Thursday, May 29, 2014

Exclusive Nerdom

I'm back!  I've been thinking about blogging lots lately, but I was weighed down with "but it's been so long!" guilt.  And then today, whatever.  Forget guilt.  I just wanted to blog.

I've been thinking about "nerd culture" a lot lately, particularly about how interestingly defined of a community it is.  There's definitely some snobbishness to it at time.  "Are you familiar enough with these comic franchise story lines?"  "Have you ever even played Magic/D&D/etc.?"  "Have you memorized the Simarillion or did you even know it was a book?"  And so on.  These attitudes exist.

At the same time, there's often a level of apology for being a nerd.  Outside the nerd community, it's not uncommon for many to forget how high they are on the nerd totem pole and simply try to fly under the radar.

As I was thinking about this, I realized it all probably goes back to middle school, high school, for some of us elementary school.  It probably originates in our own marginalization and exclusion.  It was nothing more than the big kids forming a club we weren't invited to.  So we went off, as younger kids do, and formed the most exclusive club we could (of course only partially aware that no one else wanted to join).

And that's why, I think, nerd culture tends to be fairly territorial.  This community, these stories, these games are our prize for enduring exclusion, bullying, harassment, abuse.  Yes, being defensive and territorial is, at some level, mimicking the exclusion we ourselves endured.  On the other hand, though, I think those who connect to nerd culture are desperate for it to mean something, for it to be earned.  "How many lunches did you eat alone in 6th grade?" "How many times were you shoved, tripped, stuffed in a locker?" "Did anyone write insults on your school supplies with permanent marker?"  If you didn't pay the price, you shouldn't be admitted.

Yet, as I've grown up, I've realized that the older I get, the less exclusion matters.  The easier it is to win the title of "cool" or "funny," and the easier it is to gain access to most social groups.  The "cool kids," as it were, have opened the doors to their social circles while the nerd circle tends to get a little bitter if not offended whenever their material is appropriated and accepted by popular culture.  (And, granted, sometimes it's appropriated very, very badly.)

These ideas aren't really original, but I think they're worth posting.  I've been working on letting go of resentments lately.  And I've realized that after years of being left out of groups because of my passion for school, my teenage social awkwardness, and my weird interests, I've resorted to making an idol out of my intelligence and interests.  And I don't necessarily want anyone who isn't like me to have unfettered access.  I think much of what I see in other "nerds" is the same.  After years of wanting connection, now that it's offered, we'd rather hold onto resentments in our exclusive clubs than finally having it.  Were it to continue, our loneliness--this time--would be no one's fault but our own.