Monday, December 17, 2012

We're All Mad Here

One of the things I love about being a nerdy girl is the cross-over between things that are traditionally considered "girls things" like nail polish and things that are traditionally considered "boys things", like geek/nerd culture. Just plug "geek nail art" into Google and marvel at the astonishing array of totally awesome things geek girls are doing on their nails.


I find this kind of invasion and reclamation of traditionally male territory just fascinating. They're not only taking back something that they've been told wasn't "for them", but are in turn making it their own.
There are even a couple of nail polish sellers around who specialise in geek related polishes, like Lucky 13 Laquer. Lucky 13 are also involved in one of my favourite geek mobilisation efforts, the Humble Indie Bundle, a game centered fundraising effort for various charities. It's pretty clear from a quick look around that ladies are getting more and more comfortable playing in the Geek Park, and I think that's fantastic.

But how do the boys feel about it? Suddenly there are girls in their clubhouse, and they've brought all their "girl stuff" with them. There has been a lot of discussion lately on the interwebs about male nerds being total cock heads to female nerds over just this subject. Tony Harris became much more well known for his misogynist frothing at the mouth than he ever was for his art, and unfortunately, this kind of geek girl bashing is far from the isolated rantings of one guy. I've also vented my spleen about how awful I think this kind of nonsense is elsewhere, as have about a million other people.

As a change from the ranting, I'd like to take a minute to give a shout out to the male nerds of my acquaintance who have been totally accepting of me playing in their clubhouse. I'm very lucky to have spent time with nerds who will enthusiastically explainin the points system for the fifth time so I can join their roleplaying game, or who lend me comics when they talk about a storyline I haven't read yet instead of looking down their noses at me. They have always made me feel welcome, and been more than happy to share their knowledge with me. This kind of acceptance is relatively easy though - one of the reasons I find it appalling that some boys can't even manage that. I like something, they like something, let's be friends! It's simple. But I've recently made the discovery that their acceptance even extends to something they find absolutely baffling - my new found obsession with beauty products.
This beauty fandom (and let's face it, past a certain point an interest in beauty products becomes a fandom) is totally foreign to most of the guys I spend time with. They know very few femme girls, and wouldn't have the slightest idea what products the make up wearing girls they do know use. As my boyfriend very bluntly put it, "We notice if a girl is wearing nail polish, or if she's not. That's it."
But there is one trait of fashionistas they understand better than anyone else - obsession.

Because they can name the artist who drew "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!" without missing a beat, they understand my annoyance at people attributing a polish to Colour Club when it was ACTUALLY from Chi-Chi . Because they have spent days at a time in a MUD, they understand why I am checking the Aussie Nails community on Facebook on an hourly basis. Because they have risked suffocation trawling lethally dusty shelves of basement stores for an out of print source book, they understand why I was camping the Llarowe website when I heard they were restocking the notoriously hard-to-get Enchanted Polish range. 
I won't say there haven't been instances where my male nerd friends have laughed at me. I went out yesterday with a complicated design on my nails, and when asked explained it was for a community challenge, and there was a few titters. But it wasn't malicious giggling - it was a smirking recognition of a fellow obsessive. It was the slightly self deprecating mirth of people who know they've done things "normal" people would consider just as weird in the name of their hobbies. And that kind of acceptance of my enthusiasm for something they have very little knowledge of is one of my favourite things about the nerds I know.

Not all nerds are like this, I know. Some get stupidly competitive about whether their obsession is better than this one, or that one. But the guys I know appreciate obsessiveness in anyone, regardless of what they're obsessive about, because they recognise this trait in themselves. My conversations with nerd boys about beauty products usually follow this pattern;
Me: Blah blah sand textured what the hell, who would want that, not like last year's Chanel Le Vernis...
Boy: Is this what I sound like when I talk about Warhammer/Batman/Medieval manuscripts?
Boy: *nods* Fair enough. Carry on.

Even better than just being willing to listen to my gleeful recounts of how I tracked down a discontinued Sally Hansen Prisms nail polish on Ebay, a lot of them are happy to offer advice when needed. I was looking for the tiniest brushes possible, and sure enough my friends who paint miniatures had spot on advice for where to look. I complained nail polish was hard to paint with, and once I explained the formula was quite similar to enamel paint, they had all sorts of tips on how to keep my designs from getting globby. They are all so willing to share the information they have jammed into their brains, no matter what (to them) obscure reason I want it for, and I adore them for it.

Of course, the information exchange does go both ways. I now know the Green Lantern oath, despite never having read the comics. Someone referred to "The Clock Man" in reference to a Batman cartoon yesterday, and I couldn't help letting them know the character is actually called The Clock King. But it's a small price to pay for such wholehearted support for my hobbies, no matter how weird they think they are - they understand that we're all mad here.

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