Any woman with a geeky bone in her body knows the feeling: Watching the other girls in school be asked out on the dates or to prom, standing off to the side while people paired off in groups, waiting to be picked second-to-last in P.E. class.
Being a geek meant getting used to being shunned socially, being your own best friend. It didn't always feel good, but at least we got to read our favorite books and comics, play our favorite games, and find our own worlds to belong in.
Now, suddenly, there's a very different movement happening.
Geek girls are in demand.
If you had told us back in those oh-so-awkward school days that we ever had hope of not only getting asked out on a date, but being asked out on so many that we had our pick of the litter, we would have scowled down the tips of our noses and pushed up our glasses to hide our frustration.
If you're trying to tell us not only this, but that we also have a chance to even be idolized, looked up to for our extensive knowledge of "Star Wars" lore or tabletop gaming expertise, well ... you can see why we might think you're out of your mind, right?
Leslie Simon knows.
In her new book, Geek Girls Unite, she outlines the rise of nerd culture and even kindly outlines all the different types of fangirls there are in the world. I learned that I didn't fit into just one category, but was a hybrid of fangirl, literary, film and music geek, in fact! She had some great thoughts to share about how the culture all started, and even believes that the internet was the single greatest gift that geekdom could have wished for.
"As long as there have been outsides, there must have been geeks," Simon said. "Modems have played matchmaker to millions of unique peeps who previously felt like they had no one to relate to within their area/zip code. So what if there aren't any fellow riot grrrls at your high school? Big deal that your boss at the coffee shop doesn't understand why you have to ask for every Wednesday night off so you can attend your improv class at Second City? Your future besties are just a click away!"
The magical key, as Simon put it, was accessibility.
"Once the internet made anything– and anyone– accessible, the whole idea of coolness changed."
When you put it like that, it sounds like coolness is defined by the people in the group you find and how much of your interests can be shared with them. In such settings, great enthusiasm is generated, which is hard to ignore. Maybe people don't directly understand what it is about the new "Doctor Who" that's so great (although they'd have to be blind not to see Matt Smith's blazing hotness), but they can feel the joy you have for it. Excitement that strong only amplifies once you find your tribe who shares the same sentiments.
Speaking of expression, there is a right and wrong way to go about it in the nerd world, and they are often portrayed as not knowing where the line is.
"That's a toughie," Leslie said when the topic came up. "Social skills bring up a whole argument about nature vs. nurture. How a geek girl is able to communicate with her peers might be best pinned to how comfortable she feels in her own skin, especially when talking about her area of geek expertise. If she's surrounded by people who don't understand her world, then she'll shut up tighter than a clam. However, if our she-geek is among kindred spirits who understand her quirks and quips, then I think she can schmooze with the best of them."
So what if the geek girl finds her tribe, gets her groove going, and is able to fully bloom? Well, we've already seen the results. Geek girl celebs such as Olivia Munn and Felicia Day have become idols to girls everywhere, not to mention becoming pin-ups for the geek guys of the world. But at that point, are these girls being objectified?
"It really comes down to the age old question - Can girls be objectified when they're the ones putting themselves on display?" Simon said. "I'm not so sure. I think if they have the geeky goods to back it up, then more power to 'em. Who am I to judge?"
As far as the many words out there to describe what geeks are, Simon goes a long way to revealing each species in Geek Girls Unite, explaining words such as geek, nerd, dork, dweeb and weirdo.
"The definitions were a combination of outside opinion and my own personal observation. I have a black belt in people watching! See, it's really hard to make broad stroke generalizations about any group of people, especially when said generalizations are going to be immortalized in print. That's why I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page when I threw around terms like this, because these words mean different things to different people. One girl's dork is another girl's geek!"
Perhaps, regardless of definition, we are seeing a new age where being a female geek doesn't mean we are the outcasts anymore. In fact, we're cool. Maybe it's the internet, or maybe it's just way past time for us to get some recognition for how awesome we are for all the knowledge we keep up here in the rolodex we call a brain. And that means we have to stop assuming that we will be the outcast and start realizing that finally, it's our time to stand in the limelight.
"Eleanor Roosevelt once said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,"Simon said about the female nerd's new popularity. "When you're young, being different isn't seen as a positive thing. It's something that you're made to feel ashamed of and often try to cover up - or at least that's what I did when I was a lowly teen geek."
"Just like a fine wine or an old Motorhead t-shirt, geeks get better with age. Trust in that."