Archive for May, 2015

The Man Ain’t Got No Culture *

Posted in Geek Pride!, Mostly Snarky on May 29, 2015 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

*Updated for 2016. Please see Addendum below Main Story.

So WHO stood up for the validity of Geek culture and won? Me. You’re welcome.

Tasha’s school was yet again having their annual slightly tone-deaf “International Day”, in which students are supposed to write about their ethnic (read non-American) culture, and prepare a beloved cultural dish to share with the school. Sounds reasonable? Maybe it did for the first 3-4 years, but by year 7 is was getting a tad ridiculous. Particularly for our family who are just basically mutts. Even on the Chinese side you have to go back generations to find immigrants, and the Jong family cultural dish is take-out in pink boxes. On my side it is just picking random northern european countries that ancestors may or may not have come from in the distant past. Our cultural cuisine was “whatever is quick”. The only lovingly handed down recipe comes from my step-father, and latkes do not lend themselves to potlucks. Also the essay portion would have to be something like, “My mom’s stepdad was a jew from Queens, NY. We think part of the family might have come from Russia, but pretty much every family member is dead or has Alzheimer’s, so we aren’t sure. Anyway we make latkes on Christmas Day most years. We also put a star of David on the top of the tree. None of us are Jewish, but fried potatoes are delicious. Then we all watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special.”

Which brings us to Geek Culture. The school had handed out the flier announcing yet another “Let’s Pretend We Have a Heritage” day and I expressed frustration to the teacher, at which point all of the older kids started chiming in on how they loathe this practice. I said, “The only meaningful culture we have is Geek Culture. I could make Tardis shaped cookies, and Tasha could wear her Inspector Spacetime t-shirt.” And her teacher, who is cool and sympathetic, thought it was a great idea, and said she would ask the Powers That Be if the formula could be tweaked somewhat for the older kids to do things like that.
Needless to say, this went very, very wrong. Next thing I know I am getting a text on my phone from the school saying that allowing Natasha to do something like this would violate the family values of the event and send the wrong message to the other children.

I was pissed.

I was pissed, but I did NOT hit reply. Okay, maybe I did, but I did not hit send. I was good.

I did, however, have an extensive email conversation with the teacher, part of which included this paragraph:

“My own grandmother hated to cook, and did so dutifully and without anything verging on enthusiasm. We have no handed down family recipes. Our Christmas Day tradition is to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Episode. No one on either side of Natasha’s family has a living memory of any family member who was not born in the United States. She is however, a third generation Real Geek Girl. My mom read The Lord of the Rings in 1963 when the only copies available were pirated. She read them all out loud to me when I was five years old. My first crush was on Mr. Spock. When I was 7 she took me to an SF convention. I’ve had an email account since 1989. I have friends in several countries and across the US that I met in the 1990’s on a MUD platform, long before the WWW existed. In Santa Cruz in the late 80’s and 90’s we had “Geek Houses”, which were groups of housemates living together in fully wired communities. The houses had names, such as The Armory, The Institute, Animal Farm etc. Everyone knew one another through email, bulletin boards, and forums. Periodically people would call Food Runs and as many as 50 people would show up at 11pm at the local Denny’s. We would get together for group viewings of shows like Star Trek: TNG or Twin Peaks. Groups like this existed in other places than Santa Cruz. I have a friend who did her dissertation on this very subject. Natasha is a born and bred denizen of the internet. From YouTube personalities to podcasts to memes, she is a product of people who lived for things like technology, fandom, role playing games, SF/Fantasy, and just generally being smart people. When I suggested it I was not being flippant, or making a joke. I was very serious. It is our culture. We made it ourselves.”

Then we knuckled under, said Tasha is maybe 1/32 French Canadian, and made Poutine, which I do recommend. Very tasty.

I was going, with some trepidation, to pick her up this afternoon when I get ANOTHER text from the school apologizing profusely. I am then met at the door by the headmaster’s wife who proceeds to apologize so much it was a tad embarrassing. Bottom line is that if Tasha wants to be a Geek next year, and explain her unique (and previously unheard of) culture, she is free to do so.

Then when I got home I saw an email from the teacher saying this (Eric is the headmaster, Gayle is his wife):

“So Eric asked me during international day if I wanted him to explain to Natasha why they didn’t want other kids dressing up in Spider-Man costumes and I said NO!!! choking on my samosa. At that point I thought I had to mention to them briefly some of the points you said, but not the venting parts. This was to spare Natasha from a Spider-Man joke.
Also, Gayle said she hoped she didn’t offend you. I didn’t say anything, just that geek culture is actually really important to you guys, not a joke, and more complex than they think it is.”

The very thought of Tasha in a Spiderman suit made me laugh. She would have laser eye beam powers of derision.

Addendum: June 1, 2016

International Day Report or How to Make Your Stepfather’s Heart Melt

 

Geek Culture

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