The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, November 8, 2013.
The other day, while watching the masses board the subway I was on, a young fellow wearing a pair of knickers caught my attention. When I say “young fellow,” I mean late teens or early twenties. When I say “knickers,” I mean just that. Short pants bound at the knees. Along with the knickers, he was wearing a suit jacket with a white shirt and dark tie, purple argyle socks, and Stacy Adams boots, or some variation thereof. As he looked like something from the wealthier side of a Oscar Wilde play, I thought for a moment that it might have been a costume of sorts. But as he stood there conversing with his companion, backpack slung over one shoulder, it didn’t seem that way. Maybe it was some kind if uniform? Or maybe he had walked out of a dress rehearsal without changing? Regardless of whatever story I made up in my head for him, the fact remained that he appeared quite content, quite confident in manner, quite sure of his look.
He owned it.
Within geekdom, there’s lots of talk about “owning” one’s chosen form(s) of geekery. About how geeks take refuge within and relish the bits about culture and pop culture that they truly love, from video games to Star Trek to H. P. Lovecraft stories. One of the things that makes a geek a geek is this sense of community and becoming part of a something larger than oneself. In many cases, we find those communities locally among friends. In other cases, we find those communities online through Internet hubs and social networking. Our respective hobbies (geeky or not) are part of us, something we are proud of, something we own.
What’s interesting is that over that past couple decades, the term “geek” has been applied to numerous hobbies outside of traditionally nerdy pursuits — computers, science fiction, math, and the like. There are knitting geeks, fashion geeks, food geeks, aquarium geeks, library geeks, architecture geeks, and so on and so forth. In a funny conversation I recently had with one of my long time co-workers, after explaining, at length apparently, how we were prepping our garden for the fall season, she exclaimed, “You’ve turned into such a gardening geek!” I paused for a second and thought about the connotation. “Yeah, I guess I have,” I smiled.
I won’t lie, after years of being picked on in school for being of the scholarly persuasion, I still get a little bristly at being called a “geek” or a “nerd” or a “dork” by an outsider, even though I’d quickly use any of those terms to describe myself. But in my mind, those are words that I have come to own. I’ve integrated them into my life over time, and feel confident in how I apply them to myself. If my recent intake of gardening knowledge makes me a “gardening geek” in the eyes of society, then yeah, I’ll proudly accept that. To someone else, I’ve become something more than what I may have first appeared to be.
Coming back to the guy in the knickers, when we unabashedly step outside the norm like he did, whether we do so in dress or manner, we proclaim more to the world than just independence and self worth. We show the world that we own it. We aren’t defined by our hobbies and extra curricular activities, though society may define us by and through them, for those are choices we take on and make our own. No two gamers follow the same definitions of themselves, no two Whovians see the universe in the same manner, no two scientists approach the world’s problems in the same way — yet we all, find similarities.
So you…you go out and wear those knickers, dammit! Go out and love the things that make you who you are! Go out and show the world that you are more than just some silly, artificial label!
DO WHAT THE SIGN SAYS: