Thursday, September 7, 2017

Freaking (and Geeking) Out

Late last year, I was invited to attend my first CONvergence. CONvergence is a four day annual convention for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy in media. This year's theme, "To Infinity & Beyond" was a celebration of all things Space Opera. It seemed like a cool new experience so I jumped on board.  As we got closer and closer to the end of 2017 and I started preparing, I got nervous.

I have social anxiety. Crowds make me especially nervous. When I get nervous about something, I Google the shit out of it. Reading the available knowledge of what to expect makes things easier for me. But even after joining Facebook groups and reading blogs, my head spun with questions. Was I supposed to dress up? Would I stand out if I didn't? Would I stand out if I did? What the hell are badge ribbons for? Was I going to have fun? Would there be weirdos?  Most importantly, would there be my type of weirdos there?

Then I encountered the whole Geek Girl... thing.  It's a thing.  There is no other way to describe it.

I've never considered myself or referred to myself as a Geek. In fact, I've never known what to label myself.  While labels can be used to segregate people, I also believe they help to create communities. I've never really had a label, so when I saw the Fake Geek Girl meme I started to get uncomfortable.

Because I'm kind of a Fake Geek Girl.

I was five the first time a boy grilled me to see how much I knew before declaring that I didn't know anything. We were playing "Mario Brothers". It was our own version of "the ground is lava". The goal was to climb across the swing set to rescue the princess then swing back across without touching the ground. At the time, Billy was the only kid on the block actually owned his own Nintendo. Billy's mom had a rule that only one friend was allowed over at a time. The girls were never invited. The fact that it was make-believe didn't stop Billy from challenging the girls who tried to change or make up a new rule. When he grudgingly accepted a new challenge rule, it was imperative that he point out that it wasn't in the real game every time it was brought up. In hindsight, I should have just kicked him out of my yard.

This would not be the only time this would happen to me. After surviving puberty, if my favorite character wasn't the Token Female Character I was just "into the hot guy". It isn't like I really had a choice though. Well-written, realistic female characters who are more than an accessory or plot device were a rarity. Female characters are generally underdeveloped in character but ample in the bosom. It isn't because we see ourselves that way, but it's hard to feel like it isn't expected of us. The female characters we are given show us we're supposed to be into the main character... you know, so we can be his girlfriend, or his plot device. Then we're shamed for liking Wolverine, Dead Pool, or Hawkeye. It's a no-win situation. But adult women appreciating the abs on a grown man is really a non-issue when you look at how young women are treated.

But I digress. 

Maybe I haven't found my ONE TRUE THING. Maybe it's that I enjoy so many things that it is impossible to focus on the minute details of just one thing. Either way, if the devil is in the details then I'm never going to find him. I have never been able to remember details I don't find particularly of interest or crucial to the story as a whole. I've always been this way and there was always that hyper-fan - usually a man - who put the "fan" in "fanatic" who made me feel bad about it. He knows every line and detail. He uses his knowledge to belittle others for not being as "passionately meticulous".  The weird aggression, intimidation and competitive attitudes I've encountered have always dissuaded me from trying to connect with other fans. I believe that if you love something, you should want to share it, not drive people away. So I've shied away from Fandoms not realizing all the wonderful things that can come with them.

In using Google to learn all that I could, I succeeded in creating such anxiety in myself that I didn't want to go. I was terrified that I would be grilled by a Geeky Gatekeeper type. I was afraid of spending my entire weekend as my boyfriend's silent arm candy. I worried that I would be spend the weekend miserable because I'm not geeky enough for the Geek Con.

I could give you my Geek Credentials, and you'd probably find that I'm lacking. I'm not quite Geeky enough. I'm semi-geeky. I'm quasi-geeky. I'm the margarine of Geek. I'm the Diet Coke of Geeky. Just one calorie, not Geeky enough.

You know what else I am? A little silly. More appropriately, a little silly with a lot of anxiety. 

I had the time of my life.

There are things I wish I would've done differently. I did a few hours of free labor for a group only to find I wasn't on their VIP list as promised when I got there. I wish I would have pushed myself to interact with more people, but I couldn't because of my anxiety. I wish I would've packed more awesome t-shirts. I wish I would've gone to more panels instead of sleeping in. Also, HYDRATION. I wish I would have drank more water. I was burnt out by Saturday when everyone else was just getting there. I drank lots and lots of water, but I think I was feeling so "done" with things by Saturday because I was dehydrated. 

Vomithorse resided over Smoker's Paradise, reminding everyone to drink the damn water. I should have listened better.
But overall it was an amazing experience and I hope I get to go again.

The staff I encountered were all friendly and engaging. Complete strangers spoke to me in lines, in elevators, and even complimented me. I introduced myself to complete strangers (which is totally not something I do at home).  The panels I attended were awesome. I got to see how amazingly artistic and creative people could be. It was unbelievable how friendly and welcoming everyone was. Everyone was just there to have fun, and find other people who enjoyed the same things. People were there just... being. Which is a really hard thing to describe but a really great thing to get to see.

And the Fake Geek Girl thing? I went to panels not having seen or read everything that was being discussed and still enjoyed them. No one cared when I didn't know about something, because they were excited to share with me. When people found out I was a CONVirgin, they were extra welcoming. I didn't feel like a Fake Geek Girl at any point and I realized how ridiculous I was being. Am I a Fake Geek Girl? Maybe. I don't really care anymore. I'm going to keep liking what I like and I'm glad I didn't allow some judgmental strangers on the Internet deter me from meeting people who would introduce me to more amazing things. I'm proud that I went even though I was anxious. I walked away with knowledge, a new perspective, and a list of new things I couldn't wait to check out for myself.

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