Nerds Become The Most Eligible Bachelors

Misjudged throughout their schooldays, nerds emerge like butterflies to take the best prizes

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The surface appearance of the type of student we call ‘the nerd’ is not in the least bit promising, not by conventional standards anyway. Nerds may hold a deep admiration for comic book creations, but when it comes to brawn and bravery, they sit at the other end of the scale to their (super) heroes.

No, their powers take longer to be noticed.

It all starts at school. Never late, never brash or insolent, hardly ever hasty, nerds sit too close to the front of the class to be cool. They put their hands up to answers teacher’s questions with too much enthusiasm, sometimes straining at the elbow to be picked. In the eyes of everyone else, the teachers and the nerds have surrendered to the same craven deity of learning who invented the school bell, the timetable and the detention. If there are rules to be followed, nerds love to know every nuance of them.

Acknowledged here is that nerds are a deeply competitive group. It’s not just a love of learning but also a love of out-learning that drives them. However, the distribution of honors, garlands, trophies, medals, gongs, salutes or ribbons is not their goal. Public recognition is the least of all crowns. The jury that really matter is the peer group of other nerds, their splendid foe.

As such, other types of public affirmation are ignored too. Hence, their clothes don’t fit. Or should that be, their clothes fit too well, and that’s the problem. Bad jewellery, the wrong shoes, hair that parts into ‘curtains’ along the center or is combed (combed!) into fine ridges, or else just flops in flocculent curls that are too clean and floppy to be anything other than a mishap.

Athleticism is out of the question. At the mention of ‘sport’, nerds flinch with wary cynicism. The indelible experience of being picked last for the team is a humiliation that is only made worse by the sense that the playing of the sport gets you nowhere: you run around a track and end at the beginning. It just gets you out of breath.

As such, the most popular muscle groups — quads, glutes, abs, traps, pecs, delts, triceps — are more or less taboo. The only physiological talent that matters is reflex speed, Luke Skywalker’s most fundamental power, perfected by and for the art of video gaming.

With the opposite sex, the nerd is classically shy. His approach with girls — let’s assume we are talking about hetro-boys here, though girls can be nerds too — falls somewhere between servitude and schadenfreude. The nerd is mess of contradictions. Like his nerdish friends, he claims girls are stupid and vain, and yet he admires them deeply and when in their company he adopts a rather acute form of unctuousness. Because he can’t iron out this knot of hypocrisies, he more or less gives up on sex.

And then things begin to change.

All it takes is a little shift of accentuation. A new haircut. Or a new shirt for a job interview.

Nothing much has occurred; except a small window has opened.

It usually happens after the age of about twenty-eight or so. After spending years reading fantasy novels by the likes of Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke (in fact, anyone who makes initials of their name, including Robert A. Heinlein and more lately J. K. Rowling), watching obscure German films from the 1930s (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Triumph of the Will) bantering inanely over ironical questions (“Would you call cereal a soup?”), committing to memory obscure facts and figures, building up collections of computer cables, screwdrivers, Allen keys, fridge magnets, Malware, adjustable spanners, blank DVDs, assorted lithium batteries, rocks, coins, USB devices, and during this time never wasting any energy or money on fashion, drugs, sporting events, sun-seeking holidays, emotions, popular music, furniture or hair-styling products, an alternative story begins to emerge.

The ability to recite the first twenty-five digits of pi, or assert that Delaware was the very first state of America, or that in Montana cows outnumber humans 3 to 1, are no longer nerdish bores but delightful party pieces. Friends with children begin to recognize their caliber and start encouraging their offspring to play with them. In such a way, a nerd begins to be seen as an all-rounder, as a thinker and a doer who has no ties and no difficult history, no problematic ex-partners to speak of, no old-flames with ideas of vengeance, no baggage except for the volumes of trivia accumulated through the thousand of nights reading the Times Atlas and the cards of Trivial Pursuit. In short, they are no longer on the margins but starting to turn heads.

Like butterflies, they emerge as ideal bachelors. Never late, never brash or insolent, hardly ever hasty. These terms become terms of flattery, objects of attraction. He is the ideal man. He understands the rules of the game and its nuances too. He can fix anything. Reliable, clever, probably very wealthy by now, the nerd has found his place, no longer at the unfashionable end of the spectrum but at its most highly approved. Their real powers come into focus — as the rest of society learns to value things more wisely.

Written by

Art historian and art critic, writer, artist. Author of “How to Read Paintings”

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