Lena and I went to the MOSH yesterday. In Jacksonville that’s the Museum of Science and History. We had a pretty good time, as we usually do. They have a large aquatic mammal exhibit that’s always interesting, and it’s fun to groove with the snapping turtles in the tiny nature preserve out back.
We watched the Extreme Science Theatre, which was really more for kids but was a fun diversion and was hosted by a very genial and entertaining fellow. Next we took in a planetarium show hosted by Michael Dorn, (Worf, for you Star Trek fans) who opened with the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” (That’s Star Wars. We got two SF icons for the price of one!) Lena slept through a lot of it, but she was pretty tired.
Just before we went to the planetarium however, we met a young man (14 or 15 I guess) who spotted Lena for the shirt she was wearing. It was actually one of mine, but she’s long been in the habit of stealing my clothing, and I don’t much notice any more. It’s a “gamer shirt,” as many of you will note — a black T, with the words +20 Shirt of Smiting printed in white on the front. As the boy spied it, he pointed to my wife’s chest and began making “Ooo! Ooo!” noises.
He was there helping his mom run one of the nature exhibits at the museum, and she seemed decidedly unimpressed with his behavior. As it turned out, he had mistaken the D&D reference for a WoW bit and was very excited to have identified a “fellow” WoW player in public. He began telling us all about his server and his guilds and what kind of characters he played and the pros and cons of PvP play vs. PvE play and how he was campaigning to get into another guild of players from here in Jacksonville but he didn’t know them all very well yet and what server did we play on and this was so cool that he had met other WoW players here at the museum, and hey Mom didja hear they play WoW just like me… and then he took a second breath.
Mom, for her part, has so eager to disassociate herself that she repeated the exact phrase, “I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m too old for that stuff.” no less that three times. (I chose to overlook the fact that she and I appeared to be about the same age. I decided that if she was trying to tell me something, I didn’t want to hear it.) Finally, she raised her voice enough to be heard over the torrent of geekiness flowing from her son and said, “You’re just going to have to walk away. He’s not going to stop until you do.” Which was true enough. The boy talked right through anything his mother, Lena, or I said, and was still talking as we smiled, waved goodbye, and left the room.
“Would you check my hair and see if he got any on me? I think I’ve just been geeked on.” Lena said as the door closed behind us. I brushed her off and we went ahead to the planetarium.
The thing is, I am happy to identify myself as many kinds of geek. Sci-fi, fantasy, comic book, web comic, gamer, and a dozen others besides. I cried when Aerith died, I read the Simarillion in sixth grade, and I saw Star Wars: A New Hope 14 times in the theatre. When I go to geek-culture conventions like Dragoncon and others, I go because I feel part of a brotherhood. An accepted member of the club, safe and un-judged.
I have a friend who regularly attends gaming conventions who wears a shirt that says “I don’t want to hear about your character.” I sympathize, but I’m not certain that’s the best way to handle it. The kid in the museum geeked all over my wife because he felt safe. He felt like they were kindred, and that she would understand him. For her part, Lena has never actually had to deal with that type of thing before and though amused, she still felt a little uncomfortable. (That’ll teach her to steal my T-shirts!)
I’m thinking of printing out a mini-booklet, Jack Chick-style, for the parents of geeks. Raising a Geek: a List of Dos and Don’ts for Bringing Your Little Nerd Out in Public, by Optimus Prime. If you see me at a convention, just ask and I’ll give you one. I’ll be in the T-shirt that says “I don’t care what server you play on.”
Finale: You may have noticed that I have offered no solution to the problem described above, that of the Public Geek Outing. That is because as of right now, I have none. If any of you have any bright ideas PLEASE let me know in the space provided for you comments below!