**Disclaimer – I am recovering from a nasty cold, so any incoherent thoughts or run-on sentences are the result of cold medicine and severe congestion.**
I can’t remember ever really identifying as a “geek” or “nerd”, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I never had a negative connotation of the term, but I never really thought it fit me, personally. I guess I used it more in the sense of “I’m really passionate about THIS THING! I want to eat, sleep, breathe, and tell everyone I know about THIS THING!”
I didn’t have any video gaming systems of my own growing up. My grandparents had a Colecovision, which I played the heck out of, but we never had one in my house. When I got older, I had to go to a friend’s house to play Mario on her Nintendo and Doom on her PC, but never had anything of my own. I did, however, grow up on some of the most fabulous cartoons and TV shows in this history of forever – She-Ra, Rainbow Brite, Shirt Tales, Wuzzles, Magnum PI, etc – see, amazeballs TV! And let’s not get started on all the movies that came out which now have a cult-like following. These were things I longed to hold on to.
I was a marching band geek in high school and it consumed all 4 years, though I was exposed to it a few years earlier. One of my very good friends had a brother and sister who were older and in marching band, and we went to all the contests and events. In the high school I went to, you either went out for sports or you went out for marching band. Thankfully, marching band didn’t have negative association for it’s members – we worked our tails off and I think even the football team had a little respect for us.
After high school, there’s only so much you can hold on to from the glory days – kind of like the football star who threw the winning touchdown the last game of his senior year. Sadly, there wasn’t really anything that made me geek out…nothing I felt truly passionate about or that I wanted to share with the world (or my poor parents and friends who would be the ones to listen to me rave on and on).
It wasn’t until my late 20’s and into my 30’s that I really started to embrace the things I was passionate about. I think the interwebz really helped to instill these things – I was able to learn even more about the things I loved, and become kind of an unofficial expert in my own little world. Things like Chernobyl, different cultures, history, and my love for all the wonderful shows from my childhood. My husband was in the same boat I was, though he grew up playing all kinds of video games, etc. We both shared a love of retro TV shows and cartoons from our youth, and the games that we both played growing up. I was content with that for a number of years and have grown my collection of childhood toys a bit. When I met my now-husband, he introduced me to the world of eBay and all the magical things I could buy from my childhood that I kicked myself for not hanging on to into my adult years. Someone should have made that 5 year old me listen when mom said not to cut the hair of her Barbie!!
So – why now? Why wait until I’m in my 30s to start with all this nonsense? WHY THE EFF NOT? I mean, I feel like I actually have a better idea of who I am now and can foster those likes and passions that I have into things that can be shared in my everyday life. I have a sonic screwdriver (OK – 2 of them. You never know when you may need a backup). I have video game themed t-shirts. I am getting into MLP (again). And I’ve built a world for my “Princess Pen Pal” Lady Amelia to live in. The most important thing I’ve learned is that no two “geeks” are alike. You don’t have to love video games or comic books; but it’s OK if you do. You don’t have to play tabletop games or be a Dungeon Master, but it’s OK if you do. You don’t have to work in a techie field or be obsessed with gadgets…but it’s OK if you do. It’s about the things you’re passionate about – gaming, cooking, history, science, music, movies, MLP, Doctor Who, Star Trek, etc – and being able to celebrate those things in your every day life without feeling like you have to hide those parts of you away. (I know some folks who claim to be geeks will dispute this – some feel it’s all about the gaming and comics. I disagree, and I feel there is room for interpretation on defining geekiness.) And these are things I realized after joining IGGPPC.
I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across IGGPPC (International Geek Girl Pen Pal Club) – for some reason I think I was reading an article about women in electronic music (http://www.thevinylfactory.com/vinyl-factory-releases/the-pioneering-women-of-electronic-music-an-interactive-timeline/) and then it started me on a quest to find other “geek girls” (though I must warn against entering that into a Search Engine – you may see things that cannot be unseen!) Eventually, I found my way to a wonderful community called International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club and I haven’t looked back.
Despite the name, IGGPPC is not limited to just female membership – they are open to ALL beings joining and spreading their geeky love. I really feel like these people get me. There are all ages – you are split into houses based on your age (Shout out to all my #HouseOrgana peeps!). Their specialty, however, is pairing folks with pen pals – you submit your info via a form on their site when the rounds are open, and you are paired with someone based on your “top 5 geeky loves” (good luck limiting it to just 5!) Then, you and your pen pal decide on what level of pen-palishness you want (email, snail mail, etc). There is also a message board full of geektastic folks – you’ll make friends quickly and the next thing you know you’ll be involved in Princess Pen Pal letter exchanges, Twitter-based swaps, IGGPPC swaps, IGGCCP Goodreads groups, the IGGPPC shutterbug groups, etc. There truly is something for everyone!
I have the added benefit of having an awesome husband who totally encourages me to do these things too…we bond over 80’s cartoons and TV shows; we play Mega Man together and listen to awesome podcasts about all the great stuff we grew up with courtesy of The Retroist. He introduced me to the world of eBay and all the magical things I could buy from my childhood that I kicked myself for not hanging on to into my adult years. Someone should have made that 5 year old me listen when mom said not to cut the hair of her Barbie!! We bought a Pac Man arcade cabinet and plan on restoring it this spring/summer. He is so patient with me when we play video games together – I die within seconds and he never makes me feel inferior or banishes me from playing (seriously, the man is a saint).
I’ve embraced the old video games from my childhood, and learned about new ones. I’ve started reading some comic books that are interesting to me (I never would have realized there were more comic books out there than just your typical superhero variety). I’ve made some awesome friends that I exchange snail mail, email, and Tweets with. I’ve read books outside of genres I normally read…it is amazing. It’s like a whole new world has been opened up to me, and I don’t have to feel cheesy or weird for being a 30-something girl who LIKES 80’s VIDEO GAMES! I can go into an arcade (if I can find one) and play TRON horribly, but not feel stupid because I did the best I could. And it is SO MUCH FUN!