First Person

Breaking from the Blerd

by OJ Patterson


My father and I are simultaneously too similar and too dissimilar. As if by some self-fulfilling design we are the same, divided; opposites of a double-sided coin. I’m the first, the heir, coming into idiosyncrasies and ideologies rather than homes, haunts, and heirlooms. I am my father’s son, and maybe therein is the problem.

The first paycheck of my second job was entirely eaten by a trip to the Baltimore Convention Center for Otakon, a weekend of awkward revelry. The trip introduced to me, a melanin-rich man, the existence of an obsidian otaku community, far surpassing my coming-of-age as a token, hulking bookworm, and a convergence with dreamers at “nerd school”. From a small smattering to a high score, precessions of “blerds”, black nerds”, engulfed and exhilarated; they illuminated a new, amorphous ambiguity rising from unspoken anonymity. A confluence of coincidences and conditions created a culture for satellites, perchance a solution.

Everything I am, my dearest proclivities, is paternally gleaned. Everything my source discovered was the genuine article. A network of shortcuts and hallmarks was inconceivable. The support of common-minded cohorts was idyllically absent. My father would never fit the mold of “nerd”, “geek”, “hipster”, “dork”, “blerd”, “blipster” or any other neologism to denote a curio-intellectual. The first Charles Patterson, as a matter of fact, was a “square”, and a pendulum of defining defiance. An admiration of ballplayers and steppers, the cream of the cool, kept him in the common. An observance of “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, and science fiction’s social allegories pegged him as a proxy pariah. He shifted, moved by an internal enticement, left to right, an innate happenstance, right to left. My father became “blerd prime”, without pretense or pretending; an estranged innovator that I often fail to relate to.

The convention floor inspired similar ambivalence. Among the black, happy, comforting faces, there was underlining unease. I didn’t know these people, probably didn’t like most of them. Nuance, a nuisance, is like a funhouse mirror, highlighting the benefits/detriments and crystalizing a distorted version of oneself. Every blerd, every person, no matter how accurate, is a reflection of me with vast emotional consequences. Maybe the “brotha” in a Naruto outfit inspired unwarranted annoyance, maybe a “sistah”, bespectacled and shuffling about, elicited empathy or longing. Regardless, the universal charm of potential uniformity dissipated quickly. I knew I had a place, and a people, yet, I was just as foreign as my father, constantly shifting to be myself.

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