Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ich Bin Ein Nerd

Nerddom: A Self Study

The way I see it, there are several categories that qualify one for nerddom, and there are several ways of attaining said status. You have your two basic types: the specialist and the bachelor of arts. The specialist excels in one category only, but because he is a colossus in his field, his qualifications for nerdity are unmatched. He is a the Hero of Minutia. Think of Bill Gates whose computer prowess propels him to the top of the nerd pyramid. I fear he has now become more machine than man. On the other hand, the man pursuing his bachelor of nerd arts might dabble in numerous categories, choosing to dip his toes in several pools (upon whose surfaces, we may only assume, lie viscous layers of grease and Cheetos). His involvement in one of the categories could never secure him a seat at the great nerd feast, but he could graze upon the bounty after the principles have had their fill.

After much soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I hold a bachelor of arts in Nerd, and though I may never reach the great Comic-Con in the sky, I'll be able to tell you the names and handles of attending dignitaries. You might not know it from just looking at me (or maybe you would), but I shall prove it in eight paragraphs or less.

Nerd Category #1: Academics
From the moment I strapped my pink and purple backpack high upon my shoulders, waved to my mom, and marched to the old wing at Rivers Elementary for my first day of afternoon kindergarten, I was an unqualified academic nerd. Scratch that. My fate had been decided the year before when my mom taught me to read and introduced me to the magical land of libraries. Ahh, the scent of new, old books. I cared about grades from the moment I received my first A (in citizenship!), and even when I tried to slack off in high school, I broke out in waves of perspiration if I scored anything lower than a B on even paltry assignments. True, I am adept at perspiring regardless of the conditions, but you understand the sentiment. In third grade, I memorized poems in those old McGuffey Readers (which I owned because Anne of Green Gables owned them - duh), and, staring up at my teacher through prescription Coke bottles, I volunteered to recite the poems in class. My teacher, rather taken aback, responded with something like, "Um...ooook." Additionally, I have won two, count them, two reading contests in my life. I repeat: reading contests. I read more books than anyone else in kindergarten, and I read more hours than anyone in the entire school when I was in the fifth grade. I gave up hanging out with friends so I could win at reading. Furthermore, I create an outline for everything I ever write. I am currently working off an outline to write this blog. Academic nerd: check.

Nerd Category #2: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Let's talk Star Wars for a moment. I LOVE Star Wars. Sometimes I forget how much I love it because my husband loves it so much more (to an uncomfortable level, really), but when I think back and try to separate my feelings from his, I remember watching it again and again as a child. I knew all the lines at an early age, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't familiar with it. I watched the Ewok movies too. Now, loving Star Wars doesn't automatically qualify one as a sci-fi nerd. Lots of people appreciate it; shoot, it nearly won best picture in '77. It is a cinema darling and a blockbuster dream. Nevertheless, I am a Star Wars nerd simply because two months ago, I won a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit while playing against an Imperial Command of SW Ph.Ds. These people were naming serial numbers on Wookie freighters, and I somehow came out with the W. You might argue that I was playing on a team and that I contributed only one answer (C-3PO), but let's all admit that I belong in the Star Wars nerd camp simply because I voluntarily played the game.

To add to my sci-fi/fantasy repertoire, I also freely admit my adoration of all things Harry Potter. The books are brilliant, brilliant, my friends, and I read them every two years, assuming I can withstand the impulse to chainread the entire series. I cannot always refrain. Jonny and I were both on a round of Potter when we got married - he on book 4 and I on book 5 - so naturally we took them with us on our honeymoon. On any given day of our honeymoon, you could have found us basking on the rocky, Mediterranean beaches, deeply engrossed in all things Hogwarts. Collectively, we made it through 5 1/2 books that week (see also reading contests above). As an aside, Jonny co-wrote a chapter with his dad for The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosopy: Hogwarts for Muggles, much to his loving wife's great pride. You may purchase it on Amazon here, or you can pick it up at your local bookstore if that kind of thing strikes your fancy. This little post is not about Jonny, so let's get back to what is important: me. Me me me. Me too. See that? See how I just quoted a sci-fi movie in my paragraph about sci-fi?
Sci-Fi/Fantasy nerd: check.

Nerd Category #3: Video Games
My husband holds a terminal degree in video games. He subscribes to a video game magazine, owns nine gaming consoles, knows about CEOs and mergers and trends in the video game community, and is currently editing a book about the Legend of Zelda and theology. The man is a specialist. I do not have Jonny's expertise in video games, but I'm not claiming to be a professional here. I dabble in video games, and I was once more into Counterstrike than I should have been. (Speaking of which, Lyndee, I repeat my offer for a good old fashioned crowbar war whenever you'd like.) Due to my continued interest in video games in this, my twenty-eighth year, and my tolerance of the pedestal upon which Shigeru Miyamoto is placed in my household, I claim a broad video game category for myself. I may never wallow in a cave of empty soda bottles and chip bags after 72 hours of continuous WoW raids, but I can beat Super Mario Bros. start to finish in twenty minutes or less. I can even grab a hundred extra lives along the way.
Video game nerd: check.

Category #4: Limited Social Skills
Oh boy. This one is painful to admit. Socially, I'm...ok. I can engage in conversation with strangers. I can host parties. I can find interest in others' stories. I cannot always do these without effort, sometimes great effort. I am naturally timid, and though you might not believe it from all the "I"s in just this one blog post, I find it awkward to have eyes and focus on me. I can feel my face burn and redden if I am singled out among strangers. I fall into my natural rhythm once I am comfortable with a group of people. Sometimes I can find the cadence right away, but other times it can take a year to happen. In the meantime, I stare across the table and search the distant recesses of my brain - the same brain that seems to be galloping away from my head - in hopes of finding some topic of conversation to introduce. I don't necessarily say to myself, "I am interested in finding out more about this person and should therefore inquire into this part of her life." No, I say to myself, "Ok, what have you heard other people ask when they meet someone new? What do Lori and Angie say?" Seriously, that's what goes on in my head. This part of me, of course, has been there since the early, early days. I remember wanting to play dress-up with the other girls in preschool Sunday school, but I didn't know how to ask them.

This isn't as debilitating as it sounds - it's just a tendency. I have had loads of good friends, adequate popularity, relative comfort on stage, and countless meaningful conversations - sometimes with strangers. It more manifests itself in a proclivity to retreat with a good book during my lunch hour and to hum absentmindedly at work. Also, in fifth grade, I chose to crochet an afghan on the bus to space camp while my classmates, I am sure, challenged each other to daring deeds and misdeeds. I was sitting next to my very first boyfriend at the time, and I think we talked with each other for about four minutes of that six-hour drive. Despite a romantic and symbolic exchange of souvenir dog tags at space camp, the relationship, you'll be saddened to hear, did not last.

Now, it is well known that nerds the world over are never socially-adjusted persons. You show me a charming, devil-may-care nerd, and I shall show you a hipster impostor. Using a certain degree of social awkwardness as a litmus test, I must declare myself fit for service.
Limited social skills nerd: check.

I believe I have now proved through four simple checks that I am indeed a Nerd. You may never find me at Comic-Con dressed as a Twi-lek dancer and quizzing Captain Kirk about particle condensers, but you might very well find me translating passages of Potter into ancient Greek for kicks. By the way, I tried to study ancient Greek awhile ago, and the practice sentences the primer gave me were HI-larious. "The army of warriors plundered the burning village." "The battles were fearful." "We are not destroying the gates." Oh, you crazy, war-torn Greeks.

I have reached the end of my outline, and that, as you must know, means a stirring conclusion. Perhaps I can sum it up by saying that we all dance in the fountain of nerd, but few of us bathe eternally in its waters. Or maybe we all have a story to share; it's just that some of us share it through permanent retainers. I guess what I'm trying to say is: it's 1:00am and I have to get up in six hours. Goodnight.


Elizabeth Glass-Turner said...

check, check, check, check.

i am nerd, hear me roar. then hear me get my asthma inhaler to counter it.

and emily, MY favorite McGuffey reader poem was "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Harrell Hijinks said...

You crack me up!!!!!!!!!!! Gotta say though, I prefer star trek to star wars.... Though I believe we own the whole set and have spent more than day enjoying our own marathon viewing. :)))

Beam me up Scottie!!!

J Kozeluh said...

Twi'lek not Twi-lek. Duh.

Secret Squirrel said...

I at least qualify for #1, #2 and #4!