Constructed Identity: Some Reflections Six Weeks Into First Year

I remember once in Year 12 I was talking to a group of boys in my history class about an upcoming party and at some point in the conversation I was asked what alcohol I would bring. I replied “I don’t drink”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being teetotal – I, however, am not. What I meant was “I have never been invited to the sort of party where people drink before and I am absolutely terrified.” But of course that is not the sort of thing you say to people who have the air of being a bit cooler than you – so I quickly cemented the image of myself as a principled teetotaler and professional dullard.

Two years later, I’m six weeks into my first term at university and sporting the permanent grin of someone who has broken out of the box they built around them self. It’s fucking awesome! (I’m allowed to say ‘fucking’ now because I’m not  the quiet girl who sits in the corner and occasionally helps you with your homework anymore). Side-note: it’s really fun to subvert gendered and social expectations of your language use – once in an unproductive drama rehearsal I frustratedly shouted “Just do the fucking scene!” and the entire room went silent and turned to look at me in shock.

Cliche as it is, finally living somewhere where I have to make all my decisions by myself  made me question why I was making the decisions that involved staying at home and not making friends or having fun – and I had no answer. I just did it because it seemed like the sort of thing I would do. That is a singularly terrible excuse for not going to Oceana of a Monday night (there are, incidentally, plenty of perfectly good reasons not to go to Oceana of a Monday night!) I discovered that if I wanted to join the bar-tending society or the pole dancing society instead of the student magazine or the Harry Potter society than that’s fine and nobody’s going to stop me at the door!

I think this problem of self imposed restrictions has some overlap with what I call ‘defensive superiority’ in the nerd community. Nerds are often at the bottom of the social order in school environments and as a response create communities (especially online) to reclaim and celebrate their identity. This is a great thing, but can often lead to the nerds becoming the bullies which they have tried to distance themselves from. It’s a sort of “You’ll be working for me one day” mentality which paints ‘The Populars’ as other/lesser and can often lead to misogynistic and other problematic attitudes within online communities which disproportionately value the white, straight male. For example, many nerdy communities often reject women as “not real nerds” or faking an interest in order to attract male attention!

(This attitude is demonstrated by The Guild’s tongue-in-cheek song ‘I’m The One That’s Cool’)

Anyway, to bring this incoherent rambling to some sort of conclusion, I am loving life since I discovered that clubs are not Terrifying Places where Cool People hang out, they are loud rooms where nobody else can dance either. Likewise, if you want to go to a party then, congratulations, you are now “the sort of person that goes to parties” and there’s nothing wrong with that! Do what you enjoy and don’t worry about whether it fits the label you have assigned yourself!

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