My mom says I’m cool.

Childhood in the 80s and 90s was all about trying to be cool, to fit in with all of the other kids at school. You’d end up trying to listen to whatever’s popular, to wear what everyone else was wearing, to be up on the new, hip slang.

And sometimes, you wear a Star Trek uniform to school.

See, that’s the problem with childhood: no one tells you what’s cool. And those things you find on your own (or with the help of adults, who are so not cool) that you think are cool. . . well, they might not be considered cool by the larger populace. In fact, they could get things thrown at you.

In the early 90s, I was living in Germany, thanks to the U.S. Air Force. We didn’t yet speak the language and had no access to English-speaking TV, so we watched a lot of stuff on video. You can only watch the same 25 movies you brought with you from the States so many times, so we started borrowing videos from other people just to have something new to look at. One of the guys in my dad’s shop was a huge Star Trek fan, and he lent me the original series on VHS.

I was blown away immediately. I couldn’t get enough of the adventures of the Enterprise crew, and I wondered how it was I had never seen any of this before. Surely, I had just discovered the coolest thing ever, and sharing that knowledge with the kids at my school would make me their damn king, right?

Well, not so much. I’d already been branded a nerd — my love for computers and science coupled with a 4.0 GPA had seen to that many years before. Now, though, I was an uber-dork, that kid who wore a Star Trek uniform to school one day. I was crushed, but only for a moment.

Though this was a time before geeks were cool, we did exist, roaming in small, secret tribes. We were everywhere, and wearing that red shirt (yeah, I was a Redshirt, all right) was like throwing up a flag for all the friendlies in my school. I immediately made new friends, and learned all about the areas of geekdom I hadn’t yet seen: role playing games, Dragonlance books, Cyberpunk, and horror films.

I have no idea how kids today operate. I’m 32, and the closest interaction I have with children is seeing them on TV. But if geekdom isn’t cool yet on the elementary-school level, take heart — your friends are out there, geeking out in secret, just waiting for you to throw up a flag.

Just don’t wear a Star Trek uniform on picture day, OK? I made that mistake so you wouldn’t have to.



  1. Being a geek is certainly difficult in school. I never had a Star Trek uniform to wear, but I had a Star Wars lunch box! After elementary school, I was a little more covert… until I hit university. Then, the geekdom felt comfortable again, and it was much easier to find like-minded peeps!

  2. A Redshirt that survived? Now THAT’s definitely cool.

    1. Yeah, I had myself convinced I was in Engineering. No beaming down and getting shot in the face in my MOS.

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