Nerds scare me. Technically, I fall in this category, given my interests, hobbies, and general lack of social appropriateness, but I have never specialized my nerdness and this leaves me at a distinct disadvantage. Now, nerd is a pretty broad term and what we are really dealing with here are comic nerds. The comic world has always housed many variations of nerds, plus, given the recent Marvel movie explosion, massive increase in cosplay, Joss Whedon's existence, and much easier access to anime, that world is now even bigger and more varied. I am what you might call an equal-opportunity-comic-nerd; I like it all. I think it's all kinda neat. I'm well versed in many fandoms (another new addition to the comic nerd world lexicon), but I do not exclusively identify with any particular one. This makes me the exception rather than the rule at a Comic Convention. That and the fact that I am wearing pants, but we'll get to that.
The last time I was at one of these, I was pregnant with Super Oldest. So, 8 years ago. Awkward Dad and I bought a lot of comics, went to a lot of talks about comics, and sat in the hall and watched all the cosplayers stroll by. This time, I am just watching the cosplayers stroll by; somethings never change. Awkward Dad, Super Preschooler, and Super Oldest are attending a talk about the new Super Girl TV show. Super Toddler just screamed when we tried to enter the room (He prefers Gotham and is not pleased with CBS's decision to air Supergirl in direct competition. Or he needs a nap.) He and Super Kindergartener are pushing the stroller up and down the plush hallways of the Rosemont Convention Center, pretending the chandeliers are spaceships that they are avoiding in a complicated and daring space race. I am trailing behind, feeling left out.
Look, I love comics. I love reading them. I love the movies they make from them. I love the people involved. OK, I mostly love the people involved, but I also fear the people involved. Most comic nerds are very passionate about what they write, read, dress-up as, and live, and I'm just not. I like it all, but I don't know it all. And believe me, they know that I don't know. It's as intimidating as the Perfect Moms at the park, but because I know that it shouldn't be, I get frustrated by the pervasive sense of not belonging that is coursing through me. I do too belong here! I just don't want to wear a steampunk corset and pocket watch necklace. Or a Wookie head. Or whatever that blue thing is over there. Or an ace bandage, red paint, a snorkel, and a thong (Yes, seriously. And no, I did not take a picture.) Or really anything other than this Muppets t-shirt and my comfy jeans.
I want to read it all. Watch it all. Be friends with it all. The things about comics, or any interest really, is the way it makes you feel. Curious and happy and moved and interested and much like the Supers, who are racing up and down the hallway in an imaginary battle with crystal chandeliers and a carpet with giant circles printed on it. (According to Super Kindergartener, those are the droids.) And I have a funny feeling that is what all of these people feel when they read or watch or think about their particular fandom, but actually talking to them about that? Oh hell no! I'd have to talk to them and then they would make fun of me because I would pronounce Ryuk wrong and I would be right back in middle school again. No, thank you!
Of course, that's when I realize we are being followed. Sure, there are tons of people wandering down the hallway; it's on the way to the bathroom, it's near a string of panel discussions, and it's next to the arcade. Most cosplayers are treating it like a catwalk. But we are winding a very specific path that Super Kindergartener is weaving to avoid some asteroids that his copilot just spotted, and a little girl is following us, exactly. And she is being followed by her mom, exactly. A little girl of about 2, dressed to look like Zoe from Firefly in an adorable green top and red vest, is being followed by her model-stunning mother, dressed head to top in prefect cosplay herself. They look, exactly, like they belong here, and they are getting closer. Crap.
Her daughter approaches Super Toddler and touches his hair. He has great hair; it's a standard greeting in the toddler world. He smiles up at her and she smiles down at him and then they start to hug. I am gonna have to interact with her mom, that hug did it. So, I take a deep breath, remind myself that rejection says more about the rejecter than the rejected, and look up at the mom. (Did I mention she is model-tall? She's model-tall. I'm looking way up.)
Me: So, um, that's a great Mal. You really got the suspenders right.
Cosplay Mom: Oh, really? Do you like it? I was a little nervous, you know, because it's my first con and I really could never pull that off. (She gestures toward a woman in a Leia slave girl outfit.)
Me: No, it's great! I've seen a lot of Mals today and you are definitely the best. Plus, that outfit (also gesturing to the Leia) is not safe when carting children around.
Cosplay Mom: Totally. I love your shirt;Gonzo is my favorite Muppet.
Me: Mine too! It's pretty awesome, isn't it? My husband made it for me.
Cosplay Mom: So fun! Is he in a panel discussion?
Me: Yeah, the one on Supergirl.
Cosplay Mom: Meh, I'll DVR it. I'm not missing Gotham.
Me: I know that's right. Who's this little Zoe? She's adorable.
Cosplay Mom: You don't think it's too much?
Me: Oh no, she looks great! Are you going to the children's costume contest tomorrow?
Cosplay Mom: There's a children's costume contest?!
Me: Yeah, ours are going in Star Wars. Bought costumes, like from Halloween. Nothing amazing.
Cosplay Mom: That is so the way to go. This is the absolutely last time I make a vest out of red vinyl. It was a nightmare.
Me: I bet!
(Awkward silence that the children fill by attempting to shoot down a chandelier.)
Cosplay Mom: Hey, um, thanks for being so nice.
Me: Um, OK, sure. It's nothing. I mean, you seem nice, plus you are wearing cap guns. I wouldn't want to be on your bad side.
Cosplay Mom: No, I mean it. No one had talked to me all day. And I was really nervous about bringing the kids and, you know, fitting in and whatever. I'm babbling, sorry.
Me: No, you make perfect sense! And believe me, you totally fit in. You should parade up and down the hallway with the rest of the cosplayers. You are like a professional.
Cosplay Mom: There are professional cosplayers?
Me: Supposedly. It's OK; you can think it's weird. I think it's weird.
Cosplay Mom: Oh, thank goodness. That is really weird. By the way, I'm Susan. And that's Zoe.
Me: For reals? That's adorable. And I'm Erin.
Cosplay Mom: Yes, for reals. That's why the costumes. That's not weird, right?
Me: Nope. It's not professional cosplay weird, I'll tell you that much.
Cosplay Mom: You are so funny! Can I hang out with you all day?
Me: If you don't mind shooting down spaceships in the hallway, sure thing!
For reals. I really think that God is using all these experiences to make me understand that there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing about me that I have to hide or hone. Life is not middle school and I truly do fit in. Or maybe I don't fit in. Maybe I wasn't meant to fit in. Maybe I was meant to stand out. And, maybe, when we have the courage to stand out, someone else will stand out with us, and, maybe, that is when we will truly, finally, fit in. Or something deep and profound. Maybe. Check out these Comic Con pictures, while I figure it out!
For your casual Sith Lord.
There were millions of toy booths,
Super Preschooler wanted them all.
Because when you are too small to play in the arcade,
you have to improvise.
Adorable, she is.
Super Toddler's initial costume was a little too hardcore.
Celebrating their costume wins,
All the kids won, but if I had to pick a winner,
The Tick there was totally amazing.
Super Toddler laughs in the face of danger.
I am totally dorking them up for life,
Comic Cons make me tired too.
See you guys later!
Same awkward time,
Same awkward channel!