This post by Ta-Nehisi Coates got me thinking about my own relationship with nerd culture. I have a different experience with becoming part of 'nerd culture'. I was always one of the popular kids. From the very start, I fit it, for reasons I'm not completely aware of. If I had to guess I'd say it's just because I had a friendly demeanor. My mom thinks it could be because people are drawn towards attractive people. Could be. But she's somewhat biased.
But at some point around junior high I just felt disconnected from the popular group and shifted towards being more of a loaner and connecting with the less popular. I think the reason was because I saw many of the popular kids as fake, like they were trying to be something they thought was cool in order to impress everyone, especially girls. That bugged me. My parents' divorce probably exacerbated my feelings. But they were there before that.
During that entire time I liked superheroes and video games. My interest in nerdy things wasn't driven by being an outsider/outcast. I think it was driven more by my personality, which despite being introverted didn't prevent me from being able to connect to people when I chose to do so. But as I've grown older I've become more of a loaner and more connected to nerdy things. Now I embrace the outsider aspect of those things. It's a badge of honor I proudly wear.
I didn't need nerd culture to prevent suicide or anything near that level, which is what Coates' post talks about. But as I feel less and less need for societal interaction I find more and more comfort in nerd culture. For instance, I had a decent time at a party Saturday night. But last night I had much more fun sitting at my computer listening to a 3 hour podcast discussing The Dark Knight Rises.
I think high school had a lot to do with how I am now. I went to an all boys Catholic high school where we had to wear a shirt, tie, and khaki pants every day. It was like a Pink Floyd video circa The Wall but without the actual meat grinder. I think that conformity of everything (dress, class, religion) forced me more inward because I just couldn't express myself. Thus when I went to college I fully embraced different dress (jeans, tshirt, long hair) and just a general way of thinking. Embracing that freedom made me feel better about myself.
And now, being part of nerd culture (wearing Firefly/Battlestar Galactica/Batman tshirts) is how I express myself. Hell, it's all over this blog how much I love sci fi tv shows. So while I didn't come into the culture as a way to feel better about myself in the way that Coates is discussing, I did adapt it as a big part of my life because it did help make me feel better about myself. However you get there, it's a celebration of who you are and an acknowledgement that there are many people who are like you. So wear it loud and wear it proud.