Benjamin Wilkoff can’t think of a better way to express his gender identity other than by being the geek that he is.
This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, Salon, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
Last Saturday, I put my two kids down for their nap. I went over to my wife, who was in our bedroom thinking about doing a little napping of her own. I asked if it was okay to go over to the neighbor’s house while she and our children slept. She nodded with one eye half-open.
I wasn’t going over to the neighbors to have a beer or to hang out in the garage. I wasn’t going over there to talk about cars or watch a college football game. I went because I heard they were having trouble with their wireless network and had amassed at least 20 hours of tech support phone calls in the last two weeks. I went because I knew that this was something I can fix, something that comes easily to me. I went because I am a nerd.
In all, it took me five minutes to get the network up and running.
This is not the first time I have done this, and it will surely not be the last. There was the time that we decided to stop getting our TV via cable and I had to ad-hoc my way into a solution. Or, the time I was asked to make all of our stereos play the same music simultaneously. Or, even the many times that I am called upon for advice by a friend or family member who wants to buy a new gadget. I am the nerd. It is what I do.
The identity, though, isn’t so much about knowing a lot about computers or getting excited about a new app I just installed on my iPhone. My identity as the nerd is simply the easiest way for me to express my gender.
I do not express my gender through playing videogames . My gender is expressed when I spend time painting on the iPad with my five year-old-daughter. I do not express my gender by being forever alone . I express my gender by setting up my wife’s new laptop so that she can make use of it during nursing school. I do not express my gender becoming a fanboy . I express my gender by helping my mother email her cell phone photos.
I am the family nerd. And, I am not alone.
Here is how I know:
My friend, Glenn Moses, sat next to me at Coors field last week, and we watched the second to last home game of the Rockies’ season. Well, that is to say, we did our best to distract from the enormous life decision that laid before him. He is considering a job in Denver. He is considering it, having traveled earlier that morning from Las Vegas with his youngest child and his wife. He is considering it, having been introduced to the job by my hope that he come and live closer to me and my family.
You see, Glenn is a family nerd too. He has a son with disabilities, and every time that he finds out something new about his son’s condition, he updates that section of his blog. He includes diagnosis information and all of the treatments they have tried. He is always looking for help, even in the form of a of a tribute song for his son by a hard core band. When not focused on building a a piratebox or some other nerdy topic, his thoughts are on his family.
So, as we sat in the hard green plastic chairs, we spoke about how terrible the housing market in Las Vegas is. We spoke about being a “provider” by sitting at your computer. More than anything, though, we spoke as if sitting in a ballpark wasn’t the manliest thing we could be doing just then. It was opening up possibilities for one another and making sure that each piece of technology we touched had meaning. We checked in, not with foursquare, but with our wives (he called his mother because it was her birthday too). We took pictures and geotagged them so that the trip could be remembered, not for who won the baseball game, but for the life decision that was made.
Family nerds do not shirk our responsibilities, we embrace them. We lay out our identity with every tweet. We are unafraid of losing a fictional war with women because we are too busy figuring out what comes next, in technology and in our homes. We are the ones that you come to when you can’t figure something out. The ones that will troubleshoot. The ones that will keep everything connected, or at least try.
We may not make stuff with our hands anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we are done building.