Wannabe Nerds - 2005/12/15

Hello. My name's Dean and I'm a nerd.

At the end of my 4-year sentence in high school I took a great deal of pride in saying that. Even to this day I still take pride in calling myself a nerd, but unfortunately the word has much less power now than it did back then. When I was in high school there were plenty of negative colloquiums for the socially challenged, but intellectually adept. Geek, nerd, and dork were labels the popular kids gave the smart kids. As I view the lives of teenagers today I'm saddened that these words are no longer exclusive and direct; they have become part of common speech for describing several mundane activities.

Not too long ago I saw something that really rubbed me the wrong way, and it made me mad particularly because I am a nerd. Let me give you the setup:

It's an everyday thing to see people trying to impress the public with their "things". It's a fairly common occurrence to see a high school jock driving up to the movie theater in the IROC Camaro his parent's bought him for his 16th birthday while his Abercrombie and Fitch wearing girlfriend accompanies him to the ticket. Even to see the two with their $100 haircuts buying tickets for a movie like Harry Potter isn't that unusual. But upon making the purchase to hear this yuppie say "I'm such a nerd" is awfully smug on his behalf.

You sir, are NOT a nerd. You don't even know what it means to be a nerd.

When I was in high school I was a nerd. I had an under-developed body and face full of pimples. My first kiss was at 16, and my first real girlfriend wasn't until I was a senior. I played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2nd Edition) in my parent's basement and discussed the physics of Star Trek with my geeky friends. We were all good at math, science, and computers. We argued about who would win in a battle between the Super Star Destroyer and the Enterprise-D as we played Final Fantasy religiously.

These are things that a nerd does, but that is not what truly makes a person a nerd.

Being a nerd meant you have to live with being laughed at in gym class because your body was frail because you spent all your time on academics instead of athletics. You have to know the feeling of being crushed into your locker by a football player who doesn't know your name and doesn't even care. You have to be stabbed with pencils during class because you won't let people cheat off of you; too afraid to tell on them because they'll pound you after class. You have the stigma of one who was always picked last in sports (who would want you?). You have to be ostracized from every party and social gathering held by anyone popular. You must be pushed, shunned, kicked, shoved, punched, mocked, and laughed at by anyone who is more popular than you, which is practically every one. This gauntlet of abuse becomes a badge of honor for a nerd.

These were rites of passage that every geek had to endure and to hear some dumb preppy kid refer to himself as a dork is a slap in the face to those of us who had to earn it.

This is similar to words like fag and nigger. Both have been used as insults for many years, but now they are used quite commonly amongst the people they were meant to insult. Still, no matter how much a white person may try to act the part, they won't know what it's like to be a "nigger", in the same way a straight person won't know what it is like to be a "fag".

You're probably wondering what is the point to all of this? Well, it's just the rambling of a nerd who wishes for the simple days of thinking he was special because he belonged to an exclusive group. It wasn't a popular group and the idea of it was often viewed as a punch line by most, but dammit, it was our group.

And for the record, the Enterprise-D could totally beat the Super Star Destroyer.

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