Several years ago I discovered Adam-Ant.net, the official Adam Ant website, which is not run by him but by fans. Which is totally cool. I’ve been an huge Adam Ant fan since the early 80s, pretty much from the first I had ever laid eyes on him via MTV and Nickelodeon’s Saturday Night Concert series. Ecstatic at finding the website, I dove into the forums only to find myself and other US Ant fans being badmouthed as “Johnny come lately”s who didn’t, couldn’t, truly understand what it’s really like to be an Ant fan because we hadn’t discovered him before he got big. I believe I posted something in return about how I was sorry I hadn’t had the foresight to will myself born in the UK at the correct time for them to consider me a real fan, and then never went back to the forums.*
Yeah, it’s petty and stupid, and I freely admit that, now. But it hurt at the time, and it illustrates something that a lot of us struggle with: Feeling Authentic.
From Merriam Webster Online:
Authentic – adjective
1 obsolete : authoritative
2 a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact <paints an authentic picture of our society> b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features <an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse> c : made or done the same way as an original <authentic Mexican fare>
3 : not false or imitation : real, actual <based on authentic documents> <an authentic cockney accent>
4 a of a church mode : ranging upward from the keynote — compare plagal 1 b of a cadence : progressing from the dominant chord to the tonic — compare plagal 2
5 : true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
Let’s focus on 2, 3, and 5.
Feeling authentic is something with which a lot of people have trouble, especially those of us from, shall we say, less than hip areas of America. We were never in on the birth of anything. Punk rock happened nearly simultaneously in London, New York, Detroit and several other places thousands of miles away from Idaho, the same with Nu Wave or the Nu Romantics. Every cultural phenomena came down to us second or third hand. MTV helped a bit, but we still had to wait for the mainstream to recognize something enough for it to filter down to those of us in the hinterland. As a result, a lot of us spent much of our lives feeling like pretenders to the movements/sub-cultures that spoke to us.
I’m getting to the geek parts, I swear.
This has, in the past, included gaming for me. As you’ve all heard repeatedly, I didn’t get to start gaming until I was 19/20, because I spent most of my adolescence surrounded by He-Male Woman Haters. When I did start, most of the guys I gamed with had been gaming since Jr. High or Elementary school. I felt very much like a Johnny Come Lately. I would run games only rarely, and when I did, praise would be negated with the inner voice telling me they were only saying those things to be nice.
Last year, just before Ambercon as the Evil Little Voice in my head geared up its campaign to turn me into a basketcase about running games for “real” gamers, I suddenly realized. “Hey, wait, I’ve been gaming for nearly 20 years now, and I’ve been running games for at least five years. People keep asking me to run games for them, the Girl Game’s been going for more than two years… I don’t suck at this. I’m not a pretender. I AM a gamer.”
Now if I could just have that freaking epiphany about my writing.
Thing is, I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling in-authentic about a lot of things. In Grad school, my advisor told me that feeling like a fraud was incredibly common for female scholars in any field. My “Gawth”-ness, regardless of the fact that I’ve lived in black since I was 12 and light bends toward my closet. My writing, my Feminism, my Kink, my progressivism, everything. No matter what it is, it seems someone else has always done it first, better, or to further extremes. What on earth makes me think I can claim any of these labels with any justification?
The answer lies in definition #5: “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
Whatever you are, you are authentic. Like the scene in SLC Punk when the punk band from England tells Heroin Bob they’re never coming back to Salt Lake City, Bob asks if it’s because they’re too tame, and the lead singer tells him it’s because it’s too fucking violent. Frequently the imitation takes on a life and a reality of its own, and becomes something more. So don’t ever let anyone tell you you aren’t nerd enough, punk enough, whatever enough…
I want to include “Black enough” not because I equate race with these other things, but because not being “Black enough” is a charge I frequently hear leveled at my African-American Nerd brethren and sistren. They are frequently told that their interest in all things nerdy means they’re trying to be white.
Now, a final word from the man responsible for most of my kinks and sexual vagaries:
*The rest of the site is awesome, and you should definitely check it out. The forums may well be awesome now as well, but I hesitate to go back.