My daughter said something to me this morning that I have been dreading since the day she was born. We were getting her dressed and deciding which shoes would best go with her outfit. She has three pairs of Converse high-tops (pink, ‘Teen Titans‘, and ‘Robin‘), and picking between them is sometimes a difficult task. (The ‘Robin’ pair is her favorite, for those keeping score at home.)
Me: What shoes are you going to wear? I think it would be super-cool to wear ‘Teen Titans’ today.
Her: Uummmmm… Nah. I’ll just wear ‘Robin’.
Me: No? You like ‘Teen Titans’, and you wore ‘Robin’ yesterday. Don’t you want to switch it up a bit?
Her: Ummmm… Nah.
Me: But ‘Teen Titans’ match your outfit better than ‘Robin’.
Her: I don’t want to wear ‘Teen Titans’. The kids will think I’m weird.
My heart burst in my chest. The lump that formed in my throat was hard to breathe past, let alone swallow past. The only reason I kept it together was the anguished look on my beautiful baby girl’s face.
I know that pain. Being made fun of is hardly superhappyfuntimes, but being made fun of for something you capital-L love is so much worse. She’s worn the ‘Teen Titans’ shoes to school before with no hesitation, so I have to assume someone said something to her about them. Hard to imagine in a class full of 4- and 5-year-olds, right?
Me: Baby, so what?
Me: So what if they think you’re weird. You love the Teen Titans, right?
Me: Teen Titans are awesome, aren’t they?! I mean, it’s not just Robin, but Starfire and Cyborg and Raven and Beast Boy.
Her: Yeah, but…
Me: Let’s give ‘Robin’ a rest for today, and you can wear them tomorrow. Okay?
Her: (a bit reluctantly) Okay.
I started to put her pajamas in the dirty clothes hamper while she put her socks on.
Her: Wait! I want to wear those!
Me: Okay. I’ll wash them for you today.
And she cheerfully put her socks and ‘Teen Titans’ shoes on and bounced out the door.
The pajamas in question:
You see, my kid is awesome. She loves Thundercats and Batman and Robin and comic books and polyhedral dice and Hotwheels. She also loves Barbie and anything pink and princesses and ballet and Disney movies. She will only wear dresses to school, the frillier the better. Some of her favorite games are “play drums with a couple of pencils and an old cookie tin”, “cover everything (including the dog) with stickers”, and “spin around in circles until I’m dizzy and fall down”. She loves hula hoops and baseball. She’s kind, ridiculously empathetic, smart, and funny.
And I love all those things about her. Mundanes might find fault in the way I’ve raised her, but I make no qualms about it: I am raising her to be a geek. I am raising her to love things passionately and enthusiastically. I am raising her to find joy in the miracle of human consciousness, to paraphrase John Green.
I’ve been a geek for as long as I can remember. Even before I had a title for it, I knew I was different, a little outside the circle that others deemed to be normal. I didn’t have the tools to deal with that other-ness, and suffered for a majority of my life trying to justify my passions with the arbitrary concept of what people thought I should be. I’m better equipped now, but the twinges of pain still come from time to time. Like when my 4-year-old is afraid of being different from her classmates, or when the Best Buy clerk calls me a dyke for knowing more about a product than he does, or when the guy at the comic book store gets so mad at my very presence that he storms out (I can’t decide what offended him more: my tits or my Superman t-shirt). The old wounds ache and the old scars tingle and I feel that pain for her.
The only solace is that I’ve learned (the hard way) how to handle life as a geek and can teach her how to deal. My mother tried her best, but just didn’t know what to do with a kid who was more comfortable playing by herself than playing with other kids, whose best friend at school was the librarian (true story), who could become so obsessed with a thought that it would consume her for days or weeks.
I have two hopes for my daughter: one, that my experience will help her embrace the things she loves and not care what other people think; and two, that by the time she’s aware of it, society will have moved past the idea that geeks are anything but awesome. With the growing mainstream popularity of geeks and geeky things like Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Chris Hardwick, Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, superhero movies, science fiction, gaming, etc., there’s a fair shot at the latter.
We’ll see how I do with the former.