A discussion over at Bobvis got me thinking about the romantic fates of nerds. I summarized the dilemma as follows:

I’m sure that there are some supernerds that honestly don’t want relationships and I’ve known some, but by and large even the dateless ones I know do want a relationship. They just don’t know how to relate to people very well, meet comparatively few girls, and don’t know what to do with them when they have them. Often they have lofty expectations of what a relationship should be like because they’ve spent a lot more time imagining ideal ones than being in real life ones.

An anonymous commenter rightly pointed out that this applies to only some nerds. Nerds, after all, are typically smart people and should be able to learn. Leaving out for a moment the fact that it’s hard to learn when you simply don’t have much information and a lot of it is incorrect (the reasons that some relationships bloom dead) and the fact that the nerd pool is infested with people of mediocre intelligence that have convinced themselves that they’re smart due to commonality of interests with smart people, he’s actually quite right as far as that goes.

But nerds that can actually learn human lessons don’t actually stay nerds. They don’t suddenly start donning Armanis and watching NFL football or anything, but by the time they meet their generally non-nerdy wives they are no longer immediately identifiable as nerds. They may continue to have the same nerdy interests, but they no longer carry the nerd identity.

Being a nerd is not unlike being a jock or kicker or frat boy. It’s an identity you try on when you’re younger, but if you’re still identifying yourself (or identified as such) by that later in life that’s actually a sign of developmental failure rather than personal tastes. We all know the Springsteen Glory Days stereotype of the young athlete that never quite gets beyond their high school achievements and the frat boys that never truly grow out of it. The same is true for nerds. In fact, the parallel between the nerd whose glory days were in academia when his smarts were all that were needed for self-defined success is eerily comparable to the Al Bundy whose life highlight was scoring four touchdowns in a single high school football game.

But eventually we are to leave the comfortable confines of academia and our parents house and enter the real world. Our interests are supposed to expand. If we do it at all right, the high school (or college) label just shouldn’t fit anymore ten years later. We should outgrow it. We should integrate with the world as it is, not as it once was or as we think it should be.

The problem is, of course, not everyone does. And by the time you’re thirty most of the people that really identify as nerds are the people that haven’t grown. They’re the ones that haven’t found a way to integrate with mainstream society. They don’t have marriages to tend to or kids to take care of, so they just wave the banner of their malcontent. They concoct theories to explain why things didn’t just magically fall into line with them. Mostly, though, they just turn bitter. Above I explained how they become bitter towards women, but nerds are also disproportionately drawn to libertarianism out of bitterness towards the government that has somehow kept them down and drawn to socialism out of bitterness towards the capitalist system that has failed to recognize and reward their talents.

But most of us move on. Most of my nerdy friends are married now and the girl we married was far from the only option we had and I’m passed the point of being surprised about any of this. Most work in the computer field, though not all of them. Some are successful, some aren’t. Some are happier than others, but for the most part we are happy or not happy based on what is happening with us now and not the perpetuation of conflicts a decade old.

That of course makes it a little ironic that I spend as much time thinking about the fallen comrades that didn’t make it and are still stuck somewhere in the swamps. I suppose that I should just be happy that I made it across and I should thank the people that helped me get across.


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14 Responses to Whatever All of Us Had Then In Common

  1. Peter says:

    Growing out of nerd-dom as you get older does not necessarily solve the relationships issue. College is one of the best places, in fact possibly the best place, for young men to meet women. If you were a nerd during your college years you lost this opportunity. Let’s say you’re now 30 years old and have outgrown nerd-dom. That’s all well and good, but chances are it will be much, much harder to meet women at your age than it would have been in college.

  2. trumwill says:

    I actually never really got to take advantage of the college dating market. I was dating Julie (who I met while still in high school) and Evangeline (who had already graduated from college) throughout. With my other friends, though the transition actually occurred during college or shortly after. If you’re still a nerd at 25 or 26, chances are that you’re not going to grow out of it. If you are magically ready for a relationship at 30, though, there are still opportunities to meet people even if it is more difficult. Almost none of my married friends met their husband or wife in college.

  3. Spungen says:

    I suppose that I should just be happy that I made it across and I should thank the people that helped me get across.

    Eh, I’m married with a kid and I’m apparently still fuming about South Park Boy. And the wimpy rumored-gay opportunists who dumped me in law school for girls whose families had more money. I’m sure part of it’s ego, but it’s also natural to care about why. And to get pissed when people say the stuff that happened to you, doesn’t happen.

  4. trumwill says:

    And to get pissed when people say the stuff that happened to you, doesn’t happen.

    Or that it’s your fault or that you’re being dramatic by calling it bad!

  5. logtar says:

    How dare you!

    This post is as bad as the people that lose weight calling others fat… you are a disgrace to nerDdom! You are a coward and a traitor…

    Oh wait, I am not a nerd… I am a geek… and that is somehow different, right?

    the fact that the nerd pool is infested with people of mediocre intelligence that have convinced themselves that they’re smart due to commonality of interests with smart people

    I think that is they key to your post. It is very true that there are a lot of people that are socially inept… but those are not true geeks or nerd but rather people that are inept all over, not just socially.

  6. Spungen says:

    the fact that the nerd pool is infested with people of mediocre intelligence that have convinced themselves that they’re smart due to commonality of interests with smart people

    Yes, this is a great line. I think the key is solitary pursuits and unathletic pursuits. Both are popular with smart people. But they’re also popular with people who are merely solitary and unathletic. The mere presence of those characteristics does not signify intelligence.

    This was something I found very frustrating when I was younger and single. Having those interests put me in contact with a lot of people, especially men, who weren’t particularly intelligent, just dysfunctional. Yet people viewed us as having important things in common. And it’s not acceptable to say, “Hey, I’m like this because I’m smart, but you’re like this because you’re a loser.”

  7. Peter says:

    I think the key is solitary pursuits and unathletic pursuits. Both are popular with smart people. But they’re also popular with people who are merely solitary and unathletic. The mere presence of those characteristics does not signify intelligence.

    On the other hand, it is not necessarily true that all people who are involved with solitary and/or unathletic pursuits are nerds. Or antisocial.

    For instance, to use my favorite example, take watching NFL games on television. While many people watch in groups, others – probably a majority of viewers – watch alone. And although the NFL is just about the most testosterone-soaked brutal sport, imaginable, there’s nothing athletic about watching a game on TV. Despite all this, people who watch NFL games on TV are about as far from nerds as you can get.

  8. Spungen says:

    Despite all this, people who watch NFL games on TV are about as far from nerds as you can get.

    Um, my own experience indicates a substantial overlap between the two groups.

    Unless you’re defining “nerd” very narrowly, as the pathological type that may only exist in Internet mythology. There are certainly a number of football fans among the guys who are socially awkward and aren’t good with women. A lot of techie types also like football. Maybe not the majority, but a not-negligible minority.

  9. trumwill says:

    Paradoxically, popular professional sports are a social activity even watched alone because it’s something that you can start conversations with perfect strangers about. In that vein Battlestar Galactica is a social activity in some circles. It depends on where you are.

    We had one guy at the office in Deseret that was into the NFL (and I was not he), but then I come down to Estacado and I’m having to start paying attention because most of my coworkers are into watching pro sports.

  10. trumwill says:

    Oh wait, I am not a nerd… I am a geek… and that is somehow different, right?

    You know, I thought it was. I thought that nerdity pertained to analytical smarts and geekery pertained to interests. Two distinct groups, though with overlap. But apparently many or most people see them as the same thing.

  11. logtar says:

    Intelligence is at times so subjective is not even funny. I might not be as eloquent as someone that is a native English speaker, so I might not sound smart… however it does not mean I cannot solve a complex math problem or even be more capable of abstract reasoning. When I moved here I was very frustrated because even though I could run circles around people in math (sometimes I could swear even the teacher) I did not know how to say, 2x+6y=?

  12. Peter says:

    We had one guy at the office in Deseret that was into the NFL (and I was not he), but then I come down to Estacado and I’m having to start paying attention because most of my coworkers are into watching pro sports.

    I would have thought that Deseret would be more sports-oriented than Estacado, though of course nothing like Colosse.

  13. trumwill says:

    I don’t know about the populations-in-general, so I’m going mostly off my office environments (people I choose to have out with after work are rarely into sports).

    I got a very weak sports vibe in Deseret for the most part. Some Broncos fans, a few west coast team fans and no real home teams to root for. Honestly the biggest sporting event while I was up there was the World Cup, wherein the former missionaries would root for wherever it was that they did their mission.

    Most of the people I work with around here are from somewhere else, not infrequently a place with a sports team. But mostly the group I work with here aren’t as “nerdy” as the ones I worked with out there.

  14. Peter says:

    I lived all my life in Waterbury, Connecticut until ten years ago, and it had to be one of the strangest cities in terms of sports allegiances, at least when it came to baseball. Articles have been written about it. Half of the baseball fans in Waterbury support the Yankees, and half support the Red Sox (very few Mets fans, for some reason). It’s as close to an even split as you can get and has been this way for decades. Allegiances to one team or the other are basically passed down in families. What’s especially odd is that even before cable arrived in the 1970’s most people were able to get Yankees games on (IIRC) WPIX-TV from New York but could not get Red Sox games at all, and geographically Waterbury’s much closer to New York, yet the Red Sox still keep their 50% fan base.

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