So I’m a member of a Facebook group called SciFi Fandom. It’s pretty awesome. I’m actually surprising myself by how much I’m contributing to the group – but I guess that’s to be expected from someone who started watching Star Trek at age five and worshipped David Duchovny in the 90’s the way most girls my age loved Brad Pitt.
Over the weekend, I was watching an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, a Marvel series, and I thought I had cleverly spotted a bit of subtle geek humor. One of the main characters, Skye, has a father named Cal (actually Calvin, but no one calls him that). In the episode I was watching, we’re shown Cal’s name on a sign hanging on his office door, “C. L. Johnson” – so Cal. L. Like Kal-El, which is Superman’s true name. So I thought maybe it was Marvel making a D.C. joke. I posted about this in the group and asked if I was reading too much into it. And I silently congratulated myself on my shrewdness.
One of my fellow Marvel aficionados weighed in and let me know that the door sign was intended tell the audience that Skye is actually (SPOILER ALERT!) Daisy Johnson, aka Quake. But yes, he said, the “L” part could have been intended as a joke.
It’s silly, but I was a little embarrassed. Even though the guy who posted was perfectly nice, I felt like my nerd cred had taken a bit of a blow. I mean, the whole Skye thing should have been pretty obvious to someone who has been watching the show for two seasons. But in my defense, I’m relatively new to the rest of the Marvel universe(s) and I hadn’t actually heard of Quake – though I’m now super stoked to read about her in the Secret Warriors comics. Anyway, I posted a quick reply that said something like, “Yeah, I was just wondering about the ‘L’ part…haha.” Smooth right? What can I say, I was trying to save face.
But it kept nagging at me. I went to the kitchen and started chopping veggies for a batch of quinoa tabouleh, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my response. It was disingenuous – something I had posted because I was afraid to admit I didn’t know it all.
And it got me thinking about vulnerability. Many of us have been socialized to believe that we have to maintain the appearance of keeping up with the Joneses and, as a result, we’re completely afraid to be vulnerable – to admit that we’re feeling stressed or sad, or there’s something we don’t know, or that we don’t have our shit together 100 percent of the time. But the unfortunate truth is, this prevents us from relating to each other like real human beings. When we feel like we have to have our game face on all the time, it denies us the opportunity to open up to others in a sincere way. And it deprives those around us of the chance to demonstrate support and empathy – and to see that they’re not the only ones who have difficult crap to deal with. But there’s nothing wrong with being imperfect, or with allowing others to see the parts of your life that aren’t squeaky clean. That’s just called living on planet Earth.
So about an hour later, I went back to Facebook and posted another reply. This time, I explained that I was relatively new to Marvel and that I was super excited to find out about Quake. And of course, this led to a fun and – for this budding comic book fan – genuinely enlightening conversation that I totally would have missed out on if I had continued to be afraid of looking foolish. I was relating to the Facebook guy as a real person and, as always, it paid off!