If you are a friend of mine, then you probably know I am a huge geek already. Most people I know online figure it out pretty quickly, since I write about science fiction and geek culture for a gaming website. In person, though, I do a fair imitation of a normal person, and many people are surprised when they discover that I am a huge nerd.
There is one conversation that I think of as the epitome of this kind of coming out: the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. These movies had a big mainstream audience, so they were likely to come up in totally non-nerdy contexts back when they were actually out in the theaters. They still do occasionally, and just before I jump into the topic with someone who doesn’t know me that well, I always hesitate a bit, because once I start expounding on my major problem with the movie, there will be no hope of hiding my nerdiness. I hate that they made the web-shooting part of Peter Parker’s mutation. Part of what makes him so cool is that he isn’t just a guy who was in the wrong place at the right time–he was a *smart* guy who was in the wrong place at the right time. He is a guy who can figure out the extent of his abilities and the limitations, and fashion a whole new chemical concoction to augment his powers and further cement the resemblance to the spider that gave him his abilities. So cool. Making the web stuff part of the mutation takes away an important part of his character, in my totally nerdy opinion. As I explain this, I feel myself getting more passionate by they minute, and I want to start talking about the plot where he develops his costume to withstand all that he does in the comics, but I can already see my conversational partner’s eyes glazing over, their smiles sliding into politeness.
Frankly, I don’t understand their lack of enthusiasm. They brought the movie up, presumably because they liked it. Why aren’t they interested in the details? Not that whether one of his abilities is a mutation or something he developed in a chemistry lab is just a minor detail. Except that to a lot of people, it is minor. So I wrap up and we move on, and that is that. Except now this person knows about my secret nerdiness.
I like to think we are all nerds about something. Certainly, fantasy football is a special kind of passion that I do not get in anyway. I know people that spend hours every week, calculating the stats for their “team” by hand, pouring over every game that happened that week. To me, that is far stranger than my fascination with actual scientific issues. (I mean, seriously, spiders don’t shoot webbing out of their wrists, or whatever their corresponding joints are called. How would that even be a credible part of the mutation?) Sure, sports are considered a less nerdy obsession, but surely that only applies to playing sports, not to compiling arcane sports statistics?
I am not ashamed of my geekiness, really. I think that all of the things I love are awesome, and I really don’t care about fitting into a mainstream world. Or, I do care, but only to the extent of fitting into various communities to which I belong, like school moms, or the neighborhood or work. I don’t think that having other, geekier interests is a problem there, though. Everyone has some kind of hobby. But it is interesting to see what happens when my offline acquaintances find out about my nerdy obsessions.