I'm proud to say that I've recently interested my girlfriend Natalie in the new Dr. Who series. Given that I also managed to get her interested in Magic the Gathering a number of years ago, I'm beginning to think that I'm that rarest of geeks; call me Speaker to Women. Seriously, I believe that there are some general rules that geeks of all sexes can follow to help their non-geek S.O.'s become interested in geeky hobbies and interests. 
Given this, here's a few tentative suggestions on how you may be able to interest your S.O. in the geek things that you love.
1. Don't push
This really is critical. The simple fact of the matter is that every couple has a disjunction of interests and there are going to be things that you're interested in that they aren't.
2. Express an openess to share your enjoyment
Even though you shouldn't push your interests, you can make it known that you would be open and happy when it comes to sharing your interests. Simply knowing that there are things you love and that you would be open to sharing those loves with your S.O. goes a long way.
3. A little nudge is better than a big push
I got Natalie interested in Magic the Gathering by inviting her to sit in on a single online game with me. I made it clear that it was only the one game and that all I wanted was for her to see the game so that she could better understand why I spent so much time playing it. After that one game she, of her own initiative, asked me to play another one. It wasn't long before she was playing herself (and building better decks that me, at that!)
4. Be a faucet and not a firehose
Geeks tend to be obsessive about details. I'm no different than any other geek. If there's something I love, I'm all about the minutia. Unfortunately, it's easy for newcomers to be overwhelmed by that sort of detail. Start slow with a general sketch of whatever it is you're interesting them in (be it a game or a television show, or what have you), answer their questions as simply and concisely as they arise ("That thing's a sonic screwdriver; it's kind of like a high-tech Swiss army knife"), and gradually offer more detail as time passes.
I really think that this is the step where most geek outreach efforts flounder. We forget outselves and start babbling about trivial details that matter to us but which really aren't central to whatever it is we're trying to introduce our S.O.'s to.
5. Know your audience
There are many things that Natalie is not and probably never will be interested in. Because of how well I knew Natalie, I was able to guess that Magic the Gathering would probably appeal to her. Likewise, when she asked about Dr. Who, I strongly suspected that she would appreciate the humor and drama of the series so I knew that it was worthwhile to make an effort to introduce her to it (and I would have been forthright if I had thought that it wouldn't be her thing).
6. Always be respectful
Sometimes your efforts to introduce that special someone to some element of your geek lifestyle just isn't going to be a big success. People have different interests and there's nothing wrong with a couple not sharing a complete set of mutual interests. Mind you, because we are geeks and because geeks are obsessives, it can sting to discover that your S.O. doesn't like -- or worse, dislikes -- something that you love. It can be hard not to take that sort of rejection as a personal rebuke. Don't. Just because they may think that Battlestar Galactica is dull or that AD&D is vastly overrated doesn't make them bad people nor does it imply that they think that you're defective for liking things that they don't.
 In all fairness, it should be noted that I didn't turn Natalie into a geek: she came prepacked as one. She's a Georgia Tech alumnus, she knows and loves Monty Python, she likes superhero movies (although she's never read any comics to speak of), and she used to roleplay entirely of her own initiative. That said, Natalie is also fully a woman (you should see the way she likes to play dress-up with her avatars) and not all things geek are of interest to her.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I'm proud to say that I've recently interested my girlfriend Natalie in the new Dr. Who series. Given that I also managed to get her interested in Magic the Gathering a number of years ago, I'm beginning to think that I'm that rarest of geeks; call me Speaker to Women. Seriously, I believe that there are some general rules that geeks of all sexes can follow to help their non-geek S.O.'s become interested in geeky hobbies and interests.