It started with a simple perusal of a gourmet food magazine. OK, it probably started long before that, but it culminated when I started seeing the descriptor of "bread nerd," "fondue geek," and the like. And here I was thinking that those people were called bakers and cooks. Somehow, being a nerd or geek has taken over so much of society that it no longer belongs to those it used to. Remember the days when those names were intended as slurs? Now they give a pseudo-credibility to anyone's passions, no matter how mainstream.
Of course, I am happy that the scorn I used to feel at my obsession with certain topics is no longer so vocally scorned, but really, a "bread nerd." There should be some sort of litmus test for whether or not someone is actually a "nerd" or "geek" about something. How about, if your personal topic of obsession doesn't make 95% of the people you talk about it to roll their eyes instead of having them ask you to teach them how, you're not a nerd. How about, if you can control your chatter about it to within a reasonable amount of information most people can handle, you're not a geek. And if a mainstream magazine has been written, published, and (relatively) cheaply distributed for 50 some years, the subject probably has less to do with "geek chic" or "nerd culture" than you give it credit for. For example, I am a voracious knitter. Not a knitting nerd, not a yarn geek, a voracious knitter. I can control the amount of information I spread about knitting, and when I tell people I knit, most of them ask me for a certain item or want me to teach them how to knit. Knitting doesn't make me a geek. Knowing that knitting is my post-apocalyptic skill set makes me a geek. Planning how to get certain fibers for certain clothing for that post-apocalyptic skill set makes me a geek.
I do like the fact that I live in a culture that geeks have started to be appreciated for who they are. Their passion for life, good stories, and knowledge have truly been overlooked for too long. But does that mean that every passion should now be considered "geeky"? I daresay these people would not consider those with a passion for the law or music or food, geeks. No, these are lawyers and musicians and cooks. A geek has always, and will always be someone whose passions range outside of the mainstream (eating, by the way: totally mainstream).They have an obsession that has caused them to be outcast in some way. Perhaps it's a set of mannerisms that has not allowed them to be accepted. Usually it's mannerisms along with sets of interest. I think that the most beautiful thing about a nerd or a geek is that they know who they are long before most others realize that fact about themselves. The social anxieties that go along with such an alternative moniker come more from trying to hide in a crowd of "normal" people and not be found out, not from their lack of knowledge of themselves or their passions, especially as teenagers and young adults. For me, this was true. I was quiet as a teenager because I didn't want people to think I was too weird. That's when being a nerd was not a good thing, and being a female nerd was even worse. Once I grew up, found others like me, and realized that I was not alone, I became a louder nerd. I don't always shout, and many times I can fake being normal, but I love to surprise people with my knowledge of obscure science fiction topics and desire to debate the finer points of Star Trek canon.
I am proud my nerd and geek labels, and I suffered a lot for them. I don't need a cooking magazine or other mainstream media taking that away from me. Let them keep their own name of "foodie" and suffer through the stigma of that word. (Trust me, there is one.) Leave the geeks alone. I challenge you all to keep our name, don't use it in vain, and if you hear people call themselves "organization nerds," call them anal retentive and send them to my house.