Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Unabashed Nerd

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. - Bill Gates

On the inside, I am all nerd.

On the outside, I am good hair and nice shoes and jewelry sourced from hot spots around the world.

It's quite a different picture from my youth. My hair, naturally freakishly thick and kinky in texture, I rocked a style that I now fondly call, "White Girl Afro." Other kids at school taunted me with the nickname Pyramid.

If the hair wasn't enough to ruin a teenage reputation, I had the God awful penchant for hideous clothing my mom would find on sale at Gold Circle or Value City in Sharonville. Yes, they bore the coveted Esprit and Guess? brand labels, but they were the castoffs, and boy, were they hideous.

Red-and-white checked pants that looked better suited for the table top at a Bob Evan's. Fitted jeans (complete with the brass ankle zips) emblazoned with white polka dots.

My appearance stood out ten fold, and it did little to help me fit in.

Ditto for the cover story in the school paper about how I was one of three people who checked out the most library books during my 8th grade year.

Nerd. Squared.

I recently referred to my passion for words and semantics and grammar and vocabulary. I didn't know what to call it. Is it dorky? Is it nerdy? Is it geeky? I needed to know the definition of these quirky personality traits.

A cursory search on the internet turned up several sources, including a clever Venn diagram.

As it turns out, a nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A geek is someone who is passionate about a particular area or subject - usually an obscure or difficult one.

A dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations or interactions.

I took a very official and completely authoritative online quiz about these segments and discovered that I am 83 percent nerd, 13 percent geek and 35 percent dork.

My inner nerd was first perplexed by the percentages, which add up to a dubious 131 percent.

After I overcame this mathematical conundrum, I thought back to the ways I'm passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

When I was in high school and college, I would frequently read the dictionary. By choice. For kicks.

I still love learning new words and find myself referring to a dictionary or thesaurus almost daily.

I listen to NPR for pleasure. Both in the morning as I get ready for the day, and in the evening when I retire to my abode, I listen. I hang on Jian Ghomeshi's every word at night as I lounge on my couch combing through the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

I Google news. Almost uncontrollably. I will click on one link to read something, that makes me want to learn another thing, which makes me search Wikipedia for another and another, until two hours have passed by and I've learned about book depositories, Dallas traffic patterns and its landscape, Italian rifles and how Marina Porter met her first husband.

I like knowing things.

Sometimes obscure things, like the history of the Habsburg dynasty, and other times I get off on knowing trivial randomness - like the pronunciation of the Austrian fine glass manufacturer, Riedel (rhymes with needle, not Ry-dell).

I suppose it's this passion for knowing that makes me nerdy, whereas the occasional debate about said knowledge makes me dorky.

And yes, I debate about my knowledge base.

Debating is one of my favorite things to do in the company of good friends. Most of my closest relationships involve people with intellectual heft - business leaders, politicos, academics. We exchange ideas, challenge theories and rekindle each other's passion for the art of knowing.

I also am acutely aware of my inner dork. Placed in situations with people I don't know well, I can either demonstrate limitless charm and pleasantries, or the complete misfortune of awkwardness and silence.

It's really a crap shoot in those moments - I never know whether my A game is going to show up, or if I should relegate my gawky self to a bathroom stall.

And if the latter applies, at least it's a good opportunity for me to read up on the latest headlines in the New York Times and primp that good hair back into place.
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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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