I enjoy watching "Freaks and Geeks" with my son. Way back when the series first aired, it was a nostalgic touchstone for me and my wife, but my son was far more interested in the adventures of Bob the Builder than those of the Weir clan. Now that IFC has begun to show the series without commercial interruption on Friday nights, I have a chance to introduce my progeny to his legacy. There has already been plenty of discussion regarding "were you a freak or a geek, dad?" For those of you unfamiliar with the series, please pause after this paragraph and go set your DVR.
Now that you are prepared to continue our dissertation, I can tell you that I would love to make the answer more complicated than it truly is, but I was a geek. I was the guy who had memorized Monty Python skits and could point out the minuscule variations between the TV show and the record albums. I carried a lunch box. I sat with the same sad, silent friends at the back of the cafeteria every day. I was a geek.
Not that we made the distinction back in those days. We had our cliques. There were the jocks, and the cheerleaders. We had smokers, who we all assumed were stoners but didn't say it aloud. There was a large group of cowboys, most of whom had never set foot in a cow pie, but wore the belt buckles, boots and hats as if they had been born to it. And then there was this swirling mass of kids who seemed to live perilously close to popularity, while another even larger mass walked the halls in quiet anonymity. To be an outsider, a real geek, you had to show up.
And show up I did. Being in band helped, but taking the high math courses sealed the deal. Little by little I felt the need to hop that group in the middle and start preening for acceptance. If only I wore the right clothes: painter's pants, acrylic shirt. If only I could get a date: meaning I would have to talk to a girl first. If only I could have lunch at one of those tables near the windows: and leave my lunch box behind?
By the time I graduated high school, I had worked my way up the ladder to Pep Band President. That was good enough for an extra photo in the yearbook. I had a girlfriend. Most days, I ate lunch out on the front lawn, in the sunshine. Still a geek, but king of the geeks. It would make a great TV show.