Giving Up The Geek: Tony Pacitti, author of My Best Friend Is A Wookiee

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Being a nerd is never easy, and Toni Pacitti has made it through the other side. He’s recently chronicled his life story – and how it relates to the Star Wars saga – in My Best Friend Is A Wookiee. It’s an autobiographical coming of age tale with a bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure that reminds us all of the good old days when we were being picked on and laughed at. We might have come far from those times, but we’re still nerds at heart.

Post your nerdiest childhood moment that you now smile at (and maybe still cringe a little bit when thinking about it) in the comments, and we’ll send the best story a copy of Pacitti’s book.

Michelle Castillo: Why do you think Star Wars has a role in everyone’s life?

Tony Pacitti: Like everyone any good fairytale or fable, there’s a moral behind the story – if you can see past the robots or the laser, which might turn people off of the fact that it’s sci-fi.

MC: Who were you writing for when you wrote My Best Friend is A Wookiee?

TP: I certainly had nerds in mind. It is a memoir about being a Star Wars fan. I had to make an effort not making it too inclusive. I had friends who were not big Star Wars fans who didn’t want to read it because they weren’t that into (the Star Wars universe.)

But, everyone went through awkward teenage moments, and everyone was picked on at sometime. Even if you ‘re not a big Star Wars fan, the coming of age aspect is pretty universal.

MC: Do you still find Star Wars as relevant in your life?

TP: I still tell people without doubt that Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie. I don’t need it as a security blanket. The prequels certainly don’t get me as angry as they did initially. I still enjoy them just as much as I did as a kid. Every time I watch them, I still get happy. I can’t listen to some of the music without tearing up.

MC: Wow, so you are just as into Star Wars as you were in your youth?

TP: Oh yeah absolutely. I actually just went to the Star Wars convention in Orlando. My girlfriend had helped me put a rebel flight suit together. I was conscious of wearing costumes outside of Halloween earlier (but I did it anyway). That was my most recent nerd victory.

MC: What is it about Star Wars that still moves you?

TP: I don’t know. I just think the music is really excellent. Without the images, the music really gets the message across. I really link it to how important it was to me as a kid.

MC: Would you share Star Wars with your nieces and nephews or kids?

TP: Absolutely, just to show them a great time. I feel like a little kid is just so open to being excited about things. There’s nothing more exciting than Star Wars when your seven.

MC: If you had the power of the Force back then, would it have made a difference?

TP: There are a bunch (of times) that came to mind. There are definitely some friendships that I talk about in the book that ended  in ways that I necessarily wouldn’t have liked. They weren’t falling outs; they were gradual separations. The Force would have definitely been helpful to find out how genuine or how disingenuous some people were. I don’t regret having learned those lessons though.

MC: What other movie series has the staying power of Star Wars?

TP: Lord of the Rings, maybe? The books have been around for what, 50 years. I don’t know what would really be the next Star Wars. I don’t think it will be Twilight. (Actually,) I’m sure there are people out there that 30 years down the road that would love to see a prequel trilogy about Edward. (laughs) I don’t know.

MC: Why are you okay with being a nerd now?

TP: I think just coming to be okay with who I was is a big part of it. By the time I was 16 or 17 in high school, I was finally starting to be okay with myself  and surrounding myself with friends who had very similar interests and were also okay with who I was. I didn’t think I had to try to impress somebody or be someone I wasn’t. Realizing I was okay with being a nerd, that tipped me off.

And the world is a much more nerd friendly place…. Video games have sort of taken off. All this nerd stuff is so mainstream pop culture now, to use to nerd to degrade somebody doesn’t fly anymore. I wouldn’t say never, but it’s hard to offend somebody by calling them a nerd.

MC: Any advice for current or future nerds?

TP: I want to say just keep your head up, sort of tough it out, but it’s tough to say to a kid. It’s really hard when you’re younger. It’s really hard to be okay with yourself, but it’s really key. If you can somehow manage to have a shred of confidence as a young nerd that will really get you through it. You’ve got to like yourself; you’ve got to like yourself before other people will.

MC: Hmm I would have thought it would be not to take your action figures out of the package…

TP: (Laughs) Do not take your figures out of the package! I wouldn’t be making lattes right now as my day job if I hadn’t done that.