You're Geek, I'm Geek, We're All Geek Here...(12/14/06)
Anyone in the SCA who thinks they're not a geek at some level is deluding themselves. I was reminded of this the other day when replying to e-mails from old high school friends about a proposed mini-reunion next year, and realized that they all had kids and y'know, real jobs. Me? I have a website that a very small percentage of the world's population seems to think is pretty cool, and an ineffably geeky hobby that takes up pretty much all my spare time in one way or another.
It's a good thing I love it so much, or I'd be terribly embarrassed. It's bad enough trying to explain to my mother what I do in my spare time - I've taken to just describing the museum volunteering - but when I try to explain such a time-consuming hobby to people who have no interest in that sort of thing, I get reduced to saying "kind of like the Civil War re-enactors, but older" before their eyes glaze over.
It's painful sometimes to step back and watch people self-destruct over SCA issues that mean nothing in the real world. It's worse when I realize I'm slipping down that road. I sometimes realize in time what I'm doing, and sometimes don't. My angsty issues tend to be over people who are completely deluded about their own motivations and also people who lie about me, but hey, that's a personal issue. I try and stay away from politics, because I'm assured that just makes it all much, much worse.
I love the SCA - clearly, or else I wouldn't spend so much time on it and all the related projects - and love the people in it, but articles like this one make me laugh with recognition. I've often said that we attract the social rejects that can't function in more mainstream clubs and groups. Precisely because of the five social constructs outlined in the linked article, SCA people seem required to put up with truly childish behaviour from members, and bad things often result. Most of the time it's possible to keep playing and ignore the silly behaviour, but it sometimes makes it difficult to explain to outsiders exactly why one puts up with this sort of thing.
I have my own theories about why people seem to be unable to resist this kind of counter-productive behaviour, and they have a lot to do with childhood trauma. For instance, I was terribly bullied and ostracized as a child - I had a more upper-class accent than the tough girls in the class, and compounded that problem by being weird, bookish, and painfully smart, and I went through some brutal years. When I got older, I found I reacted to many things much more strongly than they warranted, and I realized it stemmed from the paranoia of always being the outsider. Kids thought it was funny to pick on me, and I wasn't cute or adorable enough for any teachers to like me, so I was really on my own for a while. Fortunately, that eased off after I showed my more psychotic side, and I mostly got left alone. Coming to the US was a breakthrough - my outsider status was glamourous, not geeky, so I did better socially, and that may have helped me recover better. Other people in the SCA maybe weren't so lucky, and perhaps lack the emotional strength to separate the trauma of the past from the interactions of the now - leading to strange situations where people take offense over things that have nothing to do with them and panic when no panic is warranted.
I understand why people react the way they do to certain situations, but I really sometimes wish they'd get over it, at least to the point where they're not walking raw wounds the entire time. Save your energy for the times it matters, eh? Thing is, we've all escaped from childhood. We're all adults, we don't have roaming gangs of "in-crowd" people gunning for us anymore, and to treat the adults who play alongside you like they're the tormentors of your youth is silly. Even in my most vulnerable moments, I understand this - it keeps me hanging on to a shred of sanity even when I feel completely betrayed by the weakness of others.
It's even sillier when someone treats a fellow geek like they're one of the hated social elite. It's funny to watch, though. And occasionally funny when it happens to me - I'm now the equivalent of a cheerleader in some people's eyes because I'm good at what I do, I'm nominally good-looking, and there are some people who like me, which makes other people hate me with a purple passion, in much the same way I hated the golden girls in my school when I was 13. It's also funny (in an O. Henry-ish sort of way) to watch people perpetuate the same prejudices they decry in others - a clique is a clique, for a' that and a' that.
I think a lot of the social problems that people encounter stem from applying childhood models to adult interactions - inside and outside the SCA. When you're locked into a repeating script, then every encounter gets bent around that script and corrupted by it, resulting in offence seen in actions and words innocent of any wrong-doing, and worse, the inability to see when something really is wrong.
People are interesting, and I need another cup of tea.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.