Middle school, love, acceptance, and the Noname Nerd

Posted by Brian Thomas on

My older son wears pink to middle school. He recently gave up on soccer in exchange for learning how to fence. He knows the year that every Marvel movie came out and likes going to comic book conferences and watches way to much Youtube. He not awkward, at least any more than other 13 year olds, and is remarkably poised, responsible, confident, and has a strong sense of social justice. Still, he barely knows the rules to football and is painfully aware that his life is not entirely conventional. My younger son is a louder version of the older brother he idolizes and enthusiastically follows in his footsteps from soccer to Cub Scouts to watching superhero movies that "aren't too scary." He has an independent streak that his brother never had though and is still unafraid to break into random song or dance, although he is perhaps more hesitant than when he was younger.
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We are an unconventional family and both boys know that. I'm a half-Chinese, half-Caucasian product of the American mid-Western suburbs. I rejected this life, although I would say that I never quite rebelled against it. I opted to study the environment, then people, then a foreign language, before ending up with a career in higher education. We are a mixed family as the boys' mother passed away unexectedly around 5 years ago and I was a single parent for most of their childhoods. I recently married an amazing woman from Taiwan and cannot be happier with the love that she has brought to our family, although we have encountered all the challenges that come from a group of children and adults all trying to figure out where they fit in.
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That's the context for my website. That's the inspiration for the Noname Nerd.  It's a place for people who aren't sure where they fit in. It began as a project with my son, looking for t-shirts and other things from the activities that he loves, from video games to anime to electronic toys and gadgets. Only a handful of kids in his school were wearing clothes from Steven Universe (despite the fact it is an awesome show) and even fewer had a decent idea of what an Oculus Rift was (even in 2018!) He was a step out of place in a school full of football jerseys and indifference to things like social justice. But he was a step out of place in a way that I loved. He was a nerd.
As I began to post things about my website on social media, I began to see a following among people who were similar, people who were also one step away from the mainstream. In many cases, these were people who had wholeheartedly thrown their lives into things like anime, cosplay, and comicons. I even met people who were football players who played Dungeons and Dragons or Yu-gi-oh almost secretly and only would reveal their passions in confidence. At the same time, I saw the darker side of a lack of acceptance in bullying, discrimination, and even hatred. There's a reason that people are worried to let their nerd flag fly.  There needed to be a place where nerds would feel safe and feel accepted.  I realized that there were more nerds out there than I realized and that they needed a safe place to go. So the Noname Nerd was born.
You don't need to call yourself a nerd to be a nerd. You just need to be one step off from center, have that lingering (or perhaps blaring) feeling that you don't quite fit in, be looking for a place to be accepted. You just need a passion for something that isn't televised on network TV on Sundays, but instead appears like My Hero Academia on Cartoon Network late at night or perhaps not at all. You need to know the nuanced differences between XBox and Playstation 4 and spend time at lunch debating the pros and cons of Fortnite, Pubg, and Call of Duty. The Noname Nerd is meant to be a place to escape the judgement and, especially, the hatred. The Noname Nerd is a place for you.

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