I was recently inspired to consider this topic by a Facebook post of one of my friends who suggested that just because she was considering the selections for her Tour de France fantasy team, that she might just be a bit more nerdy than most. That got me to consider what in the world happened to the concept of the “nerd” from when I was in high school to where I find myself today?
When I was a teenager (and yes, this was over 25 years ago… ancient history to some of you), it was not really considered “cool” to be one of those people who stayed after school for drama and choir practice… or to spend hours practicing with the Math Club for the upcoming Quiz Bowl. And yet today, there are an overwhelming number of people who are actually proud of their “nerdy” pursuits. Look at the popularity of the show “Glee” for instance. And who wouldn’t be impressed with the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as icons of the real “Revenge of the Nerds”.
We sawmovies like Napoleon Dynamite or loved characters like Steve Urkel whose quirky-ness and snarky charm have made being a “geek” mainstream cool. Even on the latest comedy “New Girl” on FOX, Zooey Deschanel shows the public that we can love a nerd la femme just as much. The Information Age revolution has changed more than just how we communicate in cyberspace. It has turned that familiar high school social dynamic on its ear. Nope, the jocks aren’t the ones getting the chicks in the movies these days… and no one is trying to steal these guys’ lunch money anymore. Try to slight one of these modern nerds and you might find your social networking site hacked and your Twitter-feed twisted.
For myself, I’m thrilled with the cosmic shift since I have long been a “trekkie” and a technology devotee. When I took the nerd test, I scored somewhere in the 80% range. (I’m not certain if that is because I could point out Johannes Kepler in a line-up or if it was the Klingon-English translation I offered.) But one way or another, I can finally proclaim proudly that I am a nerd without the negative stereotype it once held. So who else is with me? Have you been hiding your pocket-protector since 8th grade? Are you ready to wear your Lt. Sulu costume to church? It’s time for us to own our eccentricities… it’s hip to be geek!
Jenny Michael is president of Women of the ELCA.