Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Philly Moms: Let that geek flag fly

Let that geek flag fly

Original post to Philadelphia Moms Blog

Manga So let me just say, upfront, that until fairly recently I didn’t know I was a geek.

It took reading Junot Diaz’s profane but moving Pulitzer-prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, to understand that I am. I got almost every single literary, genre fiction and pop culture reference his geeky Latino protagonist makes during the course of the novel. I got them in two languages, even.

Uh oh.

Even more recent confirmation: I arranged and rearranged, imposed on friends and brazened to leave early on the evening our newspaper goes to press, all to go listen to Irish poet Seamus Heaney give a reading at Villanova. I was commenting on the turnout for the reading – a good number of the audience were students – when the professor friend sitting beside me leaned over.

“You do know they’re all required to be here, don’t you?”

You mean those students didn’t think it was the coolest thing ever to have the opportunity to hear a Nobel-winner read poetry in the most sonorous and mellifluous of Hibernian accents?

I think I discerned pity in my friend’s eyes. His wife’s eyes too.

Uh oh.

My younger brother can’t believe that this is a new revelation.

“How many times have you read the Lord of the Rings?” he asks pointedly.

He’s not being unkind – he’s also read the trilogy multiple times and can fit a quote or two into almost any conversation given half a chance.

“Face it,” he says with finality, “we’re the definition of geeky.”

This worries me. Sure, my younger brother can feel at ease saying he’s a geek – his beautiful wife is, after all, a diehard Star Trek fan. I wonder whether the fact that my daughter’s been to a manga-anime convention (and reads manga even when she's not at conventions) counts against her cool quotient and places her close to, if not in, the geek camp. If so, we can only blame the two X chromosomes she got from me, because my husband hasn’t a geeky bone in his body.

Being the geek that I am, the minute I admit I must be one, I go look up the history of the word. Turns out it has only recently taken on its obsessive enthusiast of mathematics/technology/intellectual/pop-culture meaning. It was originally used to refer to carnival sideshow performers who bit the heads off animals. Which, I guess, would make Ozzy Osborne a geek.

I’m thinking about all this (obsessing, as is the geeky wont) and eventually post something about it on my Facebook page.

One of my newspaper columnists posts in response: “We talk math at the dinner table.” Geek solidarity. This is followed by several posts (on her own Facebook page) about repeated viewings of the new Star Trek movie.

And I marvel that this woman I’ve admired since I’ve known her – a chemistry professor at one of the seven sisters; an accomplished writer of columns and blogs and scientific papers; the capable and sensible mother of teens, and a woman of profound spiritual understanding – is also a geek. And perfectly comfortable with it.


My daughter, it turns out, isn’t all that worried about geekiness either. “If that’s what you want to call it,” is what she seems to say when she shrugs my concerns away. For her it is just who we are. What we love. We fangirl over poetry and science fiction. Or the Ignatian Examen and Gaussian functions. Or comic books and elves with impossibly perfect hair. So?

This is why you need friends and kids. To let you know the flag you’ve been flying for years is just fine.

Exactly. The. Way. It. Is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment on this post: