In the Spring of 2007, I went into Barnes and Noble, straight to the music section, and was looking for the latest recording by Baiba Skride (www.baibaskride.com). I had just recently attended two of her performances of Shostakowitsch Violinkoncert No. 1 with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and was blown away by her prowess on her violin–so much so that I did attend those performances in the same weekend. The store didn’t have them in stock and would have to order it for me. That’s perfectly fine, of course. The way the guy responded to my request, though, made me chuckle a bit.
You see…I took my Harley that day (as I do most days). I ride with a three-pieced patch Motorcycle Club (or MC) and had my “colors” on that day. I’m a pretty big guy with a shaved head and a chin-only goatee of moderate length. The person working the music section ordered my disc for me and said something similar to “you know, I never would have guessed you to be a classical music fan.” It didn’t bother me, because although people want to believe they may or may not do it, we place generalizations on people all the time based on appearances. I’m aware of this and take those sorts of comments with a grain of salt.
With that said, I have been thinking a lot about the associative nature of humans and how we interact with others with similar or dissimilar interests to our own. I am by no means clinically or educationally qualified to make any professional assessments, but I have a watchful eye and have come up with some conclusions of my own. For one: I don’t fit in anywhere. Not fully, anyway. There’s no single group that I can positively identify with 100%. This is problem for some folks, but it’s how I’ve always been and I’ve learned to embrace it. No, I’m not a hipster. I even hate the term. I don’t shun pop culture or exclusive societies at all, either for who they are or any other reason. There is a time, place, and audience for all things, and for that, they should be appreciated, even if not agreed with (think Aristotle here).
I suppose that like most kids and teens, there’s always a sense of just wanting to identify with a group of folks. I had my share of those times. My childhood was spent in the 80’s and teenage years up through the mid-90’s. That probably isn’t relevant, but I think there are some different challenges facing my kids today than I had to go through as an outsider kid. I didn’t necessarily have it tougher, just different. I wasn’t “cool” by any stretch of the imagination, but I also wasn’t the kid that everyone ignored or made fun of. I was just “there.”
As a teenager, I actually did make concerted efforts into fitting in with groups. I tried just about every group there was. I was in the band so I had those folks. I wrestled, tried football and baseball, so I had some of them too. I even tried hanging out with those kids who listened to the Ramones. You know those kids. You saw them in the hallway. That’s actually the funniest one to me. To try to fit in, I tried to copy their style by wearing old cut up slacks with combat boots. Wow… my Dad told me I looked like I just fell off the back of a turnip truck. I have no idea what that means, but he was probably right. Gotta love those Southern Colloquialisms.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that finally decided I just didn’t give a fuck. I wore whatever I felt like, I spoke with whoever struck my fancy, and did just about whatever it was that I wanted to do. I had the most fun that year and really wish I had taken that approach from the beginning. Either way, I was an oddball and I was ok with it.
A Grown Ass Man
Transitioning into adulthood via the US Marines didn’t prove to be any different than my previous experiences with fitting in. I still didn’t have that “in” with anyone. I will say that there were 5 or 6 of us oddballs who did end up forming lasting friendships during our time together. Some of the best times of my life were spent with these guys. And they didn’t really fit in either.
Thus far, I’ve said all I’ve said to point out a few things about me and to sort of reinforce the breadth of my interests. I don’t like “hangin’ with the guys” but I don’t want to spend much time with a group of girls either. I wear a tuxedo every Tuesday night as an officer in a mason lodge, but I wear MC colors and ride a Harley Davidson on other occasions. I enjoy bluegrass music, heavy metal, classical, rap, country, and punk. I like tipping strippers and looking at porn, but I also enjoy some discretion and find amazing beauty in a more “classy” woman. I can fix a car in my garage, but I can also form a raid group in a video game and lead a team to moderate success. I can give a professional presentation at a meeting of colleagues, but I can also “bull-jive” with the people of my Southern/country heritage. When I don’t want to be bothered, I politely tell people to leave me alone when I think a lot of people would just suck it up. When people ask me questions, I give them direct answers without hesitation.
I have no doubt that there are many people who feel the way I do and don’t quite fit in. Their tastes may vary just as much or more so than my own. I’m not a special snowflake at all. How does this all tie in to a WoW blog?
Cliques Within the Subculture
Since I’ve taken to the social media side of WoW, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the interactions of folks within their own circles. Yes, these circles exist in every subculture, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What you see, though, are folks with notoriety only communicating with others of the same presence. You get elite raiders who only openly communicate with other elite raiders. You have the folks who speak to the current and trendy memes often, and they get along with each other well. There are very few “regular folks” even within the WoW community.
Bringing the era of my upbringing back into the discussion, the “nerd” or “geek” lifestyle was not “cool” or “trendy” by any means. Did they associate with themselves primarily? Yes, of course. But it wasn’t hip to be a geek. Now, you can be a geek and still not fit in without either creating your own niche, or filing in line within another. How did we get there? How do we select which nerds are going to be welcomed into our circles of nerd-dom? It’s a funny phenomenon to me.
So, I do my thing. I play game (better than some, worse than others). I try to keep social with people in and out of game. I’m often called “a really odd dude” and in the words of my dearest Cookie Monster: That’s ok with me.