In which my wife becomes “Geek Adjacent”

This week is a celebration of sorts for geek-dom called Speak Out With Your Geek Out. The inspiration for this effort is an article by a woman who realized her dating service date was a one time Magic The Gathering Champion. She was rather dismissive about his hobby and success and essentially stated that this was a  relationship killer for her. It had a brief life as an internet sensation which resulted in  a pledge by over 2000 people to blog about their geek passion this week and how it’s a part of their life.

I’ve spent a week or so thinking through this and realized my relationship with my wife really speaks to this situation. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been a geek for most of my life. It all started with comic books and Sci-Fi and has grown into board games, RPGs and video games. I’ve also written about how I “hid” this side of myself. What I really haven’t discussed is how this all has affected my relationship with my wife of 17 years.

When I first met Wanda she was the furthest thing possible from a geek. I don’t think she even saw a comic book before she met me. As we began our relationship I didn’t speak at all about my passion for comics and other things geek. We may have seen the occasional Science Fiction movie together, something safe like Jurassic Park (yes I’m that old, it was in the theater), but I waited until she was out-of-town to see Batman Returns.

Going back a bit further to when we met, I had a good, but not great job and a lot of credit card and student loan debt. I was working to pay them down, but with true love comes the engagement. And with engagement comes an engagement ring. Well, if I was going to swing that ring and get rid of some debt before marriage, I had to get a second job. This made for busy days and busy nights. It’s safe to say I was fairly stressed. My most effective stress relief was to sit down with a beer and a stack of comics. Problem was, my shift at the second job didn’t end until after the comic book store closed. One particular day, I really wanted that stack of comics and it just so happened that Wanda stopped by to see me at the second job.  I tentatively asked if she wouldn’t mind swinging by the comic store to pick up my weekly pull. Yes, I asked my beautiful fiancée who was (and is) more cheerleader than chess club, to waltz into a comic shop and ask Pat the Comic Book Guy for Craig’s comics. And bless her, she did it. I have no idea what went through her mind that day but I have to believe she walked through that door with some trepidation. And at that point , I knew I had decided to marry the right woman.

And thus began Wanda’s life on the periphery of my geek-dom. I would not say that she has become a geek, but to steal a phrase from Wil Wheaton, she has become “geek adjacent.” She knows the characters and key plotlines from Star Trek. She knows that Han shot first and knows what I mean when I say “many  Bothans have died to bring you this information.” She knows all about which comics I like, and has bought me many great comic themed Christmas and Birthday gifts over the years. She watches Doctor Who with me and the boys and has a strong knowledge of the post-relaunch Doctors (her preference is David Tennant). And last year, she even accompanied me to GenCon for a day.

If you had asked her 20 years ago if she’d know and do all this, I’m certain she would have laughed at you. But she has done all this and she has done it for me. So all I can say to the girl who blew off the Magic champion, you have no idea what you’re missing.”

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And being a geek, my eyes were opened.

I don’t intend for this blog to touch on politics but it is an interest I have beyond gaming. But as I read this article over at the NY Times I began thinking about how gaming has affected my worldview. The article itself deals with the inability of Congress to compromise despite most American’s alleged desire for them to actually do so. What’s interesting in the article, is the authors thesis that American’s really don’t want compromise because they have so little of it in their own life. The reason, it goes on, is because America has become so self-segregating. We tend to hang out with people who share, support and reinforce our own views. Anyway, read through it, it’s fascinating.

So what does this have to do with being a geek you might ask. Well, one thing geeks share is being geeks. It’s not a political or religious position. We share a common interest in sci-fi, comics, gaming or whatever. And when we get together we talk about those things. As we get closer we also talk about our families, our jobs and our lives. I find that when our conversations get to that level we come from very different political, religious and financial backgrounds.

As I’ve noted, I think I’m outside the typical geek demographic. I’m a corporate banker and regular church goer. By rights, I should be out at the club or on the golf course or some such nonsense. But I’m not. Where I have free time I’m gaming, surfing message boards to be a better gamer or planning my next D&D session.

My geek related activities expose me to a very different group of people than I would experience if I restricted my circle of friends to my work colleagues. I know I’m the better for it. I am constantly amazed as I go through my work day with what my colleagues believe is “regular” or “average.” They base their beliefs on what they encounter in their day-to-day lives and it’s not the life of the average person. I think my “geek side” has opened my life up to people who are not “like” me at all. And through that experience I am able to bring different perspectives to work discussions which ultimately (assuming people actually listen) will make us better and more attuned to what the world is really like.

The more I think about it the more I realize how fortunate I am being a geek. It’s made me something of a square peg in a round hole professionally, and as a result my perspective on the world is far more balanced.

Back into the “real world”

Another Gencon has come and gone. As I get ready to go back to work this morning, I expect the requisite jokes about my ever rumored costume, geeks, and nerds. When you work with a bunch of bankers whose hobbies run along the more traditional lines of golf, baseball and tennis you know they just don’t understand.

There was a time when I was more worried about that. As a matter of fact, until a few years I was a closet geek. I didn’t really tell people at work or at the gym what my hobbies are. I was a bit embarrassed that my interests didn’t fit with who I was during the day. I was a bit like Batman, corporate guy during the day, but something else entirely by night. As I hit the local comic shop near my office, I did more than one check over the shoulder before entering. When asked, “What are you doing tonight?” I would likely respond, “Getting together with friends,” never, “meeting with some guys I met through a message board to play Heroclix.” When I was taking the days off for Gencon, I’d be “taking a long weekend before the craziness of fall.” I’d even snicker along with the rest about the geeks rolling into town.

But a few years ago I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it anymore. Now, admittedly it’s been a bit easier as comic book movies have become the norm and video games have it the mainstream. But there is still a world of difference between hitting the movies to see Spider Man and hitting the comic book store, between playing Madden and sitting down to roll some dice for D&D. I’m still not your traditional banker. The last thing I want to do is play a round of 18, I’d still prefer to roll some 20s. But as I tell my colleagues, some people golf to relax, this is what I do.

Now, they still look at me like I’m crazy. But at least I’m honest with them and honest with myself. Now, if I could just get a game of D&D going over lunch…