My fears about being condemned as a ‘fake nerd’ at Anime Midwest were greatly unfounded. The people I spoke with, both seasoned con goers and newcomers, were all as thrilled to be talking to me as I was to be talking to them.
One of the first people I met was Mimiru Riley, a woman whose been cosplaying since she was 12. I mostly spoke with her friend because Mimiru’s cosplay covered her mouth, making it near impossible to understand her. She and her friend were both excited to find out the fourth of July was the day I lost my convention virginity.
The only dark spot was one person. By far, most of the people I met were completely normal. They didn’t have any of that social awkwardness or nervousness that accompanies the nerd stereotype. The one exception was a 14-year-old boy who happened to sit at a table where I was enjoying my free ramen. My boyfriend and one other person were also at the table. Conversation flowed pretty easily, as we talked about events we’d seen and wanted to see.
We were all different, but that didn’t mean anything. This was something I noticed soon in my experience. With so many video games, manga and anime to choose from, how could anyone expect someone to know it all? We were all there to have a good time and we didn’t all have to share the exact same knowledge to do that.
This kid, however, was…. well, the word I’m going to use is sad. He was attending the convention alone, and I was more than happy to engage him in conversation. His interests were different from mine, but I figured that wouldn’t matter. As the conversation moved around the table, this boy constantly interrupted, changing the subject to a topic he was more familiar with. It was clear he wasn’t interested in hearing what other people were interested in. All he wanted to do was gush about his own.
His most unbecoming trait was his apparent hate for various fandoms. I hadn’t heard of most of the fandom he so passionately detested. From what I could tell, he found just about any fandom outside of his own detestable. It was so off-putting and a shame. I had had such a pleasant conversation with the other man at the table. By the time the boy started reciting YouTube videos word for word, I couldn’t finish my ramen fast enough.
My heart went out to the boy a bit. What kind of life must you have to hold such animosity towards those with interests different from your own? How many times did he have to watch his favorite YouTube videos to memorize them? How long did he sit in front of the computer every day? Were his parents active in his life, or did they let him spend so much time in front of the computer because he was easier to deal with that way?
The boy reminded me of my ex-boyfriend, Zachery. He had the same sort of monotone voice, with a tone that didn’t fluctuate no matter what he was saying. The cruel things he said, annoying as they were, didn’t come off as true opinions. I felt like he was trying to put on an act. He thought he was supposed to carry great dislike for other fandoms, that he was supposed to act as he did.
The internet is full of threats and people who appear to have great dislike for people interested in things different from their own. While looking up information on my own interests, I always find at least one person complaining. Even online, it seems so crazy to me. The typical nerd deals with a significant amount of bullying throughout their life, often seeking an escape in books, video games and graphic novels. Why tarnish that escape with animosity?
I admit, I went through a phase where I harbored much hate. During those middle school years, hate was all I lived on. In the depths of despair, where taking my own life seemed like the only option left, hate was the one thing that kept me going. The only thing I hated more than myself was proving my bullies right. What my bullies actually thought didn’t matter. I thought they hated me. I thought they looked down on me and condemned me as worthless.
My perception of the world was all I had to act upon. In my silent rage, I refused to like or enjoy anything ‘popular.’ When the first Harry Potter book came out, enchanting everyone around me, I refused to so much as open the series. I did the same thing with fashion, music and anything else. During those years, perhaps I was much like that 14-year-old boy. Maybe he faces the same sort of things I once did. When you live in a world like that, it’s easy to become bitter.
While I wasn’t happy at 14, I had grown out of my hate, finally recognizing the damage it does to the soul. As soon as I moved from Catholic school to public school, I no longer needed that emotion to survive and let it go. I can only hope the 14-year-old boy I met will realize the same. Once he lets go of all his hate, he’ll finally be able to form the kind of relationships he desires.
Why do you think some nerds make fun of other nerds? What can be gain from such actions? Do you think it’s common for people to go through phases in life where such extreme emotions like hate are necessary for survival? Once that phase in life is over, how does a person learn to let go of that damaging emotion?