When It’s Hard to Be a Geek

So this week, the internet is abuzz with the latest round of Can a Geek Girl Be Hot? The issue has probably been rehashed to death, so this week you’re not going to hear any tales of woe from me about growing up a geek girl.  The truth is, I didn’t get all that much grief; maybe the boys just all had crushes on me (as has been insinuated) but I prefer to think that they were just glad they knew anyone else who was willing to discuss Star Wars or The X-Files.  Geek populations were small, after all.

No, the main hindrance in my geek life had nothing to do with the fact that I was a girl; it was hard to be a geek because I was poor.

It’s easy to forget that following a passion takes money, unless you’re in a situation where you have very little to begin with.  So much of geek culture – well, pop culture, really – revolves around what you were doing at a certain time, those shared experiences.  For many of them, you had to have bought a certain product at a certain time.

For example, I didn’t get a Nintendo until I was ten or eleven – and then I got the original console, handed down from a friend who had happily moved on to Sega Genesis.  It was 1994, and I was only just playing Mario 3.  To this day, I occasionally get teased because I’ve never played all that many video games – like the original Zelda, for instance.  That’s because the only games I had access to were the ones handed down.  I played the ever-lovin’ crap out of those games.  But today, can I be a “true” Nintendo fan when my knowledge is limited to maybe seven or eight games?

And so it went for almost everything I liked thereafter.  It takes money to buy an entire band’s catalogue, or to own a giant collection of figures, collect games, buy spinoff novels, construct costumes, and so on.  The Mean Girls in my life didn’t look down on me because of my clothes; they did because I had never read a manga or didn’t have the money to go to a con.  This video makes me want to hurl something through a window, not because the girl looks eerily like Christine Taylor, but because, in my head, that’s what happens when you run into an insufferable Rich Geek, not a Girl Geek.

Granted, the internet (which I didn’t get until 1998) has leveled the playing field in some respects; it’s possible to learn about or pirate quite a bit.  Assuming, of course, that you have the internet, or that it runs at a tolerable speed.  But whether you’re upgrading your computer or buying the latest cute Doctor Who shirt, being a geek takes a certain amount of disposable income – maybe more than some “mainstream” hobbies, because to be a dabbler, a casual fan, is to be a sham.

So the next time you meet a casual fan, be it man or woman, remember the many mitigating circumstances before you scoff.  Maybe they’ve got a newly discovered passion.  Maybe they don’t have the cash to really delve in the way they’d like.  Maybe they’ve been focusing on getting their Master’s degree.  Most importantly, it’s not really any of your business.  Maybe you should be glad that you’ve met anyone else who’s willing to discuss The X-Files.

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