Curb your enthusiasm

I had a meeting the other day about work website content. We were joking that everyone in the (three person) meeting except for the actual web content coordinator had a blog. The other lady turned to me and asked, “What’s your blog about?”

Step one of fantasy nerd withdrawal: I said, “Oh, fantasy fiction, the stuff I read.” Because I don’t like to engage with complete strangers (effectively) about writing because it inevitably leads to questions about my creative work in progress (which is not ready to be shared by dint of being, y’know, in progress, especially with someone whose genuine interest in the details of the genre I have no idea about).

She perked up, and said, “Oh, like Game of Thrones? You’ve read those?”

Step two of fantasy nerd withdrawal: I stick to generic comments. Yes, I’ve read them. I find the television show a more refined and finessed version of the story. Did she enjoy the show?

It was at this point that I started analysing my own behaviour, and saw how I was consciously not engaging fully with the topic (i.e. to the extent that I would with another fantasy nerd) until she provided further indication that she was, in fact, another fantasy nerd, and not just someone who enjoys Game of Thrones on TV.

Let me be clear: it’s not that I didn’t consider her a Real Fan. It’s not that I doubted her ability to hold an interesting conversation on the themes and events and characters of George Martin’s work. It’s that I really, truly, desperately didn’t want to have that moment where I jumped in with both feet talking intricately about fantasy fiction tropes and details and my pet peeves, and see her eyes glaze over with the transparent desire that she’d never brought this up. I’ve had that moment before. I’ve felt like I’ve messed up. Like I’m being mentally catalogued as an overenthusiastic nerd who’s not very interesting to talk with – which is probably only the truth, but it still stings to be dismissed.

And I wondered how much of this is mixed up in the Real Fan business. (There’s also a lot of really poisonous crap mixed up in the Real Fan business. A lot of elitism and selfishness. I have no time for that side of things.) To what extent are real-fan challenges bound up in petulance that this was my space for safe conversations, for knowing I can be enthusiastic, for not worrying about being dismissed, but you have come in and I am uneasy about whether you will dismiss me, so I’m lashing out first.

There’s never any excuse for lashing out. There’s never a reason to be nasty and unpleasant. But having watched myself dancing around my passion for fear of being judged for it, I can sympathise a little with the relief of having a safe space to be enthusiastic.

2 thoughts on “Curb your enthusiasm”

  1. I’ve learned how to do this since becoming a School Mum. I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a nerd, but when it comes up with disdain that their older children spend their lives talking with their friends on the computer and playing That Game (minecraft), instead of hanging out with the family, I don’t mention that I’ve been doing that since the internet was a thing. I don’t want to be friends with people who think my passions are repugnant, so I don’t engage.

    But I do your kind of dance about uni. People ask questions about that, and seem interested in a real answer. I’m a history student, so either I want to be a teacher (a world of no.), or the other person in the conversation had the worst experience of history in highschool and therefore I’m the weirdest kind of freak they could imagine. It’s easier to politely change the subject.

    1. I don’t want to be friends with people who think my passions are repugnant, so I don’t engage.
      Yes, that. But also I don’t want to hijack a general conversation to use it as a soapbox for trying to convince people (who don’t necessarily think it repugnant, but who haven’t engaged with the topic before) of the merit of my passions.

      Definitely with you on “it’s easier to change the subject”. What I think bothers me is that I have both good reasons for this (e.g. not wanting to spend my energy on conversation that won’t give me more energy) but also not-so-good (e.g. not wanting to contribute to the idea that nerds can’t make interesting conversation and just lecture in boring detail about their passions).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *