Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Edition #2: Full Frontal Nerdity!

Well, last week’s debut of this new column was pretty well-received, so I suppose onward an upward is the way to go from here!

An anonymous person posed a question to me the other day, and in the ensuing back and forth we came to address a more general issue in addition to the specific question asked. Intrigued? Okay, enough with the intro.

At what point do you reveal to a date that you are a raging nerd? (Specifically, if you are female and he is male and as far as you know, not geeky or nerdy in any way.)

I don’t think there is any specific time or way. I mean, as it comes up?

Yeah, but what if it comes up early, like, first-date early? And I am a RAGING nerd, not just a Star Trek fan. An “I hate JJ Abrams” level Star Trek fan, a “let me show you my thesis on the reboot” level Star Trek fan.

I’d say talk about what’s relevant to the conversation – let the guy know what he’s in for. I mean, I’m not saying give him your kindle and be like “LOOK AT THIS METRIC BOATLOAD OF FANFIC I’M READING” but “oh, in case you can’t tell, I’m a huge nerd” seems like a perfectly legit thing to say.

Like if the conversation is about Star Trek, and you start rambling about all your opinions, it’d probably be kind of charmingly self aware to say, “Um, I kinda have VERY STRONG FEELINGS about this.” As a rule, a little self- deprecating humor makes plenty of quirks go down easily.

Which is NOT the same as apologizing – there’s no need to apologize for being a nerd; it’s part of who you are and how you see the world, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If a person is automatically scared off by your niche of interests or passions, chances are they are a pretty boring person.

Boring is not a dealbreaker!

But boring in this case would indicate a certain narrow-mindedness, and THAT is probably a dealbreaker.

True.

But some people seem boring at first and take a while to warm up to people but then they turn out to be amaaaaazing —

And here’s where the conversation morphed into that aforementioned general issue: When dating, how much time do you give a person to establish themselves before you write them off and turn them down?

And the answer is…exactly as long as you are okay with. Yes, that is the same as saying “there is no right answer.” Sorry. But it’s also the same as saying, “there is no wrong answer.” Sure, there are people I’ve thought were boring initially but after a while, a connection was built and we’ve become close friends. But there are also people I’ve thought were awesome who, upon getting to know them better, turned out to be not so awesome.  And boring people who stayed boring. So yeah, it’s always theoretically possible that that ugly duckling fledgling relationship will become a beautiful swan, but it is by no means guaranteed.

You have to make a judgment call, is what it comes down to. There are different things people weigh in order to make that call. Some people prefer to feel an immediate interest in the person from the very first date. For some people, if the person doesn’t interest them, but there is nothing about him/her/xem that actively disinterests them, they’ll give ’em another chance. If there is immediate interest but also factors of disinterest, it’s more complicated and probably worth allowing it to play out a little longer to see if the positives come to definitively outweigh the negatives.

But if there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether or not you are interested in the person you’re dating, at any stage, you are under no obligation to hang in there and wait and wait and wait to see if something blossoms. You can if you want! It may work! But you don’t have to. If you’re sticking it out, make sure you’re doing it for reasons that you are okay with. For instance: If you feel like you owe it to yourself to find out if it can work, or you feel like you will deeply regret ending things with this person at this point, or you feel like your emotions are on a trajectory and are progressing but just aren’t yet where you want them to be — those are probably good reasons to give it a little more time.

I personally would not advise staying in it for reasons such as:

a) fear of having to start over with someone new (because life is not like TV; you don’t have to keep circling back to the same person; there are new ones out there that you can forge something with)

b) Everyone else (friends, family, parents) thinks you guys are great together (because they are outsiders and only you know what you feel)

c) For the sake of the other person and not wanting to hurt their feelings (because believe me, if your heart isn’t in it, sooner or later the other person will notice and they’ll be hurt all the same).

To be clear, all relationships have an element of uncertainty and there’s nothing you can do about that, and it’s not inherently a bad thing, just a fact of life. But you can still be on the lookout for basic red flags that your internal relationship meter is sending you. Like if the uncertainty is causing you excessive stress. Or if you used to feel happy if someone said “oh, I heard you’re dating so-and-so!” and you don’t feel positively about it anymore. Or if the thought of people knowing and associating you with so-and-so has never made you happy. Sometimes your gut knows these things before your head can catch up. Try to be attuned to that.

Well, golly gee, look at the time! I think I’ve blathered long enough. Ciao!

______________

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#FlashbackFriday — “World Suck vs. World Awesome”

I missed yet another Throwback Thursday post because I was baking and cooking last night, so here’s another Flashback Friday post, originally from November 29th 2011.

 

The chocolate cake I baked does not look like this. But this looks awesome.

 

Warning: I be moderately philosophical here.

For those of you don’t know, there’s an online community, formed around a certain Youtube channel, that I identify with: Nerdfighters. Not religiously, but I keep up with the main videos and read some of the tumblr posts. For basic info, see here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerdfighters#Brotherhood_2.0_project, but for the purposes of this post, the important thing to know is that Nerdfighter philosophy believes that there are two ways to make the world better:

1)   Increase World Awesome

and

2)   Decrease World Suck.

To clarify, “increasing World Awesome” means what it sounds like: increasing the amount of awesome stuff in the world. This can include anything from rocket ships to fantastic TV shows to elaborate Lego castles to settling down and having children. That’s how many people make life worth living — by creating new and beautiful things that weren’t there before.

On the flipside, we have “decreasing World Suck,” which is also just what it sounds like. This is the idea of finding the line against the darkness and holding it there, or trying to push it back. Homelessness, joblessness, bigotry . . . These things suck, and life is more worth living when people work to make them suck a little less.

Basically, as drunk Blaine Anderson said, increasing World Awesome and decreasing World Suck amount to: “Make art and help people!”

What I’ve been thinking recently is that some people have a greater inclination toward one than the other. Or at least, in some areas.

Take me, for instance. I’m a writer. I’m not a crusader, I don’t go to rallies, I’m incredibly ignorant of most politics. Writing is creation of something new and beautiful. I create stories and characters and situations, and I try to be proud of everything that I write, because it’s my most tangible contribution to the world. I should be easily categorized as someone who wants to increase World Awesome.

But in almost every other area of my life, it’s more important to me to decrease World Suck than to increase World Awesome. I want to help people. It’s not something I want to do professionally. I’ve never been interested in becoming a doctor or a psychologist or a social worker. But when I’m put in a position to help, I really want to make things better.

A friend of mine refers to this tendency—sometimes affectionately, usually exasperatedly—as “being a fixer.” I think of it as “being a problem-solver.” But even that’s too strong. I don’t expect to solve problems, to fix, or to cure. It’s not a savior complex; it’s a helper complex. Most problems are much too big for me to solve. So I have a choice. I can hide away and do nothing, or I can help in whatever limited way I can.

Let me tell you a story. Because that’s what I do.

*

It’s a story about me. And someone else.

I was about ten or twelve years old. It was a Saturday afternoon. My family had finished our big Shabbos lunch, and most of our guests had gone home. We have lots of guests every week, generally; in addition to hosting people we like, a rabbi’s house and table tend to be magnets for lost souls.

That day, one of those lost souls did not go home when the meal ended. He didn’t go home when the rabbi bid him adieu and went to take a nap. He didn’t go home even when there was no one left in the living room aside from ten-year-old me, curled up on the recliner with a book.

Instead, he sat down across the room on the couch. At almost regular intervals, he’d heave heavy sighs. Or stretch. But still made no move to leave.

(Before anyone gets worried, it’s not like my parents left me alone with a dangerous stranger. My family had known him for years, and he’s about as harmless as they come. One of the so-depressed-he-probably-wouldn’t-have-the-energy-to-throw-himself-off-a-building type of guys. Mid-thirties, unmarried and unhappy about it and plenty of other things. That probably doesn’t sound very reassuring. Sorry.)

I must have looked up from my book after a while. I must have asked a leading question, probably one of the classics: “Is something wrong?” or “Are you okay?”

Because what I vividly remember happening that afternoon was this: A grown-up poured out his grown-up problems to me as if I could understand them. He told me about a falling-out he’d had with friends, about his constant loneliness, about his fear that even the people who like him the most don’t really like him. He highlighted incidents, tried to analyze them, and asked if I thought he was making sense.

I remember sitting there and being very acutely aware that this was not the kind of stuff you’re supposed to talk about with little kids. He said, a few times, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this . . .” I silently agreed with him, but the rabbi was sleeping, and a therapist costs money, and the rabbi’s ten-year-old daughter was the only one willing to listen. So I listened, and listened, and maintained eye contact, and nodded when he asked if I understood, because I did. And when he finished, he went home.

I don’t have any illusions that I fixed anything that day. These days, he’s in his mid-forties, still unmarried, still unhappy. But he did go home that day.

*

Sometimes, that’s the best anyone can do: be a listening ear, a patient, non-threatening presence. Make the current moment a bit more bearable for the person who’s got more suck in their life right now than you do. I’ve somehow cultivated that presence. People tend to feel comfortable telling me things. I’m not a people-pleaser, but I’m not a people-hurter, either. I want and like to help, and I respect that about myself, naïve and idealistic as it may be.

And then there are other areas where I want to do more. There aren’t that many, and you’ve probably all seen various things I’ve posted about homelessness and LGBT rights; those are two causes that have inexplicably resonated with me when nothing else does.

I also want to adopt, if I ever feel like raising kids. I’ve never felt any longing to have kids of my own — the pull of the World Awesome increase of creating a kid is so strongly outweighed in my mind by the possibility of the World Suck decrease of taking in one that’s already here. Obviously, no objective measure I could use would confirm this, but that’s how it balances on my internal scale.

Most, if not all, of us have our instincts for creation, for increasing World Awesome, and most if not all of us have them for justice, for decreasing World Suck.

Where do you fall in the spectrum? What do you create, and what do you fight for or against?

 

 

____

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#FlashbackFriday — How To Grow Your Very Own Nerd

Since I skipped yesterday’s #ThrowbackThursday post due to my newly-written post on Derek Jeter, I’m doing this instead this week, in my continued effort to migrate some of my old Facebook writing to this blog. Original post was from February 21st 2010, during my freshman year of college.
* * *
This week’s Creative Writing assignment involved writing a “How-To.” Rules: must be in second person, must include 4 lines of dialogue, must be based on a starter given by the teacher, one of which is “How to grow your own_______.” I think it’s supposed to be in story form, but it’s not. Sue me.

 

 

How to Grow Your Very Own Nerd

 

 

If you are reading this manual, you are almost certainly a nerd, interested in raising a child to be every bit as socially incompetent as yourself — an admirable aspiration. Given this fact, it is probably best to begin, gently, with a caveat that no nerd wants to hear: This is not an exact science. Surely that statement makes you want to tear your nerdy hair out and rant and rave that “Yes, it can be broken down into neat little categories with clever little labels! It can and it must!” But never fear. There are some basics you should follow, and when the going gets tough, just remember: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”

 

That quote actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand, but it does tend to sound quite knowing and impressive in almost any situation. Like, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Absolutely useless in normal conversation, but still deliciously quotable. Lines any nerd should know.

 

Which is as good a place as any to start.

 

Tip #1: Show the little guy some movies. Make that, lots and lots of movies. Quote your favorite lines to him until he starts quoting them back or threatens to bash your head in with a rock. Don’t panic that he’s too young for grown-up nerd movie lines — Toy Story’s “YOU are a child’s PLAYTHING!!” and The Lion King’s “They call me MISTER pig!” will suffice until he’s old enough for the real stuff.

 

Tip #2: Get him obsessed with things. True mark of nerdery is obsession. You know exactly what I’m talking about — math nerd, science nerd, movie nerd . . . It doesn’t matter which one, the approach is the same: It’s your field. Know it inside and out. Master it. Get it right.

 

Tip #2 Corollary: Fandom of some kind is, ultimately, negotiable. While some are considered fairly universal—Star Trek and Star Wars, for instance, and don’t mix them up; BIG rookie mistake—none are absolute. It is possible to be a nerd without fandom, because nerdiness at its core is an attitude, a mindset. But if you wish to cultivate a household where the terms “mostly dead” and “flux capaciter” are as familiar as “Mom” and “Dad,” then you should cover your bases. Recommendations: “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel,” for starters. Teaching him the axiom “Joss Whedon is the second coming” would be a plus. Also, steer clear of Twilight at all costs. The additional axiom of “Stephenie Meyer sucked all the awesome out of the vampire genre” would not go amiss.

 

Tip #3: Raise him on British humor. For some inexplicable reason, not everyone appreciates it, so best to start young. Recommendations: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Princess Bride (honorary British).

 

Tip #4: Make sure the first songs he learns are useful, like the Animaniacs’ Presidents and capital cities songs. No need to pressure him into learning Klingon, but if you’ve got some instructional tapes or CDs lying around, pop ‘em in once in a while. Because, you know, nerds are smart.

 

Tip #5: When it comes time for him to start attending birthday parties, allow him to choose the gift he will give. It’s important for your kid to have an illusion of control. But make sure the wrapping paper he uses is the kind that says on it “Happy Birthday!” in every conceivable language including binary and hexadecimal, and teach him that this is the epitome of cool.

 

Tip #6: Be aware that he may notice that he is not like the other children. Learn to respond to such ridiculous sentiments as: “But everyone else in my nursery school watches Barney!” with a firm, “Yes, but can any of them carry on a conversation about Heisenberg Compensators with a fully-grown adult?”

 

Tip #7: Lastly, it is good for your child to have some intersecting points of interest with non-nerds, i.e. the common folk. It is perfectly all right to introduce the kid to sports, but remember — obsession is key. Before he’s big enough to play anything, be sure that he knows the history, famous players, records, and names of statistics of his chosen sport. Some nerd elitists may scoff, but in my highly informed opinion, “sports nerd” is a worthy subcategory for a nerd in the modern world.

 

Well, there you have it. 7 handy-dandy tips and 1 corollary to get you started on growing your very own nerd who will, if all goes right, be unable to get a date to save his life. Good luck to you. Live long and prosper.

____

 

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