I Don’t Care That I Don’t Always Get Your References

“I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like…Books, records, films – these things matter.” -Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

I’m kind of done caring that I don’t always know what you’re referencing. At the risk of alienating the subcultures I align with forever, shared knowledge of books, music, and movies isn’t everything in the entire world. It’s awesome. It’s fun. It brings people together and leads to greater understanding. But it’s just not everything. And it’s ugly when it’s used to shame someone, which seems to be a thing dudes of a certain nerd stripe are really into. You made fun of me in high school? Well now you don’t know that Linux command/Spider-Man issue/My Bloody Valentine EP SO SUCK IT, YOU’RE DUMB AND I’M SMART SO NYAH NYAH DID I MENTION I AM BETTER.

I’ve been on both sides of this. Mostly the side where someone’s snarking because I haven’t seen/read/listened to something. But not always. When I’m freaking out at someone unfairly, it’s usually about comic books or food. In these instances I turn into Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons (yes, I recognize the irony of using references in this post) and get all OH MY GOD HOW DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT, I MEAN SERIOUSLY, puffy with self-righteous nerdrage.

One time a friend was telling me how she made mac and cheese. That’s not how you make it, I scoffed. You don’t just add cheese to pasta (you could hear the eyeroll in my voice), you make a roux with flour and butter and- I stopped when I saw her face. I said I was sorry.

(I’m still not sorry I told that one dude making boxed mac and cheese with no milk and just extra butter for liquid was gross. It is gross. You’re eating a bowl of fat and cheese powder. That’s a crusty, oily textural nightmare. Milk is not an exotic ingredient. I have too many feelings about mac and cheese so I’m going to stop.)

Another time was with a girl I used to work with. We had a conference room named Arkham Asylum (yes it was a tech company, why do you ask?). She was talking about having a meeting in that room and garbled the first part: she couldn’t pronounce Arkham. I nerdraged hard, barking “Have you not even seen the movies?”  Ugh. Ass. Hole. I really love Batman, from The Animated Series to the movies to most of the comics, even though some of them really aren’t that good. But the point is, who cares? She probably didn’t grow up with Batman. She doesn’t care about Batman now, and may never care about Batman. And that doesn’t make her dumb or less.

I didn’t say I was sorry that time. It was awkward and it seemed like apologizing would make it more so. It’s been a few years, and I’m 99% sure she doesn’t care. But yeah. I’m sorry.

These instances made me aware of a couple things:

  • A good way to make someone disinterested in something you like is to be a dick about it.
  • Unless you’re me at 19. Then I’d probably be more interested, because at that point I think love looks like being mean, because mean equals attention and attention is everything.

Thinking of the ways I’ve been Comic Book Guy brings me back to guys from my past, and it’s usually guys, and it’s usually ex-boyfriends. Guys who are happy to tell you what you like sucks.

This might be a side effect of having a type: I was born in the 80s. Most of the dudes I’ve dated were born in the the 70s. Most of the dudes I’ve dated have obsessive interests (nerds). Most of the time I liked these qualities, a lot. Until what I liked was stupid and nothing could be better than what they were into when they were 18. Yawn.

But when you’re barely into your 20s with a precariously dangling shred of self-esteem that gets to you, a lot. You get hurt, angry, and eventually really fucking sick of being told that good music ended in 1995, that they miss the days girls wore sneakers with long skirts and why don’t you dress like that, that your childhood was bereft and adulthood is a lie because you’d didn’t see this or play with that.

I didn’t experience a lot of pop culture milestones growing up. I wasn’t super sheltered – my parents were pretty liberal. But I didn’t see Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Back to the Future until a couple of years ago. I did see Paper Moon, Twilight of the Cockroaches, and a lot of the tamer John Waters movies. I don’t think I got shortchanged.

I mean, I’m not proud that I didn’t know what “Han shot first” meant until pretty recently. But I don’t feel bad about it either. I liked Star Wars. It was fun. But I’m never going to be a 10-year-old in 1980. And that’s okay. Hocus Pocus, Crybaby, and Rattlin Wrestlers were pivotal parts of childhood. Third Eye Blind, Mean Girls, and jeans cut just above the pubic bone were key components to adolescence. My nostalgia is equally valid.

But but but Rose, I don’t care about Nickelodeon shows or Super Soakers! I want to talk about Lite Brite and Unbroken.

It’s cool. There’s a way to show your love and nostalgia for whatever it is you are into without being a dick. An example:

My boyfriend (mostly) jokingly threatened to break up with me because I hadn’t seen Star Wars. He goggled at the lack of 16 Candles, The Shining, and Pulp Fiction in my life. Then he stopped.

“Let’s watch them.  I think you’d be into it.”



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