Sunday, July 02, 2006

Another coming out...

It is time for me to accept myself and to fully come out of the closet. It has taken me a long time to realize it, to accept it, to finally come to grips with it. It has take me awhile to be able to proudly stand up and say it without wincing or mumbling it under my breath.

I am a nerd.

I've always know that I was. Looking back at my life the signs have all been there. But I always was able to talk myself out of it. And the truth of the matter is there has always been self justifications as to WHY I am not a classic nerd.

Let's look at the facts.

I can't get away from the fact that I am Asian. That's a strike against me automatically. Now we all know that not all Asians are nerds, but pretty much growing up in the 80's the only time I ever saw an Asian on the TV or in the movies, it was as prototypical nerd. Examples range from the japanese exchange student in Revenge of the Nerds, to the asian guy in Goonies, to Long Duc Dong from 16 Candles, Asian = Nerds.

from L to R: Revenge of the Nerds character - Toshiro Takashi, Goonies character - Data, 16 Candles character Long Duc Dong

To combat this inherent nerd-ness I rebelled. I ignored my destiny to become a doctor or an electrical engineer (there's a reason why there are TWO EE's in GEEK). No, I went the exact opposite route - in high school I grew my hair out (in a misguided attempt to be punk rock, it just looked more hippy kung fu), grew mustache (something I NEVER should have done, I just look ended up looking ultra FOB-by) and spent all my time in the art department.


Even in my attempt to actually avoid being a nerd, it backfire.

But despite my concious attempts (regardless of how poorly they turned out in retrospect) I tried hard to not be a nerd. But like the g(r)eek tragedies, once something is predetermined, there is no avoiding it.

The cards were stacked against me. From the get go, I should have known the gig was up. I was the first one of my friends to own a personal computer. It was an APPLE II+ (not to be confused with the later ubiquitous APPLE IIe which all the grade schools and junior highs had). I learned how to draw squares with LOGO and how to program in BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instructional Code) in summer school. I watched movies like WAR GAMES and thought to myself "That is totally realistic. I could be Matthew Broderick and hack into the government computer, possibly launching World War III." I ignored the fact that my computer did not have a modem and the only thing I had learned to do with BASIC was make my computer write the phrase "Irvin is Great" ad infinitum.
20 GOTO 10
In junior high I had developed a love for comic books. True nerd style. I had my comics stored in nice neat plastic bags, all organized and categorized. I even went to a couple of comic book conventions, but small ones in St. Louis. I didn't have the money to actually travel to any of the big ones. Those comics are still stored in my parents basement, ready for me to eBay them off one of these days. I did rescue a few from the basement though, and have brought them back to SF for posterity sake.

I liked reading science fiction growing up. But I loved to read fantasy novels. Somehow science fiction was worse than fantasy books. Mostly because fantasy had a softer edge to it, it was more magically, less hardcore science geek. Of course, looking back, fantasy was equally as geeky and nerdy. But it had the added bonus of being totally gay too. Anything that features magic is either written for girls, or for gay boys. My favorite book growing up - The Girl with the Silver Eyes was pretty much a story about how it was okay to be different (oh how I related to being different as a gay Asian boy in the midwest). How I wanted to have silver eyes and move things with my mind. But alas my mother did not take medication while pregnant with me that was later pulled from the market for harmful side effects. So no silver eyes and no special powers.

And, of course, no life of a nerd can be complete without a foray into RP games. What's RP? ROLE PLAY of course.

In my junior year of high school I had the chance to actually rebel against my fate as a nerd. My parents moved to Europe for a year and took along the family. Here was the change that I was looking forward to. I could go to Europe, become the cultured sophisticated debonair man about town that I knew was buried deep within me. Soon I would be wearing cufflinks and ascots and drinking French Red Wine with my beef burgandy. Would me wearing a beret come next? Would I soon be speaking in a eurovague accent, and pronouncing the letter "z" as "zed" and saying the world schedule as "shed-du-al" instead of "sked-du-al" ? I surely hoped so.

It was not to be. I fell into the nerd crowd, and in The Netherlands, in the college town of Leiden, where my dad was doing research at the same University that the Prince of Holland was going to, where I went to an international program in a Dutch school, in the country that gave us Van Gogh and Vermeer, and Mondrian, I played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons.

How's that for sad?

I fully blame my dyke-to-be friend FLOORTJE for introducing me to the game. But soon, because of her influence, I was playing D&D, trying to save my elf warrior from all the hazards that come with entering creepy dungeons and scary caves. Floor (as she preferred to be called) was a huge nerd. We had met in art class, and she not only introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, but also to Lord of the Rings and the ever classic movie THE HIGHLANDER - where an improbable race of immortals had to fight until one survived (THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!) using swords and other ancient blade weapons.

I never played D&D or any RP after my year in Holland. And in fact I remarkably was able to avoid most nerd activities in college. I went to art school, didn't buy many comic books (though I had a brief love affair with THE SANDMAN), avoided the game MAGIC: THE GATHERING which my senior roommate Steve was enthralled with. Did not major in engineering or biology/pre-med. Hell I even had a friend who tried to get me to join the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms). I declined. That would be like tatooing a giant "I AM A BIG FAT LOSER NERD" on my forehead.

By the end of college, I thought I had beat my destiny. English Literature and Painting were decidely not nerdy (in my mind anyway). They were both cool liberal arts. Or so I tried to tell myself.

But then I decided to go into graphic design.

Now you'd think that graphic design is pretty cool. Whenever I describe what I do people always seemed enthralled, as if what I do is the coolest job in the world. "Wow. Do you love it?" And the question always baffles me. Because on paper is sounds great. But spend three days color correcting an image only to have the publication you are sending it off to screw it up because they sent you the wrong ICC profiles and you'll know that it's so not cool, despite the subject matter that I work with.

And the fact of the matter is no matter how "cool" a job is, if you excel in that job, if you love that job and it becomes part of who you are and what your identity, then you'll become a bit geeky. A bit nerdy. Because any time you take that "job" or some interest of yours and bring it to the next level, well you've nerded out.

Case in point. To the left is what I dressed up as for Halloween one year. If you don't know what that is, congratulations you are not a design nerd. If you know what it is, and you groaned, congratulations you are not a design nerd. If you know what it is, and you automatically proclaimed "That is SO Cool!" congratulations you are a total DESIGN NERD. By the way (BTW) Those three reactions are the only three reactions I got when I wore the costume out to Castro. (The costume, FYI, is based on the Pantone Color Matching System - a total designer tool used to match color properly from design to production to finish product.)

So in the end I've finally come to accept the fact that I am nerd. Right now I'm obsessed with a game called Killer Bunnies. I've been told it's similar to Magic: The Gathering, except WAY cuter - and you don't collect cards. There aren't spells to cast, or magic to use, there are just cute bunnies that you try to kill with weapons like a kitchen whisk or curry-spiced poppadoms. AJ and I have had the game for a week, and we've played it every single day. In the course of week, we've gone from normal average cute gay couple to obsessed game playing nerds that have not only bought three expansion booster packs but have also bought the bunny blank pack so that we can make our OWN cards. And yes, we've already brainstormed ideas (and have a bunch of awesome ones) to create. We've introduced the game to our friends Karen, Ben, Felisa, Chris, Peter and Grant. Peter and Grant were not enthralled immediately but Felisa and Chris were instant converts. Karen and Ben are pretty much as addicted as we are, and had mentioned to AJ as they left tonight, after playing yet another game, that they wanted to play again tomorrow. That would make the third night in a row with all three of us.

And there in lies the realization. I am a nerd. But so are all my friends. And that is why I love them all, and that is why I'm okay with it. I plan on introducing the game to several more friends who I know will fall in love with it (Rita and Damon are so going to love the game, and if we can ever get Cara and Stefan to play, I know they would love it too).

In the end, everyone I know is a bit of a nerd. Misery loves company. But I'm not miserable at all. I'm content and happy. So from now on, when someone looks at my crazy antics and tells me I'm such a geek, such a nerd, such a dork for doing what I'm doing, I can look at them and say "Damn right I am."

And I'll always know that my boyfriend - the Star Wars loving, white trash hors d'oeuvres eating, chemistry professor - will always be a bigger nerd than me.


At 2:49 PM, Blogger Michael C. said...

Being a nerd is super-cool, irvin, and you make an adorable nerd! I'm glad you've decided not to fight it anymore, but rather to embrace and even revel in it.

By the way, I'm enjoying your blog quite a big... and isn't blogging another characteristic of being a nerd?

At 2:56 PM, Blogger jackhonky said...

yep. you got me there. blogging is super nerd-tastic. thanks for the comments! I've had fun blogging away...

At 10:57 AM, Blogger HIpGayChemistryTeacher said...

Huh. It seems to me that you have made a pretty good case for how big a nerd you are. I am not so sure that I exceed your nerdiness.

And, no more denying it when I call you a nerd!

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Ed Tep said...

I can't believe it took you this long to come out to yourself about being a nerd. I fully accepted my nerd identity back in high school. But, better late than never I guess. Maybe we should create a workshop to help other nerds come to grips with their nerd identities. And now that you are out, maybe we can do something really nerdy like watching the both Star Wars Trilogies (in full regalia) back to back when y'all come over for dinner (but only if I get to wear the cinnamon buns).

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Rita said...

I am not a nerd.

Obsession is cool. Hello!

I have a theory people have utterly mischaracterized nerdiness, and that's where all this confusion comes from regarding whether it's cool to proclaim yourself a nerd or not.

Obsession is cool. Getting super into anything is cool. And the SCA (though I have never seen one) is probably also cool! Certainly sword fighting in the snow at the stroke of midnight on a college campus is cool; having actual chain mail is cool; and being one of the people that can speak the speech at a Ren Faire is cool. I used to hang with those people, on occasion, but never actually felt cool enough to "hang" with them, know what I mean. I was never quick enough or clever enough to talk the talk. (But you are coming with me to the Dickens Faire this winter!)

People who think it's cool to proclaim themselves nerds; they are not actually nerds. Sorry to you and AJ. Out you go. (You are having way too good a time. With all your equally good-time, not-nerdy friends. Like me!)

The ability to win a popularity contest (including a school election of any kind), to throw a food-and-laughter-filled party, or to convince a pal to watch Highlander with you, means you are not a nerd.

True nerds seem not able to blend, nor to exude enough leadership or charisma via their lack of conformity to make friends otherwise, nor, in fact, did the ones I'm thinking of even get good grades. Because they didn't have it in them to conform even that much (to where they could obey the system and bring in the homework). And even if they got that far and still could seem happy/complete, they would not be nerds. Nerdiness seems to me, by definition, to be unhappy. Like your personal interests have actually gotten in the way of getting whatever else would make you happy.

(All forms of personal contentment as well as any modicum of social grace cancel out nerdiness.)

To be a "geek," on the other hand, is totally cool! All it takes to be a geek is getting super into something. Geeks have geek friends. I like the word geek-tastic!

(Also, I do not, nor have I ever, looked like the girl on the cover of The Girl With The Silver Eyes. Though she, too, was cool.)


Can't wait to try Killer Bunnies! I was just telling Cara and Stefan about it yesterday! :D


"Geeking out" is also cool (far cooler, for example, than "dorking out," though dorking out can also be fun!).

At 1:36 AM, Blogger schmumu said...

i want to play killer bunnies too. I don't understand it from your description but I want to play.

yeah, I don't think you're technically a nerd. i think there's another word, yeah? let's try to think of it.

AJ, if you change your choice of cheese on your white-trash Or-derve, it'd actually look really delicious.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Felisa said...

O. M. G. Y'all.

I thought my sister and I were the only ones who read "The Girl with the Silver Eyes." I LOVED that book! I wanted her abilities SO BADLY. I think we still have that book at my parents' house.

Wow. Wow. Wow.


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