At Emerald City Comicon this year there was a floor with some really intricate and amazing Lego stuff. By Lego stuff I mean the Hogwarts Castle & Grounds made of Legos, the Shire from Lord of Rings along with a bunch of other equally amazing things all made of Legos. I looked at all of them, the detail was fantastic and I found myself admiring the people who took the time to put these creations together. Then I heard someone behind me say “Wow, someone has no life.” Then they walked away. That really bummed me out and made me kind of mad. Why? Because many of the creators were sitting right behind the displays, and because it was Comicon! A place where many people who are told on a regular basis to “get a life” can be themselves and love the things love without fear of judgement. And then some yahoo comes in and says that?!
I didn’t let that one comment ruin my experience though. I enjoyed the rest of the Lego displays and the rest of the con. But I still think about that comment now and then. I think there is a ridiculous double standard with that comment.
If you think about it, the people who enjoy “nerdy things” like comic books, building with Legos, LARPing, D&D (etcetra, etcetra) are told on a regular basis to “get a life.” But people who dedicate their lives to “regular things” like athletics, academia, art or work are not told to “get a life.” So where is the distinction? Why is someone who enjoys playing D&D regularly told they have no life when someone who plays basketball all the time isn’t? What’s more why are things like sports and “regular hobbies” encouraged while LARPing and “nerdy hobbies” generally not?
Perhaps it’s the amount of enthusiasm our interests seem to generate. When a nerd loves something, hot damn, do we LOVE it. We allow ourselves to get sucked into whatever we’re doing and that’s part of why we love it. As a D&D player I totally get this.
For a couple hours each week I get to pretend I’m not a single mom, but a stealthy Eladrin rogue capable to dealing out massive damage to monsters and enemies. It’s fun to lose myself for a couple hours with friends and after it’s over I go back to real life. I know there are some that have a hard time slipping back to reality. I’ve heard some really tragic stories of some people who became so obsessed with whatever their hobby was they simply couldn’t separate it from real life.
So there is a dark side to these “nerdy hobbies.” But I think there also is a dark side to “regular hobbies” as well. The most obvious of these can be work. Ok, so I guess work isn’t really a hobby. The way I look at working is that it’s a means to do the things you love. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a job you love, then it would be like me getting paid to read books and comics all day. Oh if only!
With work it’s very easy to find the dark side. We’ve all heard of workaholics. Those folks who can’t separate their work life from their home life. Their children are ignored. A spouse neglected, friends lost simply because they can’t manage to leave work at work. So why is a workaholic not told to get a life? In many situations the obsession with work is rewarded with promotions or praise for work ethic. Why is this?
I think society has a lot to do with it. I think we’re taught from a young age what is “normal” and what is “weird” and a lot of what falls into the “weird” category are these nerdy things. Things like sports are easy to understand, it’s a game of athletics. Something like Role Playing Games can be really difficult to understand unless you’re in that world. A lot of people are not in that world because it’s “odd” maybe even “uncool.” But just because it’s odd doesn’t make it bad and it certainly doesn’t rob the participant of a life.
I met this guy while I was in Vegas a couple years ago. We started talking about Star Wars. He told me how much he loved it. The more we talked about it, the more I could see he was sort of geeking out about it. Then he told me normally, he would never talk about this stuff. I asked if his friends would be uncool about it and he said no, it’s just not something he should be into. He was also a wrestler, going to school to become a cop and doing the “normal person thing.”
Personally I don’t feel abnormal because I enjoy reading comics, watching anime and playing D&D. They’re just things I enjoy and I’m not going to be ashamed of them. Just because I like those things doesn’t mean I don’t have a life, on the contrary I think it helps me to have a life. By allowing myself to escape into the pages of a comic, the scenes of a show, or the person of my D&D character I can come back from those things refreshed. I feel more ready to take on real life if I have an escape every now and then.
Unfortunately, I doubt something like this will change any time soon. The stereotypes that surround these types of hobbies will continue to endure and those who enjoy said activities may have to learn to grow a tough skin. Because there’s always going to be someone with a raised eyebrow muttering in our direction, “Geez, get a life.”