“They called me a geek,” he told me, one afternoon after school.
I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was only a matter of time before the junior high school powers-that-be passed judgement and decreed it to be so. Our need to categorize and classify starts young.
He fits all the traditional criteria: he likes paleontology, history, math, and Minecraft. He is interested in video games and coding. He loves band and playing the trumpet.
He comes by his geekhood honestly: his dad and I make no secret of our love for all things sci-fi. We have passed on our love of Star Wars and Doctor Who. Our boys are space freaks and dinosaur lovers and Pokemon connoisseurs. They are Mario fanatics and Minecraft experts. They are baseball fans and stat seekers.
I read this quote recently, and was struck with sadness. It’s attributed to Peter Capaldi, who, in case you are not familiar with him, is the latest actor to portray The Doctor on the BBC TV show, Doctor Who:
“I destroyed all my geek stuff because I didn’t want to be a geek, and I regret it to this day. Consumed in the geek bonfire of the vanities was a collection of autographs and letters from Peter Cushing, Spike Milligan and Frankie Howard, the first Doctor Whos, actual astronauts, and many more.” – Peter Capaldi
In what he called the “geek bonfire of the vanities” he destroyed all traces of his geek life, because he didn’t want to be a geek. I think we can all relate to that feeling of wanting to fit in. (And how helpless we feel when we think we do not.)
After all, especially in past years, geeks were seen as losers. Jocks and cheerleaders were the cool kids, theatre and band kids were weird, while the nerdy geeks were banished to the AV Club, doomed to spend their formative years in a far-off room only lit by an overhead projector.
It doesn’t seem as if that is the case anymore.
I think that geeks are more accepted in pop culture. They are no longer tossed into lockers for sitcom gags, no longer portrayed as long-waist-pants-and-pocket-protector wearing misfits. And while perhaps still not characterized as uber-chic, they are usually somewhat lovable with their quirks and geekiness.
My son is a geek, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Why would I want to change him? Why would I want to fight the label, change his interests, enroll him in sports and extra-curricular activities that he is not interested in, just to avoid the label. I want him to be himself and explore the things we likes without worrying about whether others will approve. I would rather him be happy and challenged and fulfilled than popular. Who wants to peak in middle school anyway? Or high school for that matter? No thanks.
Haven’t we all got a little geek in us, anyway? I think we do. Maybe not about sci-fi, science-y, tech-y things, but about something. Whether it is photography, fashion, old cars, or celebrity gossip – there is always some way for each of us to get our geek on.
“How do you feel about that?” I asked him carefully, after this reveal.
“I don’t mind,” he shrugged. “I like being a geek. It’s not a bad thing.”
I smiled at him, with him, and for him, simultaneously. For now, at least, he is who he is – not just one of the crowd. And long may that continue.
GEEK ON, little one.