Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Geeky and Cool

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If you would see the family “caricature” drawn years ago on a vacation in Cape Cod, still hanging on my mother’s wall of family shame, you might say, “Boy, Neil, you must have been a geeky teenager!”  Looking at myself back then, I would say you were probably be right.  Yet, I would still have the problem of identity that I was discussing yesterday on my blog.  Was I really a geek?  How do I give you, the reader, a fuller picture of reality?  Or even more importantly, how do I see myself honestly without spending thousands of dollars in therapy?

Despite my goofy caricature, I did not walk around at the time thinking, “I am a geek.”  I went around thinking I was smart.  I was shy with girls, but at the same time, I knew my time was coming.   Basically, I was a neurotic mess, but sexy in my own mind.

Movies and TV shows rarely portray nerds and geeks realistically.  A few years a go, I wrote a post about the TV reality show “Beauty and the Geek.”  In this show, a male geek is teamed with a beauty queen so they can “learn” from each other and win the competition against other teams.  As expected, the beauties meet the unsocialized guys with the broken glasses and unzippered pants and go “yuch,” while the geeks drool over the perfect blond cheerleaders.

Eh, I never bought it.   If these guys were really geeks, they would be comparing knowledge of Battlestar Gallactica triva, not wasting their time on these dopey women.   Some of these women were so dumb, picked that way for entertainment value, that I couldn’t understand why these guys would be remotely interested in them.  Yeah, yeah, men care about the boobs, but as a certified geek, I know that we also have high standards.   We fantasized about the hot girl in high school, but she was also the one running for class president!   No nerd or geek ever wanted to go out with a cheerleader!  We made fun of you.  Pop culture is so one dimensional, thinking that “hot blondes with boobs” trumps all, that the geeky writers who work on these shows forget their OWN experiences as geeky high school students.  Maybe the geeky writers are so desperate to portray themselves as the nice guy underdogs, that they forget that nerds and geeks can be assholes, too, mocking the pretty girl who doesn’t know the name of the vice president.

My high school was a NYC public school, vastly different than the suburban schools you see most movies.  As in any school, there were cool kids, but I don’t recall it being extremely clear-cut who was “in” and who was “out.”  There were athletes, there were druggies, there were criminals-in-training, there were math geniuses.  The “coolness” was segmented, which is probably too complicated to deal with a true to life movie script.  It is the same way that people say that “blogging is like high school.”   Of course it is — if you just hang out with the mommybloggers or the daddybloggers or the BlogHer bloggers, or the African-American bloggers, etc.   Outside of each niche and the set in stone hierarchy, no one might even know you exist.  I know when I was working on the yearbook in high school, I felt like I ran the school.  So did those working on the school newspaper.  So did those on the basketball team.

We all want to be the sun in our own universe.   When I worked on a TV show, every niche of the production team believe himself the true creative force.  The network executives who bought the show considered it their own.  The writers felt that the words were based out of personal experience.  The actors ignored the writers and acted like the dialogue flew out of their mouths through osmosis.  The advertisers saw the show as a vehicle to sell their products.

The mind is powerful, and distorts reality, usually putting yourself in the starring role.  So, yes, I was geeky back then, as can be seen in that caricature, but despite what anyone might have thought at the time, I considered myself quite cool, even if I was still trying to figure out how to ask a girl out on a date, something that has never quite been resolved.

The question remains:  what is the real reality — how I view myself now, how you might view me, or how I actually viewed myself at the time?

16 Comments

  1. Boy I hope my mom lost our caricatures.

  2. Our caricatures were black head profiles painted on clear plates with ric rac around the edges. They hung on our kitchen wall for YEARS and YEARS…. I hope the plates broke.

  3. How we view you is probably the reality – but remember – how we view you is colored by each of our experiences and we might not be completely correct in our assumptions.

  4. I often think about that vis a vis myself as well. I think I was always a geek, and I always knew it.

  5. reality is how you view yourself now. i think you’re really tall and this caricature proves i’m right. how’s that for reality?

  6. I think you need to start watching Glee on TV! Sorry. Am I off-topic? This post is too deep for me to properly respond to right now… how tall are you, by the way? Oh and when people say blogging is like H.S. I think it is because there are those bloggers who are considered ‘cool’ and they too ‘important’ to talk to the bloggers who are not as ‘popular’ as them… and that is the one thing I don’t like about blogging. People who get egos from blogging… I heard about some people at BlogHer being mean to others, etc… whatever, who needs that drama, you know?

  7. Post-modernists think that everyone’s reality is different, so there are as many as there are observers. So I can have a family of five talk about something that happened on a holiday, and I’ll get five versions of the same story, and they’re all “true.”

    Shana tova, Neil

  8. Better Safe – I’m not that taller than my parents. This cartoonist made them into midgets, probably because he saw I hated being there, so he would stroke my ego and make me ten feet tall…

  9. just caught up on your last 3 posts and have to much to say. something about your writing makes me want to develop a dialogue with you, not just leave a flip comment.

    anyways, too tired right now to think straight, but i have noticed many of your commenters feel much the same, leaving nice, long and sometimes oddly abrasive comments.

    i would never unfollow you for tweeting about boobs or sexy avatars…but you tweet a lot. a lot, neil. but that is okay.

    i have not been reading long enough to ‘know’ you mother or your other life characters, but i like to try to read posts remembering it is a slice, a glimpse, and not always comprehensive.

    and you totally made my day with this post, to know there were guys that did not idolize the blond boob girls, to be brought sharply back to those days, to realize that i always stood on the edges because none of the groups made a whole lot of sense. i was in the dance conservatory and our teacher treated us like professionals and did not take any of that high school shit. there was a lot of competition in the group but a lot of cooperation too. good lesson.

    keep it up, just a few more days until the ultimate prize…the bra size. keep you eyes on the s(pr)ize.

  10. “We all want to be the sun in our own universe.” I really like this. It’s so true. When I was in high school, I was a music room geek. I was in choir and band and vocal jazz and all the musicals. I was absolutely not popular but I had my own great group of friends that I adored, and had no desire to be hanging out with the gorgeous cheerleaders and football players. I had my own comfortable geeky universe and maybe I wasn’t its sun, but I was certainly happy enough.

  11. I LOVE a geek and a nerd. I am not on board with the dork.

  12. Reality is always the present. Reality is only perception.

    And my high school sounds a lot like your high school. I never got all that “mean girl” stuff in the movies.

  13. I have always wondered that very thing, Neil. I took this Facebook quiz to find out which Office character I am most like and was shocked when I was labeled Angela. I see myself as more of a Pam,or even a Jim or Phyllis. But Angela??? And all my friends wrote that they’d totally had me pegged for Angela. Stupid things those quizzes, but just an example of the how I see me / how you see me thing.

    And thank you for the big-boobed-blonde dismissal. As an olive skinned brunette growing up in SoCal I had quite the blonde complex, and its nice to know there’s more to it than hair. It’s amazing how these stereotypes can really beat a girl down.

  14. I was in such a bad situation in high school that a lot of people thought I was weird, but had no idea why. I always tell my daughters when they call someone weird, that those people might not have a great home life and to give them some slack.

  15. Wow, the Queen Mary, Cape Cod I suppose that’s doable if you only have one have one geeky kid 😉

    The real reality is your personal interpretation of- wait… what tv show did you right for? No wait! Let me guess… okay give me 3 clues then I’ll guess.

  16. I love that the moment in time is captured and open to so much interpretation, being a geek never crossed my mind. Now if you really were a teenager, the full beard may have been a red flag.

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