I’ve seen some advertisements lately for a set of dolls that comes with experiments. Being bored one day, I looked them up, and their goal is to encourage girls to use their brains and show their aptitude for the sciences. This is really cool to me, especially coming from an education background where there is more and more encouragement for girls to pursue science. This is awesome!
For those of us who grew up in the eighties, though, being smart wasn’t cool. Sure, there were gifted programs, and many of us participated in them. But this came with a price, a heavy one. Even the teachers didn’t support these programs as they took us out of class one day a week. I even had a math teacher once who told me that if I was smart enough to miss class, I was smart enough to figure it out myself. Not cool, Ms. R*******! (And I still can’t bisect an angle.)
The same can be said for the rise of female interest in things like comic books, superheroes, and gaming. I love the stuff! Always have. But I came to love it in a time when girls weren’t supposed to. While other girls my age were talking about make up and which boy they liked, I was more concerned with whether or not my D & D character was going to survive her next mission and if I’d finally be able to use the Ring of Dispel I’d gained two quests ago. I was labeled weird. Period.
Nothing changed as I grew older. I was still weird. Most of my friends were guys because it was okay for them to game, and if I talked about comic books, they understood what I was saying. The same wasn’t true for the girls I had to be around. Needless to say, I spent a lot of lunches alone, and I spent a lot of time reading and creating worlds, and – okay, yeah, this is weird – reading the encyclopedia for fun.
But here’s the kicker – in the end, it made me stronger. While those other girls weren’t happy if they didn’t have a boyfriend, and while they were waiting on Mr. Cute to call for a date that Friday night, I was living. I was visiting Midkemia and travelling in a time machine. I was drawing maps and running guilds – everything from stonemasons to magicians. I was climbing through underground tunnels to find a way into the castle, and I was creating the spell that would transport me to another world. Writing papers was a no-brainer because I read so much I knew a good bit about almost everything, and, dammit, I could build a radio and make a Commodore 64 dance.
I’m still doing it. Most of it anyway. I got lost in computer programming when they took away my ‘go to’s and ‘if then’s.
I still stand alone because those same girls who didn’t get it back in the eighties still don’t get it, but now it doesn’t bother me. I buy my home décor at the Hobby Lobby man cave, and I spend my evenings creating a world to explore. This place is populated by everything from humans, to fairies, to angels, to demons, and I don’t have the time to be lonely, and I’m never bored. I may not game anymore, but I’m still concerned about whether or not the character is going to survive the quest. (Let’s face it, even if we’re writing the stories, we don’t always know.)
So, smart may now be the new cool and it may be okay for girls to game in the present time. All this is awesome! But there are those of us who were that way before it was cool, those who spent our childhoods being ridiculed by our teachers and our peers, and we’ve turned out to be strong and independent people who don’t need to be cool to be confident.