Sunday, September 17, 2006


I'm Not a Nerd: I'm Just Ahead of the Curve

Recently, I saw some obviously cool college kids playing Magic: you know that card game which we nerds, geeks and other assorted overly-intellectual and or overly-technically capable social loosers played back when I was in college? I think Magic may be "in" now.

Which made me think: are we nerds not really trendsetters? Are we not really habitually ahead of the curve in certain matters of fashion (well, except I don't think tight-fighting clam-diggers will ever be in style for men: although they were one of those things parents -- because with such pants you don't need to worry about replacing them when they got too tight or too short ... they would then just be stylish -- tried to convince us was hip: also, patches in pants. I suspect the stone-washed jeans and baggy pants crazes began the same way, but this time the parents were successful and regretted it -- and why am I using such a "my generation" against "my parents generation" tone? In another year I'll be over 30 and hence won't be able to trust myself, and many of my cohorts have reproduced ...)?

Personally, I was drinking bottled water before it became cool (I dehydrate easily -- although truth be told, the majority of time, the bottles were washed and refilled with Sparklett's or filtered tap water; I also often stuck my bottle in my lunch bag when the bag was emptied and walked around the middle school campus pretending to be drunk -- the teachers thought it was a hoot, but the kids didn't get it) and I also wore wool caps backward (as an ironic pomo statement back when Alannis Morrisette was still singing bubble gum pop -- heck I knew who Alannis Morrisette was before the cool kids did) before everyone else started wearing wool caps backward or even started wearing wool caps. I also was watching the Simpsons way back when they were shorts on the Tracy Ullman show.

Many nerds I think have this experience of being able to say "I was doing X long before everyone else was doing it" (and people made fun of us for doing what they later discovered to be cool -- this is a political allegory regarding liberalism, cf. Michael Moore's day spent with militia members ... discuss). We could probably make a list: from swing music to the 'nets, we nerds do tend to be on the vanguard, nu?

So why do "they" consider us to be un-cool when we nerds are the vanguard of cool?

I'll tell you how far I can recall bottled water.. When I was a kid many many moons ago in the early to mid 70s my parents had a friend who was on some kind of special diet and when she came to visit, she would only eat the food she brought along and she would only drink spring water she bought that came in a bottle. Water from a bottle? Who ever heard of such a crazy thing?
Hallo Nate! How are ya?

So I guess parents' friends on special diets are even more ahead of the times than nerds?
Well, I fall more into the Geek class. Afterall, I have one of those workshirts and the name patch says "Geek".

Maybe I am a nerd afterall.

However, I have gone through the same thing with my teenaged daughter. I never stopped wearing Chuck Taylor's, and recently discovered that Vans is making the same old canvas shoe, you just have to order them from their website. The Chuck's are now cool, and she is eyeing my well worn Vans as her next shoe fashion choice. On down the list. The Office wasn't cool, before it was. MP3 players (iPods, etc.) weren't cool before they were, etc.

I think that if we nerds are actually recognized for what we are (way ahead of the "cool" curve, and sometimes way, way ahead), then we lose the nerd cache.

And that would be un-cool.
Well, I fall more into the Geek class. Afterall, I have one of those workshirts and the name patch says "Geek".

Greetings Fellow David and Welcome to DAS Blog!

Your paradox is very thought-provoking ... almost zen ...

Regarding nerds and geeks (and jocks):

In school there was somewhat of a rift between the nerds and the geeks (as well as, of course, between both groups and the jocks).

And then someone (not me, actually, though I was the one of the nerds most connected to the story) reminded us of the Lakewood High (a nearby high school to ours) class of 1965 ...

The class uber-jock: went on to become our high-school's most "in touch with his feelings, sensitive new-age guy" history teacher (not that there's anything wrong with being a sensative new-age guy history teacher who wear obnoxious smelling cologne, but it's just not what you expect of the HS QB, now is it?)

The class uber-nerd: after graduation, picked up, left the LA area and became a heroin addict ... eventually recovered and was the coach of our high school's academic quiz-bowl team

The two of the class geeks we knew best: both moderately successful professionals with happy upper-middle class family lifes -- one being my father.

Interesting how life turns out: the race is not to the jocks nor the battle to the nerds, but the geeks shall inheret the Earth (or at least the trappings of the bourgoisie).
One of my best friends refers to himself as "Uber Geek" ( no false modesty evident).
The water-drinking thing caught my interest. I'm Type 2 diabetic since 2 1/2 years ago. One of the supposed causes of this epidemic is people not recognizing the symptoms of thirst and drinking clear water in response!

an interesting point -- perhaps fashion trends are dictated by health trends?

actually, when my dad developed type II diabetes, what happened is he would get so thirsty in such a way that water wouldn't do the trick, so he would drink soda, which of course made matters worse, so he would drink more soda, and so on in a viscious cycle ... he was starting to act even more ditzy than usual on account of all of this, so he was convinced to go to the doctor wherein a blood sugar test revealed diabetes.
I think I was pre-nerd, don't remember the word ever being used in high-school. I think I'd have not been cool enough to be a nerd.
I don't think we nerds were quite cool in our own time ...

As to when and how the word nerd started, that is debatable, but it's definitely Midwestern in origin. My (first) cousin (once removed) Jesse claims they started using the word (and claims a Yiddish origin for it) in Duluth when he was in high school there in the 1950s.

I suspect when you were in high-school, the word was around, it was just still localized to the upper midwest.
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