Ann Arbor, Hockey, terrible ideas (of others), terrible ideas (of mine) and the occasional practical joke on my dad. I work at Quack!Media.
Since this has been coming up with increasing frequency, it’s time to write it down; you’re probably not a nerd. Also, if we’re being totally honest, it does bother me a little when you claim to be.Yesterday I was invited to something called Nerd Nite Ann Arbor to which I asked whether it was real-nerd or faux-nerd. Some responses offered up interpretations of the definition of “nerd,” all of which are way off - generally representing the result of being a nerd, and not the weird, uncomfortable, lonely sometimes even gross life of a nerd.
Watching Star Wars does not make you a nerd. Knowing a sentence in Klingon does not make you a nerd. Being into math does not make you a nerd. Liking comic books certainly doesn’t make you a nerd. Being chubby, smelly, and/or ugly does not make you a nerd - but being a nerd can make you all of the above.
So what is the definition of nerd then? As a nerd, social situations are terrifying. Being around other people is one of the more stressful things I can imagine. It’s uncomfortable, I don’t know what these people are doing and why, and I certainly don’t understand why it’s fun.
As a nerd, I spent a lot of time alone, or with a very (very) small group of other people who also can’t relate. In middle school and high school this is very hard. I spent a lot of time being very lonely. I was much to old to cry the last time I cried about not having anyone to sit with. My fundamental misunderstanding of what made people social/cool caused me to buy a ton of silk shirts (it was 1992) to wear to school. That particular stunt ended up in getting made fun of by 6th graders (I was in 8th).
In a nerd’s alone time (so much more comfortable than social situations) we watch movies. We over analyze TV shows. We eat an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos by ourselves (remember the gross part?). We retreat into fake worlds of fantasy, RPGs, comedy, music, comics and the other stuff that is commonly co-opted as nerd culture.
This guy explains things pretty well. If you haven’t spent six hours by yourself designing a pen-and-paper role playing character (I like RIFTS - Michigan Represent) you’re not a nerd. If you never told your parents you were going to hang out with friends and then sat alone in your car reading - you’re not a nerd. If you never spent a ridiculous amount of money on something you thought would make you cool, only to have some sixth graders make fun of you - you’re not a nerd.
Sure, you like some nerdy stuff. You like to dress up like a nerd. You like to go to Nerd Nites and drink, laugh, and possibly make out with girls/boys - but that’s not nerdy. Keep in mind that I paid for that word with tears and tittie-twisters. One time in high school someone accidentally invited me to a cool-kid gathering, so when I went to get my coat they accused me of trying to steal stuff (really).
But wait you say - “Al, I know you - You’re not a nerd then. You have a girlfriend, an expansive social network and dammit if you don’t have beautiful hair.”
Just as you dress up and play nerd, I’ve had a lot of alone time to learn how to dress up and play socially adept. Rest assured that to this day, I go home, put on some mustard-pants, exhale deeply and silently play Civilization V until 4AM because I can’t sleep from the stress.
If you really want to go to a Nerd Nite, and you really want to be a nerd; check out the basement of Get Your Game On … just about any night. Play some Magic: The Gathering. Bring some RIFTS & Cool Ranch to my office and we’ll do a pen-and-paper night - all night. What? Playing the same game for 12 hours doesn’t sound fun? You’re not a nerd.
Here’s a video of some people who are not nerds, and please remember that while you’re slumming, people actually live here.
I had a bitch of a time finding out whether we had a new library, parks/arts were funded or not, who our supreme court judges are and most importantly whether Admiral Ackbar made a dent in the Ward 1 city council race… here they are: