An Interesting Choice of Words

Let’s talk about nerds. Specifically, let’s talk about nerdiness as it applies to the new generation. What does it mean to be a nerd in the year 2013? It used to mean something entirely different–you know, guys in glasses with suspenders and pocket protectors getting pushed into lockers. But these days, everyone wants to be a nerd. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, although it is helpful to remember that if a term becomes too broad, it loses its meaning. We nerds (and I’m going to use “nerd” and “geek” interchangeably here, even though they are not, strictly speaking, the same thing) should be inclusive, but not to the point that we forget who we are. If you enjoyed the original Star Wars trilogy but didn’t care for the prequels, that doesn’t make you a nerd, it makes you human. If you can give me a blow-by-blow account of everything that happens in the extended universe (full disclosure: I can’t do that), then maybe. There is no threshold to clear, exactly; nerdiness is just a point of view. There is a definite sexism amongst nerds who exclude girls because they don’t get it, and there are slutty women who pretend to be nerds just because they get easy attention from guys who have never touched boobies before. I don’t want to generalize about nerds, as the majority of them do not mistake having strong opinions for being right, have good hygiene, and know perfectly well how to behave around the opposite sex. At the same time, I have met one or two nerds who were socially awkward to the point of being rude and obnoxious. Those guys might as well have just worn signs saying “VIRGIN” around their necks, because stereotypes, sadly, sometimes have a basis in truth.

I hate people who say, “It’ll all work out in the end.” What end is that, the apocalypse? I know what they’re saying–that if you wait long enough, you can get what you want. But what platitudes like that really say to me is that you just have to give it all you’ve got, and I find that you usually have to give it just a little bit more. It never ceases to amaze me how many fights I get into with “nice” people. Nice people seem to think that because they are friendly, they must be better than grumpy old Robot King. That’s not how it works. If all you have to say to me is that you’re offended by something I said, go eat a bag of dicks. Seriously. I can’t give up this safe space–which, in case it’s not obvious, is exactly what this blog is–for anyone, not even close friends and family. My sanity is, I am sorry to say, more important than any of that. What this has to do with nerdiness is simply that nerd conventions and other such gatherings are, for a lot of guys, that safe space. They view anyone who they don’t immediately recognize as one of their own as a threat. I’m not saying that’s right, just that that’s how it works. It doesn’t have to stay that way, though.

Some people believe life is about the journey rather than the destination. I say they can go fuck themselves because, as I’ve just said, I hate feel-good inspirational bullshit. At the same time, lots of people read stories just to get to the end. They follow Lost for six seasons and then, when the ending fails to answer all their questions (or most of them, really), they say that all the time they spent enjoying it was a waste. That’s not how it works. Time spent enjoying yourself is time spent enjoying yourself, although there is a definite tendency on the part of some storytellers to get lost in their own creation. Stephen King even breaks the fourth wall just before the conclusion of his Dark Tower series just to warn the reader that they might not like what’s coming up. I did, but I also found the last three books to have a tossed-off quality. Had Stephen King put as much care into them as he did into the first four (he suffered a near-fatal car accident between the fourth and fifth books, which might have had something to do with it), the series would be, as he claims it is, his magnum opus, and one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. As it is, it’s interesting mostly as something that peters out midway through before concluding in a way that at first seems disappointing, but in reality makes perfect sense.

Men are an insecure bunch. We don’t have to deal with the same pressures about having slender figures and perfect skin that women do, but we have to put up with the knowledge that every failure on our part will provoke questions of whether women would do better if they ran the world. My guess is no. I know it’s fiction and not a scientific experiment, but the comics series Y: The Last Man–which is about a plague that, without warning, wipes out every man on Earth except one–is a terrific examination of the ways in which women can be every bit as power-hungry and petty as men can, given the chance. I know women who have committed themselves to losing weight (some men, too, but mostly women), and the funny thing is that it never occurred to me that any of them needed it. Not that they weren’t plus-size, mind you, just that I assumed that they were okay with it. So [insert name here] likes desserts. What of it?

Pictured: awesomeness.

Pictured: awesomeness.

This post spent more time in the works than normal. There is a lot cluttering my head. And I’m not quite as prolific as I used to be. I’m kind of tired of watching my life improve without actually getting good. Everybody says that I should be patient, but I’m getting older, and the things that I really want to change never do. I’m not the overachiever I used to be. Much of my stress of the last six or seven months has come with being asked to do things that I’ve either never done before, or have actively avoided doing in recent years. Some people have more experience in this field than I do. Some have more life experience than I do, period. It’s stupid to compare yourself to others, but easy, when you find yourself with nothing better to do. It has been my experience that the people who wonder if they belong are often more useful than they realize, but that is impossible to confirm, and has to be taken on faith. What is more important to me is the belief that real change takes time, and requires not just patience but understanding. So much can turn on a bizarre choice of words. I’ve written whole essays about exactly that. Nerds have to know what defines them, or they’ll become an exclusive club, like the country club that told Groucho Marx that they didn’t allow Jews, but would make an exception for him provided that he didn’t use the pool. (His response: “My daughter’s half-Jewish. Can she wade in up to her knees?”) Sooner or later, people will realize that it ain’t blood, it’s just the goddamn river.


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