Picture it: Pampa, TX, 1989. I was attending a breakfast at the local church and had just loaded my plate with pancakes and sausages (covered in maple syrup…yeah!). After pouring on the last of the goop, I turned to see the popular guys waving me over. I was the dorkiest kid at St. Vincent de Paul Church. BY FAR. So I did that thing where I turned around, trying to see who they were gesturing at. No one lurked behind me, so I turned back, confused. They still waved. I pointed at myself and mouthed, “Me?” They nodded.
I inched over, thinking, What the heck is going on? The cup-is-half-empty part of me thought they were up to something. The cup-is-half-full part thought they were being nice because we were at church. The latter part won over, so I made my way over, sat my tray next to the most popular kid, and sat down.
All at once, they stood up and walked away. I was left sitting at the table, alone. Lots of people laughed.
I’m sure many people can relate to this story. It sucks being bullied – people judging your every move, poking fun at the tiniest mistakes. Now, I’m not saying that defines me. I don’t hold any grudges against anyone. Heck, I did some mean things myself back then. The desire to fit in is strong! So I can’t be a hypocrite and hate others.
But some things stick with you in ways you don’t anticipate. You might be a little more self conscious in public. Or care a little too much about what people think.
That’s why I have a special love of Comic-Con.
Sure, the costumes and energy and panels are a blast. But there’s something more at play: an emotionally satisfying component for us bullied nerds. Comic-Con is soooo very freeing to people like me. Here’s why:
(SIDE NOTE BEFORE I GET INTO MY LIST: I actually think I’ve shared that story before. I have others, but that’s the first one that popped into my head. And I’m being lazy. So there!)
1. Trip away!
I swear Comic-Con is loaded with that uneven carpet that bunches up in random spots.
I’ve never seen more people trip and stumble in my entire life. If the normal ratio of clumsy to non-clumsy people is 2:8, the ratio at Comic-Con is 10:0. I seriously watched a guy stumble and then I tripped (over nothing) as I observed him. (SIDE NOTE: How many times can I say “I” in one sentence?)
The beautiful part? No one cared. Anywhere else, you might get a golf clap and do that thing where you walk all cool and pretend nothing happened. At Comic-Con, everyone else is too busy tripping (in the clumsy way, not the drug way) to laugh.
2. Things like this are taken completely seriously:
In any other setting, this band would be a joke. People would laugh at them. Hell, they’d probably laugh at themselves.
At Comic-Con, they’re the real deal. People gathered from all around to watch them perform.
How cool is that? That you can take your inner nerd, put it on display, and be seen as a freaking rock star!
3. Panels look like this:
4. The dorkier you look, the more popular you are.
Comic-Cons are a bizarro world. In the real world, everything about you is often judged: your body, your hair, your walk. At Comic-Con, big girls in tights strut the nerd hallways like it’s a catwalk. The crazier and weirder you look, the more elevated you are.
I mean, this guy was one of the most popular people at Comic-Con:
5. There’s less fat/thin/cool/tall/short/ethnic/gay shaming at Comic-Con.
I know people who are meticulous about what they wear. At Comic-Con, those insecurities often fly right out the window. It’s like everyone is able to let their guard down for a few hours.
Sure, there are those people who go to Comic-Con to make fun of everyone. But they’re the minority. And they come across as giant douche bags.
In the land where nerds rule, it’s OK to let your freak flags fly!