Last weekend, I bought a new jacket. I’m in love with this jacket. It’s a black and white gingham-plaid wool, with leather shoulders, belt and pocket accents. It’s mid-thigh length, and fitted, with a flare at the bottom. And it’s made by Guess. I’m literally obsessed-in-love with it. Why? Because I’m a nerd.
“I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd … it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.” – Wil Wheaton
I grew up in a blue-collar household. And on top of being not-very-well-off, my parents had an unnatural love for off-brands. If Sony made a TV that they wanted, they was certain that the Sorny TV — at half the price — was twice the bargain. I also grew up in the 80’s, when brand names were all the rage. When I asked for a Cabbage Patch doll, I got a Sunshine Patch Kid. When all my friends were wearing Guess jeans, I got whatever Sears was selling that day.
I have always loved science and books. I was a straight-A student and first chair in band. I preferred discussing, at length and in excruciating detail, social issues and plot devices in novels over who the newest, hottest actor was. This didn’t get me very far with many of my peers. Being a nerd in the 1980’s was just not all that. No matter how often Huey Lewis declared “It’s hip to be square”, much the opposite was true.
I’m not ungrateful or resentful. I rather enjoy the place in life where my nerdiness has landed me. But at the same time, the fact that I had the off-brands was a very poignant analogy for my social life. I was the kid that was kind of “off” from the rest. Back then, I took it pretty hard. But looking back, I can’t knock the friends I had. And I can also say that by the time I graduated high school, I was very comfortable owning my nerd status. I was able to be myself around my little group of friends, and in the end, my passion for learning got me into and through college.
So today, when I saw a bunch of pictures hit my Facebook wall of friends’ children adorably dressed as “nerds,” I have to admit, I was taken aback and somewhat offended. I don’t get offended easily. I am very capable of laughing at myself. But the perpetuation of a stereotype, especially in a school environment, struck me as being inappropriate. I admit it was a knee-jerk feeling, but as the adult who grew up through a chorus of name-calling, where “nerd” was a common insult, I just wanted to scream: This is not what being a nerd means!
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” – Simon Pegg
I love grammar and language, and I’m a total bibliophile (look it up). I use large words in conversation, not because I’m trying to sound smart, but because they are part of my every-day vocabulary. I’m passionate about the written word, and I’m a proponent of intelligent debate. I am a nerd.
I love science, and I see mathematical structure everywhere. I stay awake at night, contemplating string theory, quantum mechanics and the very nature of the universe. For me, these are the important thoughts to be having. When someone reciprocates these thoughts in conversation, I become supercharged. I am a nerd.
I love to cook… but beyond that, I love to research how recipes came about. I love ethnic cuisine, and I strive for authenticity when I set out to make a traditional dish. I want to know why they use certain spices and herbs and how the dish varies between regions. I am a nerd.
I obsess over stories, TV shows and movies. I can quote movie lines with such fluency that I can carry on entire conversations without ever uttering a single, original thought. Characters are as real to me as flesh-and-blood people, and I learn a lot from their successes and mistakes. I am a nerd.
Nerds live passionately. We love deeply, and we root strongly in those areas of life that we enjoy. We believe than anything worth doing is worth going overboard.
But never, not once, have I worn a pocket protector. Never, not once, have I worn suspenders with mismatched shirts and pants. I may not have grown up with the “cool” things… but I still dressed myself respectably, and so did my nerdy friends.
We’ve come a long way in our society, and now we hear “being a nerd is cool.” On many levels, this is true, but stereotyping is still ugly. While my friends’ children all looked very cute and happy, there is still an unstated, underlying sentiment of “nerds are something to poke fun at.”
Today, I’m wearing a pair of dress slacks, a purple sweater, and my coveted, name-brand Guess jacket of doom. And I am a nerd. Always have been, always will be. I’m proud of my nerd status. I am unapologetically myself, and I’m passionate about what I love. That’s what being a nerd is all about.
That’s why being a nerd is awesome. And don’t let anyone tell you that that thing that you love is a thing that you can’t love. …you find the things that you love, and you love them the most that you can. – Wil Wheaton
The entire transcript of Wil Wheaton’s, Why It’s Awesome To Be a Nerd.