Three geeky celebrations happen to fall on the same day totally coincidentally. May 25th was chosen as Towel Day, celebrating the life and works of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, two weeks after Adams’ death in 2001. Geek/Nerd Pride Day has been celebrated since 2006 on the anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars in theatres in 1977. Terry Pratchett fans can also celebrate today as the Glorious 25th of May, wearing lilacs and hard-boiling an egg in honor of an important date in Discworld’s history; when Pratchett announced that he had a rare form of Alzheimer’s in 2008, fans brought the celebration into real life to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s research.
I have a towel at work with me today. And I will be unabashedly geeky in both posting this and in explaining the provenance of today to anyone who asks about the towel. I have a few words to say about geekiness in general though. Specifically, while a perfect world would include tolerance for the kinds of specialized knowledge that generally gets you teased in grade school, the social awkwardness that often accompanies this specialized knowledge, unless you’re talking specifically about high-functioning Asperger syndrome, is not necessarily married to that specialized knowledge. Often social awkwardness is coupled with this specialized knowledge because exhibiting any kind of knowledge is grossly discouraged in grade school in an attempt by your peers to breed conformity.
Granted, having a thorough understanding of the interconnected Spider-Man chronologies and an encyclopaedic knowledge of his rogues’ gallery is of limited utility at best, but this drive to enforce conformity by my peers probably resulted in the specific neuroses I have today. If you’re from my distant past and you’re reading this, I am what I am today because you tried to make me like you, and I resisted.
Would there be fewer “nerds” and maladjusted social pariahs without this pressure for conformity? I think so. Certainly it wouldn’t eliminate such social ineptness altogether. But there would be less shame in this world over knowing every word to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or knowing every statistic of every team from the 1985 NHL season, or being able to crochet any three-dimensional object just by looking at it, or being a writer for Lost. They may not be USEFUL talents, but they are talents nonetheless.
Take your towel with you today. Do something nerdy. And explain proudly, not meekly, when someone asks you about it.