Tuesday, December 23, 2014

For the Love of Geeks

I love geeks.

I love nerdy types; guys in glasses with scruffy haircuts who look down at their shoes when talking to you; band geeks and computer guys and people who get really excited over things like model airplanes and ham radios and facts and books.

So is it any surprise that I am kind of secretly really happy that my oldest seems to be discovering her "inner geek?"

I try not to write about Anna here, but this time I can't resist, because I don't think she'd mind too much, and because it's such a positive.

Here's the thing: she's 10. And 10 these days is when things start to get rough.

Do you remember? Do you even want to remember? Do you remember those years of trying to figure out who you really were, to test the waters and see if it was okay to just be you, even if you wasn't exactly like everyone else?

When I was Anna's age, like her, I was full of contradictions. I stunk at sports but my first obsession (read: crush) was the Boston Red Sox. Particularly Roger Clemens. I played with dolls but got dreamy about a boy in my class. I liked to read and write but felt bad about liking reading and writing because it seemed so "nerdy."

My daughter is not me, of course. She is less sensitive, already has better hair/fashion sense, is more crafty, less musical (but a great singer) and would never willingly watch a Red Sox game. But like all tweens, she's trying to find her place.

First, a few years ago, all the girls wanted to practice singing and performing during recess, and she just wanted to read books. Then last year, she followed the lead of a few others and started to get into hair and lip gloss and watching You Tube video "shows" with American Girl dolls acting like bratty teenagers and I thought, "It's way too early for this."

To complicate matters, she attends a very small school where there aren't a lot of options for friendships. Meaning, if you aren't fitting in with one group, you can't just up and try to work your way into another.

Until this year. That's when two new students, a boy and a girl, arrived. And they're true, bonafide geeks. I mean this in the nicest possible way. One is obsessed with all things Pokémon and confesses to sneaking and playing video games in the middle of the night. The other is a matter-of-fact, face full of braces, confident girl gamer who has no need for peering in the mirror every three minutes (as Anna was getting into the habit of doing).

And suddenly, Anna has found her "gang." It helps that her dad is a tried and true geek. The kids love their time playing on the WiiU with him and watching obscure shows he's pulled from the dark recesses of the internet (i.e. "Mysterious Cities of Gold," a highly regarded cartoon from the eighties the average kid today has absolutely never heard of). Anna loves to read; she loves to spout off facts; she's passionate about science. That doesn't mean she still doesn't like to attempt new hairstyles or wear (a little bit) dangly earrings. It just means it's okay to be her, with all of her incongruities.

The school Christmas play last week -- we got to attend and watch our "shy with grownups" girl act her heart out on stage. Afterwards, she hung with her two best buddies. They talked about Pokémon characters. I told them about the days when Anna's dad was so obsessed with computers he was locked out of the computer room by his parents -- until he took the door off its hinges when they weren't home. The best thing was how happy they seemed. Especially my girl.

I don't know if Anna feels the same way, but I know why I always liked geeks. It's because from early on I realized they were sweet, and they were safe. The shy guys weren't going to act like the jocks (I called them "backwards hat guys") and belittle me. They were more sensitive. Somehow they were likeable even when they were being obnoxious.

When I think of geeks, the first thing that comes to mind is high school band. A table full of guys sat right next to my group of friends (who were just one step off from full-blown geekdom, mind you). They were ridiculous and hormonal. They used to sit there and say all together in monotone voices, repeating the lyrics from a song back then:

We don't have to take our clothes off. To have a good time. Oh no. But it helps.

But you knew they were just talking, because none of them had girlfriends. And you knew if you tripped in the hallway and left papers trailing everywhere, they'd be the first to help you pick them up.

On the last day of his senior year, I asked one of those guys to sign my yearbook. He was a fellow clarinet player who badly needed a haircut, was about 50 pounds overweight, and was always asking with his friends, "Hey Debby, how's Dallas?" (apparently after some series of porno movies back then). He handed my yearbook back to me and disappeared before I could read it. I'm pretty sure I never talked to him again, after that moment. When I flipped to the page, my jaw fell to the floor:

You're great, wonderful, kind, considerate, intelligent, beautiful, hardworking, and a superior clarinet player. I think that if you stopped worrying everyone would see these qualities more clearly and love you for who you are. Good luck and I'll see you around.

This is why I love geeks.

Go for it, Anna. Hang with the people who may not dazzle everyone outwardly, but who may just be hidden gems inside.

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