Two conversations with my nephew about three years ago:
Me: “Do you do much sport at school?”
Him: “NO! Only geeks do sport”
Me: “Geeks do sport? Don’t the cool kids do sport?”
Him: “No, only the geeks. The popular kids play computer games.”
Me: “What do you want to do when you’re older?”
Him: “Get a job at the Games Workshop.”
Aside from highlighting just how awkward an aunt I am (those questions come from the “Big Book of Dull-arse Questions to Ask Teenagers” that I’ll be publishing later this year), those conversations marked something of a learning curve for me.
Being a teenager is apparently no longer about trying to negotiate your way through the Freaks and Geeks to gain acceptance among the Jocks (or “trendies” as we witheringly dubbed them at my school, probably whilst biting the skin round our fingernails and listening to Dinosaur Jr).
Buffy may have been in the freaks gang at Sunnydale High, but if she’d been in my nephew’s class she’d have been crowned high queen of the cool set while Cordelia waved her pom poms at an empty sports field.
It’s not that I’m surprised that a lot of the popular kids are into computer games. It’s hardly an earth-shattering discovery: teenagers like sitting around staring at a screen when it’s sunny outside.
And you don’t need me to tell you that – shock horror – being a geek is considered socially acceptable these days. Wearing a Gap hoodie whilst writing code on your dorm room window with a jumbo marker is now considered top notch plot fodder for Hollywood. And the likes of Michael Cera and Andrew Garfield are awkward heart-throbs for girls the world over.
Nerd jocks unite!
But I admit that I was shocked to discover sporting prowess was for “geeks”. Not least because the semantic somersault that word has apparently undergone amongst the mumbling classes. I mean, I’m assuming my nephew really meant “fit, sporty youths with grade one haircuts and a muscular frame”, which certainly doesn’t match my mental image of a geek.
If he really did mean geeks, that had to be one weird-looking football team at his school.
If my research pool of one is to be believed, the freaks and geeks have reached their apotheosis. They are now the trendies. In many ways, this should make me happy: my people have finally been accepted! But how long can it really last?
The Olympics got under the nation’s skin this summer. We learned what it felt like to win. A lot. And we liked it. A lot.
Many people started talking about the positive things that might come from it: young girls might stop starving themselves and instead start hankering for a fit, muscular, nutritionally balanced frame like Jessica Ennis‘s; people with diabetic fat rolls might join their local modern pentathlon club; injured people might overcome all the odds to win a prize in something. This country might become a better place to live!
But what about the pasty-faced pimple-heads sniggering threats of computer-based violence into their X-box Live headsets? What will happen to them?
Who will look after the geeks when all the born-again jocks have gone for a jog?
Thankfully, the existence of mod-god “Christ on a bike” Bradley Wiggins leads me to believe we’re entering a brave new world where geeks really are the ones doing sport. And if my nephew ever takes off his Spongebob pyjamas and steps out blinking into the light, here’s hoping he cycles really fast all the way to his job at the Games Workshop.