Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bitter geeks

From Googler Mark Chu-Carroll, a post and ensuing 600+ comments on how horrible high school is for some geeks. Mark writes the blog Good Math, Bad Math and seems fairly well adjusted now, despite the lingering bitterness. My main advice is to get his kid studying MMA/BJJ/Judo/Wrestling rather than Karate ;-)

Original post (with 400+ comments), follow up post (with 200+ comments).

... I graduated from high school in 1984. Which means that this year is my graduating class's 25th year reunion. As a result, a bunch of people from my high school class have been trying to friend me on facebook, sending me email, and trying to convince me to come to the reunion.

I don't feel like replying to them individually, which is why I'm writing here.

As pretty much any reader of this blog who isn't a total idiot must have figured out by now, I'm a geek. I have been since I was a kid. My dad taught me about bell curves and standard deviations when I was in third grade, and I thought it was pretty much the coolest damn thing I'd ever seen. That's the kind of kid I was. I was also very small - 5 foot 1 when I started high school, 5 foot three my junior year. Even when I shot up in height, to nearly 5 foot eleven between junior and senior year, I weighed under 120 pounds. So think small, skinny, hyperactive, geek.

Like most geek kids, I had a rough time in school. I don't think that my experience was particularly unusual. I know a lot of people who had it worse. But I think that it was slightly worse than average, because the administration in the school system that I went to tolerated an extraordinary amount of violent bullying. Almost every geeky kid gets socially ostracized. Almost all get mocked. In fact, almost all face some physical abuse. The main determinant of just how much physical abuse they get subjected to is the school administration. And the administration at my school really didn't care: "Bruises? He must just be uncoordinated and bumps into things. Broken fingers? Hey, it happens. We're sure it must have been an accident. What do you want, an armed guard to follow your kid around?"

In high school, I didn't have a single real friend in my graduating class. I had a very few friends who graduated a year before me; I had a few who graduated one or two years after me. But being absolutely literal, there was not a single person in my graduating class who came close to treating me like a friend. Not one.

Like I said before, the way I was by my classmates in high school was pretty typical for a geek. At best, I was ignored. At worst, I was beaten. In between, I was used as a sort of status enhancer: telling people that you'd seen me doing some supposedly awful or hysterical thing was a common scheme for getting ahead in certain social circles. ...

... Now it's twenty five years since I got out of that miserable fucking hell-hole. And people from my high school class are suddenly getting in touch, sending me email, trying to friend me on Facebook, and trying to convince me to bring my family to the reunion. (It's a picnic reunion, full family invited.) Even some of the people who used to beat the crap out of me on a regular basis are getting in touch as if we're old friends.

My reaction to them... What the fuck is wrong with you people? Why would you think that I would want to have anything to do with you? How do you have the chutzpah to act as if we're old friends? How dare you? I see the RSVP list that one of you sent me, and I literally feel nauseous just remembering your names.

The only positive thing that ever came out of my time with you people is that my children are studying karate. My son will, most likely, have his black belt by the time he finishes fourth grade. He's a hyperactive little geek, just like me. ...

Luckily for me my high school years were among the best of my life. My 20th reunion was a blast -- it went by way, way too fast!


Mike said...

I don't know-- GSP and Lyoto Machida started out in karate :-)

Steve Hsu said...

When I think of geeky guys learning martial arts I am always reminded of the great Fred Ettish of UFC 2:

Nowadays even the lamest karate McDojo probably teaches some ground technique, but why not learn it from a real expert?

BTW, the early style vs style UFCs are a classic example of theory vs experiment and the scientific method at work. Most "Experts" were wildly wrong in predicting what styles/techniques of fighting would prove effective.

Ian Smith said...

My rec is go to another school. The Merman school if you can afford it. People often do have truly irreconcilable differences. "Can't we all just get along?" Unfortunately the anwer is no.

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