to make a new acquaintance. In a social situation where people are milling about, if someone tries to engage me in a conversation I will always at least be courteous. I might not make friends, but I’ll be polite. That’s the part that’s missing, and that’s the part that I find upsetting.

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