My Favored Enemy Is Mean People

In case anyone didn’t see the entire Internet on fire yesterday afternoon, there was an article on Gizmodo yesterday entitled “My Brief OkCupid Affair With A World-Champion Magic: The Gathering Player“. The short version of this article is that the author made an OKCupid account, accidentally met Jon Finkel (a former Magic world champion), and then proceeded to not date him – because he played Magic. It’s true, Jon didn’t really play that first date as well as he could, opting for a one-man play about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (that’s more of a 3rd date thing). Regardless, it was still all Magic that was the dealbreaker for the author, apparently so much that she thought it was a good idea to use Gizmodo as her personal Facebook page and blog about her experiences and decided to let millions of people know what a clearly bad date one individual guy is. I’m sure his self-esteem has never been better.

I’m not sure she really meant to paint Jon Finkel like a big creepy creep, but that’s the way a lot of us geeks are taking it. I’m not going to lie. I saw red and my mouth foamed for quite some time after I read this article. I am still sort of foamy. However, I’m not going to excoriate her in this here article. That would be unbecoming. Also, I think the Internet is going to do that all by itself without any help on my part.

Honestly, I’m not even sure what she was thinking. She writes for Gizmodo and does this to an epic-level gamer? It’s as if a blogger on MarthaStewart.com wrote about how she couldn’t bear to be with a guy because he ran a potpourri company.

Y’See, Theo

There was a reason MBOCAWAWCMTGP made me so furious. It reminded me of junior high school, when I had a dream about a girl in my English class in which her head and hair grew to accomodate her brain getting larger (which, naturally, convinced me I was in love). I had a reputation as a geek even back then — and in 1986, geeks were not even remotely cool yet. No, Revenge of the Nerds does not count. I wrote a note to this girl telling her how I felt. It was over the top, because I was 11 and I had a large vocabulary. I was wearing a Legend of Zelda pin on my sweatshirt the day my crush’s friend snorted an angry and derisive “NO”  at me and threw the note back in my face. To this day, I’m still not sure if I got shot down that day because I was a geek. However, I was absolutely fantastic at finding people to ask out who didn’t mind using “geek” as an insult in response to my affections well into my late 20’s. These days, I respond to such things with a phrase that ends in “OFF”, but back then I felt like I had to hide who I was or I was never going to have a girlfriend.

I started using online dating services back in the late 90’s, when the appropriate way to explain how you met your date to people who didn’t have modems was “at a bar”. If you told the truth, you would have a 45 minute explanation on your hands, at the end of which your parents were pretty sure you just hired a prostitute. A cyber-prostitute. All the dating sites back then looked like visual dog-ass just like everything else, but the idea was still the same. Make a profile to describe yourself and put pictures up, message 40,000 women within a 200 mile radius, and hope that you get any responses. (My wife tells me the process was similar for women, except they got to do something called “choosing” to talk to a potential match.) I was so careful about what I put in my profile. I didn’t mention gaming at all. The only mention of computers was in my job description. I put lots of stuff about karate in there because I was sure it was normal and manly enough to attract someone. (HINT: it is not.) Fortunately, I wound up finding a nice lady on a dating site with a big nerdy streak and we’ve been married 7 years now. We even have a little nerd. I am so happy that I never have to date ever again. It sucked.

I realize now that what I was lacking was confidence. And though I’m not in the market for a date with anyone besides my wife these days, I make no bones about the fact that I’m a big giant geek. It’s just who I am. I like things the majority of the populace doesn’t. I am not smooth or suave in any way. Ironically, I am a stalwart gamer and yet I have infinitely little game. It’s OK. I get weird looks sometimes, but since I stopped trying to hide I usually find people are laughing with me rather than at me. Though I get nervous sometimes and want to try to act “normal” in social situations, I fight the urge. I’m a good person, I am just being me, and most of the time people get it. Sometimes they don’t, and those people are to be disintegrated. It saddens me that it took me this long to figure this out. I could have had a lot more fun for the last couple of decades.

Nobody Else Can Do It For You

The point I’m trying to make here is be who you are. Talk about the things you’re passionate about. Love all the people and all the stuff you want as hard as you want (within federal regulations).

Can we all improve? Sure. We can learn social cues. We can learn to communicate clearly and make educated decisions as to how to do so to different audiences. We can be open to new ideas. We can upgrade, and we can do it all without sacrificing who we are. It’s our choice, not someone trying to make us like them because they’re uncomfortable.

You’ll never be happy in a relationship if you’re pretending to be someone else. You’ll never have true friends. Worst of all, you are placing what others think of you before what you think of yourself. That’s no way to be. That puts you at the mercy of everyone else’s opinion, and everything you are fades away. Why would you take to heart the words of someone so shallow that they’d write you off instead of getting to know you?

Like, for instance, bloggers who clearly have not seen the social media responsibility PSAs on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel?

 

Photo Credit

 

 

Comments

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. Its disappointing that many of us feel the need to hide who we really are when we meet people. I know when I started dating the woman who would become my wife I was careful not to make too much mention of the fact that I was a “dork”. I eventually let it come out because quite frankly, the relationship was going so well that either I would have to give it up, or she would find out regardless. As it turned out, while she herself is not a particularly big gamer (and certainly not a M:TG or RPG’er), many of her cousins (who all grew up in the same town as her) were, so it was a complete non-issue with her. I still feel silly now that I felt the need to “be careful” though so as not to scare her off. Like you, I found it odd that taking her to a play about Jeffrey Dahmer was not a deal breaker (that would have actually been likely to put me off if a girl wanted to do that) but simply playing magic was. Its a shame that we feel the need to put labels on people (and lets face it, we gamers have been known to do it a time or two ourselves) and to then let those labels rule our decisions.

  2. Last year at the age of 44 I started nurturing my inner geek and have never been happier. I am gaming again and wearing tshirts with obscure Dr. Who references. I definitely can relate to the feeling of missing a few decades. I’m not dating yet since a recent divorce but I will certainly advertise my geekiness when I do.

  3. You know, I’m with you on the heart of your argument, but I read her little diatribe and the one undeniable red flag for me was this: “I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.”

    Really? ALL of them? Because I have nerd cred coming out of everywhere (D&D, WoW, election law, dead languages) and there’s no single activity from which I’ve met ALL of my best friends. I’ve met some on WoW, some in high school or college or law school, some at church, some at rowdy bars, some while skinny dipping in the pool at a stranger’s condo last weekend…it’s a pretty diverse group. Because I’m not just one hobby, I’m a whole person. And I want to date a whole person.

    And I think that’s actually what turned her off. Unlike the implication by the first comment that “simply playing” was the issue, which it’s clearly not based on her initial reaction, this guy is using most of his energy to do one thing exclusively. I would have EXACTLY the same reaction if I found out a guy met all of his best friends through his football team or his fraternity. And it’s a total dealbreaker.

  4. @Maggie: I really don’t think you can tell the guy’s entire story just on that single comment. If the man was nothing more than his hobby, he wouldn’t want more from life. He wouldn’t be trying to date.

    Some people run wide. Others run deep. I personally have been in karate for closing in on 25 years, and a very large percentage of my friends come from there. I see your point, but as long as a person is open to new people and experiences, I don’t see why having a long-standing joy of one thing should be an issue.

  5. Vanir lies… He still dates. We have movie dates all the time.

    He just never puts out…. Yet.

  6. @Kanati: You are THE WORST mistress. Ever.

  7. I’ve met all of my best friends through gaming. Not all my friends, sure, but my closest ones I’ve met through gaming. And that fact was one of the “strikes” – meaning she thought they were all problems.

    And for the record, Jon Finkel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Finkel) is not just a Magic player, but also was part of a blackjack team, and has competed in the World Series of Poker and manages a hedge fund. He was the subject of the book Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids.

    I would READILY believe a story about a nerd being inept at dating and being too obsessed about a hobby to be dated (though even then I would question why that has a home on Gizmodo of all places), but the whole story doesn’t bear that out as the case.

  8. The worst part is that he lambasting that she is getting probably won’t touch her at all. She will mark it down as “those nerds” throwing a hissy fit and continue her stroll through Obliviousville unabated.

  9. Being one of the lucky few who only had to deal with one rejection before finding the perfect geek-friendly girl, I can’t really speak to the dating side of this conversation, but one thing I can speak to is the offhand comment “I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.” I think it’s amusing that the Gizmodo author can react with condescension at the kind of person he is, and then turn around and wonder why all his friends share the same core interest. Maybe it’s because for geeks, alot of times you don’t just get rejected for a date by a single person, you also get rejected by a group of people because they consider themselves too ‘normal’ to have a ‘weird’ friend like you.

    Sadly speaking from experience, maybe the reason he met all his *best* friends through Magic is because other groups of “friends” looked at him with the same kind of scorn the author displayed.

  10. @Maggie: Two of her three strikes refer to “simply playing”. Does he still play? Yes. (strike one) How often? Tournament this weekend. (strike two).

    Now I will grant you that your argument that all of his best friends were met through Magic could be a significant red flag. However, it could also be a symptom of people like the author. How many people, like her, have simply dismissed him because of his hobby? I have a co-worker who is very into gaming and sci-fi/fantasy. He unabashedly wears his Hackmaster Champion shirt to work. He proudly proclaims that he went to GenCon dressed as a klingon. Thing is, most of the people at work look at him and think “DORK!” They don’t give him a chance. They would never consider hanging out with him because the assume that’s all he’s interested in. In other words, they are not much different than Vanir’s classmates were. They’ve applied the label and the label guides their decision. As a result, his best friends are gamers as well. Who’s fault is that though when the non-gamers won’t give him a chance?

    Is it not possible the same thing has happened to Finkel? After all, regardless of his answer to the third question, he was only one faux pas away from being undateable in the author’s eyes. Note too how she then went on to say that he had infiltrated his way into dates with some of her friends as well, as if he was somehow being devious. Ask this, did he suggest they play magic? Did he take her to a convention or a game night? Granted, his choice of play was (in my mind) a bit odd at best, but it certainly suggests that its not just all Magic all the time. In fact, I would argue that theory would have had more merit had he gone taken her to a movie like Conan or some other “geeky” flick. How many “socially acceptable” men would do anything they could to avoid going to a play? Probably a lot in my opinion.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand your point. I even agree that people should try to be more well rounded and I certainly think that a person who has more than just one interest is far more intriguing than those who are hyper-focused (regardless of what said focus is). Thing is though, we have very little information on which to determine that this is the case with Finkel. What we do know from her article though, is that he is capable as passing himself off as otherwise “acceptable”. She had no idea of his interests until she mentioned her brother was a gamer after all.

  11. @Gargs454: In fairness, I’m pretty sure “infiltrated” refers to the Shadowmage Infiltrator card on which Jon’s likeness is printed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shadowmage_infiltrator.jpg

    I think it was a joke that was too subtle and accidentally made the author sound even worse.

  12. This guy over at Forbes believes she was engaging in “Geek baiting” and is smiling all the way to the bank….
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2011/08/30/the-science-of-gawkers-nerd-baiting/

  13. It’s really hard to say how much of intentional geek baiting it was. Posts can explode without realizing it, and others that are written to attract hits can fall flat. Of course, the counter-followup piece at Kotaku (ALSO a Gawker site) is clearly an attempt to catch both sides.

    I’m not sure what price is worth it to effectively not be able to check your @ mentions on Twitter for a week and to have your name associated in Google with posts that talk about how bad your writing is (or worse).

  14. @Vanir: Fair enough, you may be right. In my reading it seemed like an attempt to further put him down, but I obviously cannot speak to the author’s intent there. So I will give her the benefit of the doubt on that one.

  15. I’m not sure if the author was geek-baiting or not, but it doesn’t matter to me. That just makes it a question of WHY she was being horrible.

    Oh well. If she got rich, she can at least buy a really nice house in which she can live alone. Forever.

  16. A couple of you muse that maybe all his best friends play Magic because everyone hates nerds and won’t give him a chance. I don’t live in a huge city, but that’s just never been my experience. It probably makes a difference that I’m a girl, but I’m “out” to all my friends, and even if they don’t understand or have any interest in my nerdy hobbies, they adore me and it doesn’t make any difference to them. We talk about things we have in common, and we learn from each other about things we don’t have in common. A disproportionate number of my friends are musicians, and I can barely carry a tune. To me, it’s the same thing.

    @Vanir, I’ll give you the “some people run deep” argument, but then I’ll hold that up against the question of whether he should have mentioned it in his profile. I think it’s one or the other, you know what I mean? Either it’s a hobby that consumes a lot of your time and from which you draw a lot of social interaction, OR you can leave it out of your profile.

    In the end, whether or not you think it was deceitful, I think he’d be better off just throwing it out there. Wouldn’t he be happier dating a girl who didn’t scoff at something that brings him so much enjoyment? Wouldn’t it be awesome if he found a girl who shared his passion?

    Finally, I don’t think the writer is a bad person for preferring not to date this one guy. It’s not a universal standard, sure, but if he’s not what she’s looking for then moving on is the right thing to do. (Skewering him on the internet is tacky. We can all agree on that.) Everyone should have standards, and they don’t have to make sense, they just have to honestly reflect what you want.

  17. @Maggie: I hear a lot of people saying she’s not such a bad person for preferring not to date him and for not liking Magic. I agree. I think it’s a bit shallow, but that’s just my opinion.

    What I take issue with is her telling millions of her closest friends about her experience on an A-list blog – and personally identifying him. That’s just awful, regardless of whether it was mean, profit-motivated, or just plain boneheaded. THAT is the issue.

  18. @Vanir, Well said sir. When I was in high school, 3000 years ago, there were no MMO’s, there was no M:tG, there wasn’t even any Dungeons and Dragons. Which was lucky for me, because I would have loved them and it would have sealed my fate, dating-wise. But then, I was still nerdy, and still rejected, though not as graphically as you were, for being introspective and good at math. Or something.

    Finally, I met a girl who had also played D&D, read science-fiction, and like to play board games. We’ve been married 23 years.

    @Maggie No, I don’t think he should have left gaming out of his profile, either. But public shaming for this offense? By name? That’s a bridge too far.

  19. @Vanir I’m 100% with you. It definitely offends my sensibilities as a Southern girl.

  20. She turned down a clean cut, decent looking millionaire (yes, he is a millionaire – he is a World Series of Poker champion) solely because he plays Magic?

    She deserves to be alone.

  21. I seen the tweets yesterday about the original article but work was too busy and I didn’t get a chance to check it out. I just read this post though and I may not have much of an opinion about the original article I did enjoy this one for the simple fact that Vanir explained his own experiences which was cool in my book.

    I was never really labeled a geek or nerd growing up (same time frame as Vanir) in fact I was probably considered more a jock than anything. I did game (D&D) a little back in junior high but didn’t do much other gaming other than maybe early console systems through high school.

    I got back into gaming fairly heavily over the last 3 or 4 years and I don’t know if I had become sure of who I was prior or not, but I have always been open about my hobbies and interests these days. Yes I am single but I like to think that is because I am rather defensive more than lack of options. Because I do have my life together I tend to wonder if someone is dating me thinking they have a shot as easy street or if they actually dig me.

    All in all I just wanted to say thanks for sharing Vanir!

    -Chad

  22. She’s been “released” from her internship six months early as of today. 😀

  23. I eventually met and married a doctor, a double-board-certified pediatrician no less, who before me had not considered playing D&D. She started to play to humor me and so we had something else that we could do together, and now she’s come to genuinely like it She looks forward to playing. We’ve vacationed at Gen Con the past three years and we have more fun together every time we go. Be a geek. As long as you shower regularly and trim your nails, you’re gonna meet someone who digs both you and your gaming.

  24. My take: I agree with everything said…ish… I’m a chick whose only superlative ever received was “Best Excuses” in 7th Grade because I never showed up to my classes, or school in general, but somehow mysteriously passed anyway…Little did they know I was so scared of everyone I wasn’t out ditching to do something cool or hang out with friends- I was sitting in he bathroom or behind my house hiding from the world. So, I absolutely understand what you mean about always trying to be “normal,” or at least to momentarily appear to be. What urks me is that you seem to place nerds at the bottom of the dating food chain…but speaking as someone whose a total wanna-be nerd and knows it- I’ve had the most trouble with nerds and dating than any other cliques of people. I may be pretty enough or have a nice enough body to get the athlete or the bad boy type…but I’m not considered ?smart? enough to date the nerd. I can be close friends…but I immediately get FRIEND ZONED by these guys as a direct result of my backround, the fact that I’m not going to be an engineer or a scientist, and that I’m the one asking all of the questions. Which is sad for me….because honestly- it sucks always dating people that you can school in any convo because they’re either so dense or such assholes.
    Conclusion: So, cry me a river you overly intelligent, socially unnacceptable, always going to have wayy more money than me nerds! It sucks way more to not be cool enough to date a nerd…than to actually BE a nerd. 😀 <333