Raised by Geeks in the Wild
Neither Zane nor Aidan has any problem on the schoolyard explaining that they are two straight sons being raised by two gay dads. Oh, Zane has gotten into a scrape or two, mainly defending my honor. Aidan once explained to me that the coolness of being both a deputy and a coach outweighed the dorkiness of me being gay.
Neither Zane nor Aidan has any problem on the schoolyard explaining that they are a black son and a mixed race son being raised by two Dads who are white. At the Black Student Union, Zane points us out as the overachievers, the only ones celebrating Kwanzaa with color-coordinated mkekas.
We come from different minorities, so it’s hard to translate. The problems of a straight black thirteen year old in 2017 are not the same as a gay white thirteen year old in 1971. I wasn’t likely to get suspended for twerking and he wasn’t likely to wear bell bottoms and platform shoes.
My husband Brian does the heavy lifting, sitting down at the kitchen table and talking about everyone from Harvey Milk to Maya Angelou.
No, the only issue that either son has a hard time explaining is that they are two normal sons being raised by nerds in the wild.
We are geeks, which is a subset of nerd. The word nerd is just a little older than I am, coming from a 1950 Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo: “I’ll bring back…a nerkle, a nerd and a seersucker, too!” but as the term evolved, it came to mean the kind of person who studies a subject no one else is interested in.
“Geek” comes from the traveling carnivals of the early 20th century. The geek was the one who did bizarre acts, like biting off the heads of live chickens. Nowadays, a geek is a person very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about a particular topic, as in wine or minecraft or Star Trek. Nerds might always win Trivial Pursuit, but Geeks run the category in Jeopardy.
In our case, we are comic book geeks, as in the kind of family whose college fund consists of the first two hundred issues of the Uncanny X-Men, near mint. Brian is only a geek by association, but I’ve been reading comic books since October 1963, when Pop bought me a copy of Teen Titans versus Ding Dong Daddy, the Demon Dragster of Doom.
You’d be surprised how much fifty-four years of comic-book reading affects a lifestyle: for example, the bungalow is not just blue. It is 1958 Batman cape blue. The Christmas card pictures have included the Fisher-Paulsons dressing up as Superman, Johnny Quest and Captain America. The boys have learned not to complain about this, by the way, because the year they rejected the Justice League motif, we took the picture of the entire family, including the dogs, dressed up as the Village People.
Thus, Zane never complained that we skipped the first game of the NBA finals to go to the premiere of Wonder Woman.
I don’t worry about the gayness or the whiteness rubbing off on my sons, but I do worry about the geekiness. Aidan now knows the effect of every different color of Kryptonite. When we get into our car, the Kipcap, Zane says, “Atomic batteries to power!” to which Aidan replies, “Turbines to speed!” and then we move out.
But Zane takes geek and turns it into chic. When I wear a Batman costume I look like Liberace in leotards whereas when Zane throws on a mask and cape, the girls come a-courting.
Aidan and Zane were good sports about the Flash costumes for the Silicon Valley Comic Con. You want Geek? The master of ceremonies was Steve Wozniak. We posted pictures on Facebook of the four of us posing with Imperial Stormtroopers and Nichelle Nichols and Green Arrow and Grant Gustin. My friend Phyllis wrote to say that “I love that you are such a geek and a Sheriff’s Captain at the same time. I love that your boys can experience the adults in their lives as complex, not easily identifiable. It will serve them well in the future.”
Yes, it’s likely that other parents do a better job of explaining infield bunts and screen defenses. But our sons will grow up in the Batman blue bungalow in the outer, outer, outer Excelsior knowing that any boy can grow up to be a hero.
Captain of the Nerd Patrol: not a bad legacy.