Monday, August 20, 2012

On Being a Geek

The other night, my kid was getting ready to spend some time with her friends, and she asked me: "Mom, do I look like a geek?"
I was surprised to hear this in some ways, and not so surprised in others. We watch the Disney Channel together. We know what "cool" is. I like to think that the shows I let her watch embrace diversity, though, in that there's nothing wrong with being "different."
My younger brother and I are part of the Napoleon Dynamite slash John and Hank Green slash Nerdfighting Revolution (you can imagine our Sunday dinner conversations), so I don't really see looking like a "geek" as a bad thing.
I wasn't sure where she was going with this, so I told her: "That depends. Do you want to look like a geek? If so, then yes! Do you not want to look like a geek? Then no."
She's seven, so she was somehow okay with this answer.
I couldn't get her question out of my mind, though, so I looked up the word "geek." According to, "geek" is: "a slang word for a computer expert, someone who loves computers, or someone who is socially or physically awkward."
So . . . that's it. A geek either loves computers or can't function in public.
I guess this weighs so heavily on my mind because it's August, and millions of kids and teens are headed back to school and, quite frankly, those hallways can be treacherous.
Geek. Nerd. Loser. Pansy. Whatever the current "it" word is for someone who is "different" from us–it will be tossed around like confetti, I'm sure.
If there is one message I can preach to the world: there is nothing wrong with being smart or liking a certain kind of music or art. There's nothing wrong with being athletic or taking apart computers. Our loves and interests make us who we are, and, if the people around us can't appreciate that, then we should find people who can.
I LOVE books. I'm a reader, a writer. I don't like taking apart computers, but I've got the "socially and physically awkward" thing down. If that makes me a geek, then good. I spent too many years hiding the real me. 
So, my advice to you—young or old, heading back to school, sending kids back to school . . . whatever:
Be the best version of yourself, and forget the rest.
(A lesson I should've learned, oh, fifteen years ago.) 

Katie Klein is a diehard romantic with a penchant for protagonists who kick butt. Her YA contemporary romance, Cross My Heart, is an Amazon Teen Top 100 Bestseller and was a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best YA Fiction. She is, quite frankly, the biggest geek she knows. You can find her on the web at,, or!/katiekleinbooks.


  1. Great post Katie! I try very hard to teach my kids all about diversity and appreciating what other people have to offer, no matter what their outward appearance projects. And one of the ways I do it, is leading by example.

  2. I'm so glad my own children are comfortable in their own skins. They all found friends like themselves to hang with. They all have a little bit of geek in them and it's a good thing.

  3. Great advice.

    And remember, it's cool to be a geek now, LOL! ;)

  4. I wonder if we really ever master being who we are and being comfortable with it? I remember May Sarton's take on being yourself. I'm paraphrasing here: You're never more yourself than when you're alone. I guess we try to fit in no matter how old we get. I loved your post. Good luck to all those kids returning to school--the pressure cooker of conformity. :-)

  5. Greta post, Katie. My 7 year old started a new school yesterday. While she was waiting for me in carpool, she sang to herself (since she doesn't have friends yet), and some of the kids were laughing at her. It breaks me heart and just writing this makes me tear up. I need to make sure she hears your lesson and takes it to heart. Her signing is beautiful and if other kids don't appreciate it, forget them. When she's a famous opera/pop/broadway singer someday, they'll be the ones who regret it, but she can't let strangers rip at her dreams.