A few days ago, a stroke of happenstance bade me watch the premiere of a TLC show, “Geek Love.” The premise, of course, is insight into the stories of several hopefuls at the New York Comic Con speed dating session. It’s worth watching, if only as an example of the type of person you should never become.
Now, let me make something clear straight off: I think it’s good and fine that people are fans of Star Wars, super heroes, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. (Obviously I think that, as I like some of those things very much.) But as hard-core nerds are wont to do, they go beyond merely liking something. They progress past that line to a point where their “fandom” negatively affects their relationships with others.
Take 30-year-old J.C., who was featured in episode two. He made it clear that if a girl isn’t interested in Star Wars, he isn’t interested in her. Furthermore, he mentioned that his love of Star Wars and incessant collecting of Star Wars Lego had cost him relationships in the past. For him, “Star Wars is not just a movie, but a way of life.” (Whatever that means.) He hasn’t the perspective to recognize how desperately sad that is.
Why is it sad? Because Star Wars can never love him back. He’s pouring time, money and affection into what? A series. A work of fiction. These things capture our hearts, yes, but to fashion them into the crux of a life by which serious decisions are made is dreadfully wrong.
When the advice, then, is to dial back the obsession, nerds get indignant. They say, “why should I have to deny who I am just to be accepted?”
I want to ask a question based on the implications of that statement. Is “who you are” a Star Wars fan?
I mean to say, are you a Star Wars fan at your core and nothing else? If your identity as a Star Wars fan were taken away somehow, would you be a mere husk of a being? If you had been born in 1908 and died in 1973, would you have been a wandering, slobbering nobody because your reason for existing had not been produced yet?
(Replace “Star Wars” with any applicable fandom for the purposes of this whole entry.)
A person who answers “yes” to these things may be beyond hope. Never mind existing to find love or to end poverty or to be a great father. No, Star Wars is apparently their reason, compass and goal. They have power and resources to do some good in the world, but instead they accumulate themed Lego.
If I sound bitter, it’s because I am so sorry that people have come to this. Their fandom consumes their life and they give it over willingly. Their interests become so narrow that to find someone who understands what on earth they’re talking about is rare—a grim state for a race wired for connection.
J.C. ultimately paired up with 22-year-old Allison, who’s as big a fan as he is. When asked what she was looking for in a man, she replied, “He has to be alive and he has to be a guy.” I doubt it’s just me who can think of some pretty sleazy characters who’d fit that bill. To be fair, I’m sure she’d put on some additional qualifiers if pressed. Still, that kind of mindset allows for some serious lapses in judgment. Would she settle for a spineless, whiny, violent shrew of a man because no one else would have her? If desperation doesn’t catalyze or maintain relationships with men like that, I don’t know what does.
The heart of the issue is that nerds are marginalized for a reason.
These people don’t seem to understand the concept of what it means to grow up. It means that what was appropriate at 17 years old isn’t appropriate anymore at 35 years old. Recall Sal from “Geek Love,” proudly mentioning that he works at Game Stop. This may be admirable if he were seventeen, but he isn’t. When a high school kid works at a video game store, it’s actually rather easy to be optimistic about their future. After all, they have the skills and initiative to have a job at all (rather than simply accepting guilty paternal handouts), and that bodes well. When Sal says he works at a video game store, what he’s really declaring is that he’s found a way to continue marring his life at a discount price. There is nothing admirable about him working a teenager’s job.
Yet, his match, Mary, deemed it “awesome.” But I guess that’s the thing with these nerds. When you only care about hooking up your Star Wars obsession with someone else’s, things like being well-rounded and gainfully employed are traits that a person can’t wait around for. Beggars can’t be choosers.
It’s true that dating is hard for anyone, but it does appear to be doubly hard for these people. The best reason I can think of to explain that is: having a relationship is something that adults do, but these people have little interest in leading adult lives. Making Wookie noises at every opportunity (or, any opportunity) is childish behaviour. Amassing giant Harry Potter cut-outs is childish behaviour. Take your pick out of all that stuff: Collecting figurines; Lego obsessions; playing dress-up; it’s all stuff that kids do. I know it’s natural to denounce people with my outlook by saying, “Well, we’re adults, and we can do what we want.” Yet I say that everyone should know by now that just because an adult can, doesn’t mean an adult should.
For example, what child doesn’t promise to themselves that when they grow up, they’ll eat nothing but candy and donuts? No one will stop them. And indeed, they’d be free to do so once they move out. Some probably even try it for a while before realizing that mom and dad weren’t so wrong about eating corn and potatoes. The all-candy diet eventually causes them harm and they know it. The people on this show seem to have stopped short of realizing that their persistence in acting like a child despite being an adult is causing them harm.
In terms of geek dating, I’m happy to profess that there is another way. As I mentioned earlier, it’s okay to like things. It’s also okay to not like all the same things as your boyfriend/girlfriend. Doesn’t it just make sense that basing a relationship on deeper issues like intrinsic chemistry, like-minded worldviews, wanting children (or not wanting them), love and admiration of one another, etc, has a far rosier forecast than, “we both love Star Wars?” The thing is, if someone is in love with you because of who you are, that’s a powerful thing and it carries at least some clout. I had a mild fancy for Lord of the Rings, but overall thought Tolkien was dry, boring and long-winded. Tom liked it more than I did, and through talking to him and listening with him, I have a whole new appreciation for it. For me, it’s been far better to be “taught” things by him (did you know that Gandalf isn’t a human?) than it would have been to just discuss it, both of us already knowing it all. I wouldn’t have gone there on my own; I gave it a closer look because I know him, and love him, and want to connect with him through things we like.
Which is to say: find a girl who loves you for you (not your fandom) whom you love for her (not her fandom.) Then show her Star Wars. She may be interested in your insights and come to like it as you do. Or, she may remain cold to it. In that case, take it as a reminder that Star Wars is just a series and is not important enough to drive you from your true love, the girl. The girl, because she does love you back (and Star Wars never will).