Like a Geek

NB: I wrote this post about a month ago, while I was still pregnant. And then I stopped being pregnant and it took some time to publish.

Recently, I was interviewed for The Tome Show about The God Catcher. You can listen to it here (I don’t start talking until halfway in, but the rest of the book club is pretty interesting too).

But, readers, I have a confession to make. I goofed.

You might notice, several times throughout the interview, I joke about how I can’t remember things. And . . . well, lately I can’t. I have an adorable parasite stealing all my blood at the moment. I jokingly warned Jeff and Tracy right at the start of the interview—before the recording—that I was eight months pregnant and for the love of god, don’t interrupt me because I have lost all my momentary memory and I will never remember what I was saying.

In general, nothing of the sort happened. Except right off the bat.

They asked me if I had had experiences in life that mirrored The God Catcher’s themes of identity and what you do when your perceived self doesn’t match your internal self. And, to be honest, this isn’t something I’ve thought about in so many words. I’m pretty certain it’s universal, and given a moment to ponder over it I can point to times in my life where I would certainly phrase it as such. But in general, when my perceived self doesn’t match my internal self, I tend to correct people. Or stew about it, whichever.

So I scrambled. I remembered a time this definitely happened! And recently! My very geekness was called into question. People asserting I didn’t look like a geek! I brought that up and . . .

. . . totally forgot the story I was going to tell.

I filled it in with a much weaker anecdote about a coworker assuming I was a cheerleader in high school (predicated, by the way, by my arranging the sizeable collection of Dread Vampire Spawn minis that lived atop Susan Morris’s bookshelf into a human pyramid and making one say “Ready? Okay!”) and how insulted I was. Even telling this story, I felt like an idiot.

First, I don’t actually have anything against cheerleaders. In high school, I did, though less against particular cheerleaders and more against the idea of a cheerleader versus the idea of me. Cheerleaders embodied what I simultaneously didn’t want and couldn’t have, and so did sort of want. It would have been nice, for example, to not worry about whether I had anyone to sit with at lunch or whether everyone was determining my sexuality based on my thrift store jeans. (Hint: This is not a measure of . . . anything really.) But then, I don’t know that the cheerleaders I went to school with weren’t having the exact same sorts of problems. Besides, high school ends, and now I have plenty of people to lunch with who will at least pretend to laugh at my jokes.

So, cheerleaders, are we cool?

The phrase “I don’t look like a geek” has genuinely been bothering me. It sounds like I think it’s a bad thing to “look like a geek.” It sounds like I think we all dress alike. It sounds like the opposite of Zooey Deschanel. So to clarify, here is the story I meant to tell:

This year, I went to GenCon on my own dime. I don’t work at WotC anymore, so I didn’t have to wear one of their (gross) (sweaty) (no seriously, it’s like the thing’s made of plastic) polos. I wore my clothes, specifically my pregnancy clothes.

Maternity wear has a curious side effect. You have to buy these things because one day your clothes will not fit you, no matter how much you try and make them, because this shirt has an empire waist and these pants can totally be held together with a rubber band. But maternity clothes are a) as expensive as regular clothes and frequently more and b) only sold by a handful of manufacturers. You can certainly go hunting for high end stuff on the internet, but you’re buying clothing that you will wear for six months to a year, tops. It’s hard to justify the expense.

However, the unintended result is that you have a) a limited wardrobe and b) a wardrobe you basically share with every other pregnant woman in America. You are, in effect, wearing a uniform.

I fucking hate it.

See, normally, I look like this:

That expression says,

Normal me...except that stupid expression.

And in the act of packing up my regular clothes, in the hopes that after labor and a suitable recovery period they will once again fit, I realized I had become rather attached to looking like that. I liked the way I dressed.

Now, here’s a little history that makes this all tie in a little better: Back in the day? Before I had disposable income and a yen for ruffles and prints? I wore what I would call the Geek Girl Uniform—jeans, t-shirt preferably with clever saying (I did not wear the hoodie. I hate wearing hoodies). Muted colors. Black, preferable. Combat boots for a while—but it was the nineties. This is not how we all dress, but if you were going to create a character whose primary characteristic was “Geeky Girl,” these are probably the duds you’d code her with.

To be honest, I wore it for a lot of reasons, and none of them were very good: it was easy, it was what my friends wore, it made me look cool. Then my mother—in her fashion—opined that I probably wore such ugly colors so that people would pay attention to how smart I was instead of my pretty face. This is the kind of thing my mother says, and usually it’s best to just ignore her. But this time it really shocked me, because it was true—I was hiding in these clothes and the worst part was it didn’t even work. I still had to be ten times as obnoxious to get people to believe I was smart, and I was wearing clothes that I didn’t really feel good in.

So it took me years, but I finally figured out what I do like, and amassed a decent wardrobe of such items.

Please note, I’m not calling anyone else’s clothes into question. If you’re happy in hoodies and jeans, then that is exactly what you should wear. I just always feel like that damned hood is strangling me. . .

Anyway: GenCon.

I’m at GenCon, and I look like this:

It is a billion degrees in that picture.

AKA "Baby's First GenCon"

This is my favorite maternity outfit. It’s comfortable and stylish, and that top transitions for nursing so it’s a little easier to swallow the fact that it’s overpriced and annoying to wash. I feel good in this.

It started when Susan Morris and I were walking to the exhibitor’s hall to get our passes. We’re dragging rolling suitcases full of presentation materials through the sky bridges, and fighting our way through a series of doors. Two men, already with their badges, are behind us, and I quip something about the automatic door buttons making them obsolete. We laugh, we chat, and then one of them says something about how we must be totally gobsmacked by all the weirdoes.

Yes, readers: they think we’re in town for the marketers’ convention happening in our hotel.

Readers, it was an honest mistake, I know that. And I promise, I was all politeness. But inside, I saw red. I informed them that not only were we supremely geeky ladies, but that Susan had, until recently been the line editor for Forgotten Realms and I was the Neverwinter author who was not R.A. Salvatore. Lucky them.

This happened again. And again. And again. Were we with the marketers? Were we with the nursing convention? We probably didn’t get the kickass Neverwinter branded hotel keys because they were for the convention attendees. Hanging with Candlekeep people, someone admitted that when they’d met me a few years prior, they’d assumed I was an intern for the marketing team, assigned to escort Ed Greenwood around.

So when I say “I don’t look like a geek” this is what I mean. I do not register on people’s radar as one of us. I am at worst lost, at best, a poseur. Is it my clothes? My demeanor? My nervous laughter? Is it just that I’m a woman and have a higher hurdle to get over? I don’t know. But it is frustrating, and it’s probably the time I feel most like a Nestrix.

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One Response to Like a Geek

  1. P Schaefer says:

    I.e., you fly under the geekdar. =)