I’ve been talking to a couple of my friends about engagement. Not the period before one gets married, but being “into” a thing, owning it, and living in it in a very deep, connected way. I am a serial engager — I get into things, learn all I can about them, live in and with them, and then move on. These things are often crafty — crochet, knitting, quilting, artist trading cards. But often they are not — Star Wars (the original trillogy, thank you very much), Star Trek, various online forums, postcards. I get very enthusiastic about these things very quickly, and while engaged, I am very committed to them.

I am a dork.

So I got very excited when I read Sars’ rant about dork cool.

Because, for me, it comes down to the fact that dorkiness, or nerdiness, or whatever term you want to use, isn’t a trend. Calling it a state of mind instead seems rather overly grand, but I think it’s possible to dork out about anything — even if it’s something “cool” like Italian film or Kate Spade — because it’s that idea of looking to that thing, that signifier, to let you belong because that thing belongs to you, horses, baseball, Broadway, Harry Potter, Risk, loving it as though it will love you back, without apologizing for it or winking at anyone who might be watching you.

Dork levels of engagement are not cool, and people are often embarassed or ashamed of it. It’s frustrating when dorks and non-dorks cooperate on dorky endeavors — I was extremely unhappy when Star Wars (A New Hope) was re-released (this was before the special edition), and I went to see it with a bunch of non-dorks on opening night and they treated it like a lark. I felt unreasonable levels of anger over that, and at the time, I couldn’t understand why it was so frustrating or why I was so upset.

One of the things I am trying to learn is that non-dorks will never understand dorkiness. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, it just means that there’s a certain barrier between us. It’s like a language barrier. You have to translate everything in order to communicate, but however good that translation is, the barrier is still there. It shapes the way we think and feel and react — and that’s important, both to help dorks understand non-dorks, but also to help us understand ourselves.

Posted on September 14th, 2006 by Katxena

2 Comments a “Engage”

  1. Glen Engel-Cox says:

    I’m generally the same way, although instead of engagement, I call it obsession. I go through phases and cycles: for awhile there, I couldn’t read enough of P.G. Wodehouse, and was working my way through his ouvre in the order in which he published the books; then I moved on to travel narratives. Music, books, TV, Internet things–all of these things I’ll get obsessed with for a month or two, and then that obsession will totally fade away or move to the back burner.

    The other problem I have with interests such as those you name is that when something gets so popular that it seems everyone is reading/watching/doing it, I begin to back off. I feel a bit like Groucho in that I’m wary of any club that would have me as a member.

  2. Katxena says:

    I’ve tried to avoid using the term obsession because of its clinical meaning — however, we are talking about the same thing. :) I have the same distate when something is too popular, although I’m often on the other side of the curve; I frequently pick up an interest in something after it’s “over.”

    What really struck me about the piece I linked was her objection to “dork cool.” Because it’s not, and the “cool” process seems to remove some necessary element of dorkiness. And I think maybe that element is engagement/obsession.