Friday, December 10, 2010

Geeky Girls

I was over at Uzza's, catching up, and I found her post on the Katie Goldman story, which I'd read only about a hour before on CNN. I went back and read another CNN story there titled "Girls Get Your Geek On." And now I've spent the afternoon thinking about geeky girls. I pretty much think, though they might possibly deny it, that Uzza and all the Comtesses are geeks. In an entirely self-centered view, I think this is a compliment. My BFF, who disguises herself as a middle-aged bald concierge but is secretly a retired rock climber like me, and is also, totally a geek. (The continuing obsession with chalk bags is a dead giveaway, if you ask me.) Although I know she's going to deny it, even my daughter is something of a geek. She hides it even better than my BFF.

What is a geek in this day in age, I wonder? has this really funny table in its definitions of 'geek':

................ Technical ...... Social 

Title ............ Skills ......... Skills 
---------- ---------------- ------------ 
Normie ......... No ............. Yes 
Geek ........... Yes ............. Yes 
Nerd ............ Yes ............. No 
Dork ............ No .............. No 

This table seems to correlate geekiness with technical skills, although some definitions mention love of video games, comic books, programming and the internet. Some also mention the idea of being obsessed with a topic (e.g., my son is a total Star Trek geek and CNN's Suzanne Kelly, author of the "Girls Get Your Geek On" article is a Battlestar Galactica geek.) 

To be honest, I can't tell if I'm a geek or a nerd. Whichever I am, it is a terminal condition that first manifested early in childhood, just like it has with Katie, who is only 7. Early on, I was the tomboy who liked lavender. I took apart my first phone at age 5 (I was told I was in big trouble if I couldn't put it back together in perfect working order, but I did, so it didn't matter, did it Mom? ;p) I took the back off the TV to check out what was going on in there when I was about 6. These antics did not endear me to my mother, who thought I was likely to get myself electrocuted one of these days. She liked them about as much as my tree climbing exploits. After the sobering elementary years (Barbie was so stupid to me. I practiced Anne Boleyn's scaffold speech and beheaded Barbie, feeling that she was finally being useful, innumerable times, much to the horror of my two female cousins who were my age and who thought she was a style opportunity) I glided through junior high and high school skipping two grades. Thanks to work sent home when I was really sick at age 12, that put me ahead a full grade, and then my relative intolerance for the entire high school scene, I managed to exit high school early. Favorite possession in those years: my slide rule and calculator. That's right, I had a slide rule. My grandfather and father showed me how to do all manner of math tricks on it. I thought it was cool as all get out. 

I have to say, I never got much guff from any of the guys in school for liking all that "guy stuff". Maybe they were too busy trying to get me to help them figure out how to solve their trig problems. Some of the girls were occasionally insulting. But the comments had more to do with my frizzy hair or the fact that I wore black every day for a year, than it did with the fact that my idea of fun was taking apart a microscope or the wonders of trigonometry. My best friend the last year in high school was another girl geek. We shared nail polish and left our peers in the dust in math and science. (She went on to own her own software business for a time, I might add...) At 19, I was the first girl I knew to own a desktop computer (A TI-99 if you're wondering) and I learned to program in Basic and Pascal and felt all powerful. At 20 there wasn't a power tool I didn't like. No one but NO ONE was allowed to use my Makita drill and if you damaged my fine point tweezers I would likely have done you serious harm. I made my own photographic papers, stretched my canvases for paintings and could do all manner of electrical stuff. (This presently amuses my father-in-law.) I simply loved equipment. My husband would tell you that I still pretty much do, although I'm over the power tool thing. Now I like electronic things, although I worry a lot about where their metals like tin, tantalum and tungsten come from these days. And I like kitchen gadgets a lot, too. Anyway, I think it's in my genes because my maternal grandfather was an electronics engineer and I used to sort his resistors and capacitors because he was totally color blind. But my Dad never met a gadget he didn't like, unless it was a badly built or really stupid gadget, either. (We do have standards- the gadgets had better be good.) And actually, I wonder about this whole technical component of geekiness because my Mom, who is a total Luddite, is the garden tool geek of all time.

Don't even get me started on Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter geekiness. There was the X-men comic geekiness, that has now been supplanted by Firefly/Serenity comic geekiness. (How bad is it that I enjoyed the almost universally decried Shepherd Book comic? Baaaaaaaaad, people.)

After reading about Katie Goldman and a few others out there in the blogosphere (see here, especially comments, as but one example), I can only conclude that I must have been living an ivory tower existence because I really do not recall much teasing because I was a geeky girl. The characteristic was revered in my maternal family. I think it made it hard for my father's side of the family to relate to but they didn't exactly make me feel bad about it. Although maybe I was too obtuse to notice. (Based on the chart above, would that make me a nerd?) Anyway, I have to say that being a girl geek has paid off really well. I was super at taking apart lab equipment and repairing things in the lab and at home. I was a whiz with stuff I need to do for my degree.  Plus, I don't have to get anyone to put together A/V stuff for me, and I can do all kinds of stuff without needing a guy. And I can still wear high heels and a dress and look quite presentable. 

So Katie, after all the media hubbub dies down, I have some advice for you. Start watching Star Trek. And if people start slinging the pink again...

Assimilate them, honey. Assimilate them.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment