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it’s hip to be square…

I never thought of myself as a geek. the truth is, I never thought much about what the term “geek” really meant, other than it didn’t really apply to me, or so I thought.

It was really only recently, after years of being what I now realize is a “geek.” I am an unusual breed, and this too is a surprise. I have worked as a technical writer for many years now, and writing has been my stock and trade. My living, my life. All kinds of writing and editing, from the technical to the translated, to the translated technical, I have written and edited in some form my whole life.

As the years slipped by, I realized that the higher up the chain of command I moved, and the more technical my work became, the more solitary my work and thus, my life, were. I found that while I worked in teams, the team per se tended to be a cluster of like-minded individuals who would occasionally meet and then work in a dark office with multiple computers where each of us would write our respective piece of code, or in my case, language which I would sometimes also code.

Our code was our life. We had long discussion about “elegant” code versus “clunky” code. We had debates amongst ourselves whose code was more elegant in our group, which I often said was mine, bien sur, because it was the most simple and because I was not a programmer, per se, I was a writer who also happened to know enough code to be of a double benefit to the company where we worked. Plus, as time went on, I learned more code – partially out of necessity and partially out of curiosity. I had a craving, a real addiction – I have to tell you – to building my own things online.

I wanted to build elegant Web sites. I wanted to fix areas of our site that were not as I wanted. More than simply writing, which I also did, I wanted to orchestrate the whole thing. I wanted to hold meetings about Flash scripts and the voice over and the content features. I even came up with a mathematical method for creating content which I labeled a content equation, which listed the different variables that each diagrammed area of the page should have. For example, the header would take a part of column A combined with column C for example to create content feature 1. This all made sense as long as you had the giant spread sheet that I created to go with it and it made perfect sense if you were, I realized, a geek.

If you were not a geek, it made no sense. You wondered what the hell this was and what it meant and why you should care. You didn’t see the elegance of the solution. You didn’t see the genius behind content equations, as I called them, and how they would form a “unity” of content so that there would be unification of branding and language – a kind of elegance that would flow from page to page.

Ah. Well. I had to leave that job and now am in the process of looking for a new job in which I will write and edit and produce and do the myriad things that one can do with language and with content in both a technical and non-technical environment. Recently, one recruiter rang me and told me that the company she was recruiting for wanted a real “geek” she said, and she seemed to think that I was it. Was I? I had certainly exhibited geek personality variables, and more, my own husband had been calling me a geek. I also noticed that my glasses, once tortoiseshell and chic, had become wire frame and sort of angular.

Yikes! Could it be true? And if it was true, a fact I had to learn to accept, what did a geek look like?

I look around me and I visit my previous co-workers, but the problem here is that in almost all of these jobs, I have been one of very few females on the job. I love women, I love working with women, and yet I am almost always working with men, which is also fine and we get on very well (because I’m a geek, one said, so I “fit in, no problem.). More, a lot of the people I work with are from India and I am from North London, an area heavily populated at the time of my youth by children and families from India. Hence, most of my school friends were either Indian or West African but in any event, not like me, so much so that for most of my youth I was seriously convinced that I too was Indian and saw little difference between my friends and myself other than the Indian girls tended to be far prettier, I thought, than I was and how I wished I had their long, thick black hair and cinnamon skin.

Instead, I was a washed out Scottish girl with ginger hair and freckles. Yep. Even at age 9 when I was in the U.K winning blue ribbon awards for reading and spelling and yes, I was athletic, running long distance and horse-riding, I was a geek. I had a room full of blue ribbons and books, just like now. I was first in my classes, and continued to be. I graduated every level with honors and was asked to stand out for special awards with weird names. But more, I was really, really into what I did and really loved it with a passion.

Little has changed. I am fiercely passionate about what I do. I still have mostly Indian friends. I still have awards and win awards and am in a house full of books and papers, only now, some of them are written by me or have contributions from me, others, written by, of course, my husband who is, though he would never see this, a geek himself, albeit a bit more discreet – his disguise is a little better, but I see right through it.

As for me, I give up. Whoever said being a geek was such a bad thing, anyway? who said geeks had to be ugly, even if we were skinny and so pale because we spent all of our time in dark rooms coding and writing and never seeing the light of day, I know all of this yet I still believe it is possible to be both a geek and attractive.

It is possible to be so damn geeky and off-beat that you’re almost cool – perhaps even ahead of your time, perhaps even pretty darn hip.

About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti