Or… when did I become cool?
Geek, to me, has always been associated with a significant level of passion, a dedication to something that may not be cool but is cool to you to a degree that it radiates when you talk about it or get involved. It’s why there’s so much in this world that is “geek” – Star Wars to Ren Faire, real world tech to the deep delve into fictional histories, all over the map. But it still falls into geek, because what defines it is the level of dedication we’ve shown.
Once upon a time, if this level wasn’t towards something “cool”, well, you were an outcast. Sports, sure, go ahead and express that passion. Comic books? Don’t even think about it. Go find some quiet corner of the internet (when we finally had that resource) to geek out with your people, but don’t interrupt the norm with your nerd. Before the internet it was quiet corners of the playground, library, or something like the ever so rare Star Trek convention that your parents wouldn’t let you attend anyway and stayed a dream of the future.
My first geek con was Anime Expo 2000, I was a newly minted 18 so it was up to me how I wanted to spend my time and what little money I was making from my first job! I went all out, hotel room (with 8 of us in it, so there was a lot of sleeping on floors and showering in shifts) to cosplay (only one costume, Febreeze was my friend), playing to the hilt. And my geek community love was realized, but my peers from high school, my coworkers at that first job, and eventually my classmates when I got to college that fall… many of them just didn’t get it. Why work so hard to go be with a bunch of anime geeks?
There weren’t words for it. If they weren’t geeks themselves, there was no way to translate finally being amongst my people, even if they would go to similar crazy lengths for their popular passions (again, the sports analogy should have worked, and strangely did not).
Yet here I sit, eighteen years later, knowing that it’s impossible to get into San Diego Comic Con because too many people are knocking down the doors to wait in Hall H lines all day, just for a glimpse at those geek-stars, a tidbit about a treasured TV show, or some magical moment for a fan base to come together. It’s cool to care about the geekiest of things.
The internet was a huge factor, we could find our people without flying across the country for a convention, we could connect over those quirks that made us outcasts as children and young adults.
But there was also some hard to define cultural ground shift, as well. Passion was no longer relegated to the quiet corners of the world, suddenly it was acceptable to wave your interest flags from the highest peaks, even if they weren’t typical. And by doing so, they became typical!
Suddenly nerd was in, and sure enough… geek was chic. The world found us on the fringes and felt it was time to call us cool.
Thanks, world. Next time can we start earlier so I don’t have so many issues as a result?