There’s A Reason I’m Not Dating A Nerd

There's A Reason I'm Not Dating A Nerd

Good Christ. I just found and read through this. Ahem:

“I’m at the local wine bar and a very attractive hostess is recommending books in the science fiction genre to another (far less attractive) hostess. So far I’ve heard Ender’s Game, Hyperion and Snow Crash tossed off as appropriate for a “newbie.” Is this the Twlight Zone??? Am I a freak to think this is freaky? I haven’t had a sip of wine, so it isn’t the alcohol.”

So now, please let me explain why I’m dating GC, who, while he has his nerdy tendencies (such as an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of baseball, which I find perhaps a little too hot), has no interest in anything even vaguely related to scifi; and not someone who has a fetish for hot nerds.

Whether you call it a nerd, a dork, a geek, or a brain, I am one. I’m a woman who loves science fiction, for example. And on the one hand, I’ve always been proud of my geekiness — much prouder of that than of my looks, in fact. Part of being in a subculture that’s often mocked is that if you don’t embrace it, there’s a good chance you’ll be miserable. So I embraced it. I own my nerdiness and my fangirly glee. But I don’t advertise it anymore, because, quite frankly, I’m sick to fucking death of male nerds being amazed by my very existence.

Case in point. GC and I met when we were both working at Borders. He and I had gone out on a couple of dates before the subject of Batman came up. I don’t remember how it happened, but I suspect it was something along the lines of favorite actors → Christian Bale → Batman Begins → Batman. He likes Batman, in an abstract sense, but has never been into comics. And while most of my friends are hardcore comics fans whose knowledge makes mine look miniscule, I’ve read a whole bunch of trade paperbacks, and a couple of histories/social studies of Batman. I’m definitely at least conversant on the subject. GC was impressed (and perhaps terrified, but he got over that), and in the break room the next week, he asked me a Batman-related question. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only people in the room. Two other guys, both of them nerds, were there. Both of them overheard. And upon affirming that yes, I really like Batman and have a mild interest in and knowledge of comics, I was asked what other titles I read.

This was not a friendly question. It wasn’t the way you’d ask a new acquaintance what they read to see if there’s anything to discuss or bond over. It was a challenge, which they made very clear. The question may have been, “What other comics do you like?” but the subtext was very clearly, “You’re a girl, what other comics could you possibly actually be familiar with?”

But I am, as I said, conversant in Batman and passingly interested in comics. So I answered honestly that I don’t really read a lot of comics, and definitely know more about Batman than anything else, but thanks to friends who were really into them, I enjoy both Green Lantern and Green Arrow. And the guys in the staff room, well, freaked out.

The questions began. First I was asked to establish more credentials, and it wasn’t even innocently phrased anymore. One guy said, word for word, “If you really like Batman, name three Robins.” Because hey, I’m me, I busted out Stephanie Brown, in fact, and not Tim Drake. I was then told that I’d forgotten one. (“No, you asked for three and I named three. If you wanted Tim, you should have asked who the three male Robins were.”) I was asked who killed Jason Todd. I was asked to detail current storylines.

And again, keep in mind, these were questions to establish that, good god, I really was a living, breathing girl — an attractive one, no less! — who was into something nerdy. One of the guys responded with wonder. The other, who many women at the store have had other, far worse kinds of run ins with, was angry and condescending. (Needless to say, he was the one who hadn’t even realized Stephanie was a valid answer to the Robin question.) This all went on for a good twenty minutes (until our break ended, in fact) and through the whole thing I got more flustered and more angry, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until later.

I later pondered and realized that what pissed me off was the notion that, because I’m female, I need to prove to men that I can join their exclusive club. And once that proof is established, I’m still not really allowed into their clubhouse. In the same way that so many nerds consider jocks to be practically another species, well, women are, too. We are Other. We’re confusing and mystifying. And it doesn’t matter if we like the same things, if we read the same things, if we discuss the same things. ‘Female’ is ‘Other’. But a female who is into those same things is put into yet another classification — as both female and nerd (especially if you’re attractive) you’re now a fetish. You’re someone who can share the joy of videogames and comics and science fiction, so he doesn’t have to alter his interests to impress you — and on top of that, you might have sex with him. You’re not just a girl, you’re a dream girl.

I used to be pretty pleased with that. I grew up awkward (as many nerds do) and when I first met a group of male nerds who treated me as Queen Nerd, it was a heady, thrilling feeling. But as I grew more comfortable and confident with myself, it started to feel creepier. I don’t like being someone’s concept, I like being a person. And Nerd Girl is not the same as Person.

To refer back to the title, though it’s a vast overstatement (there are many reasons why I’m dating GC, and I have definitely dated nerds in the past), one thing about the way GC and I interact that makes me feel really good is that he likes me as a person, and not as a Nerd Girl. He likes that I’m intelligent, he likes that I’m happy to kick back and watch baseball with him, he likes that I’m cute. And he finds my nerdiness to be an endearing quirk, one he’s fond of, but when it comes down to it, he likes me for me, nerdiness included, but not because I’m a nerd. And that is a much better feeling.

15 Comments on There’s A Reason I’m Not Dating A Nerd

  1. Mickle
    January 9, 2007 at 6:36 PM (13 years ago)

    Does he understand that the fact that he posted this idiocy on science blogs – fer christsakes – makes it, like, infinitely more idiotic?

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  2. JOHNNY ZITO
    January 12, 2007 at 1:51 PM (13 years ago)

    Whenever I meet another comic fan I get the inquisition too. Like they’re waiting for me to make-fun of them or they need to out “geek” me.

    These guys were probably social misfits before they were into comics and not vice versa.

    Interesting point about being someone’s fetish. So many guys try to make a girl their answer for everything.

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  3. Mary
    January 14, 2007 at 5:44 PM (13 years ago)

    This guy has obviously never been to a sci-fi convention in the UK. I’ve been to around a dozen and the ratio of women to men is usually 3:1, and the women are generally intelligent attractive women in their early 20s.

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  4. Mel
    January 14, 2007 at 7:11 PM (13 years ago)

    Beautifully put–and also the reason my F/SF and computer geek friends are almost all female, while my male friends tend to be interested in other things. My boyfriend is interested in engineering, but he doesn’t like fiction and we met through a mutual enthusiasm for history, so there’s none of that nasty grilling I’ve got in the past when I admitted I was a rabid Star Wars fan (“Prove it,” gag me) or walked into a gaming store.

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  5. triticale
    January 15, 2007 at 11:43 AM (13 years ago)

    Well, I used to read Batman, but that was back when he was featured in Detective comics. I also no longer have the snapshot of me standing in front of the dusty old Lincoln Futura before it became the Batmobile, so I really can’t prove anything. People will just have to judge me for what I am.

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  6. Reb
    January 15, 2007 at 12:36 PM (13 years ago)

    Mickle: Yeesh. You’d think he would, but I have no idea if he ever picked up on that.

    Johnny Zito: You’re right that people are going to want credentials no matter what the group, or which gender. I really wonder what drives people to do this; it’s a game that I, for one, am very sick of playing.

    Mary: That’s awesome. If I ever get a chance to visit the UK, I will definitely see if there are any sci-fi conventions going on. 🙂

    Mel: I almost wish I’d been talking about Star wars instead of comics, and area where I’m much more knowledgable. (Though of course that isn’t the point.) I have geek friends of both genders, though at this point (through coincidence, not design) my closer friends tend to be female. It’s refreshing for me; I’m dating a guy I met through our mutual baseball enthusiasm, but I’ve never had to prove myself (as a basefall fan or a geek) to him. Definitely much friendlier than demanding a potential crush is worthy through a quiz.

    Triticale: Being judged simply for what you are sounds awesome, quite frankly. 🙂

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  7. Orange Mike
    January 16, 2007 at 2:41 PM (13 years ago)

    I think it’s sad that anybody wanted you to establish your “geek street cred” or whatever. Me, I’d want to know if somebody read the same SF books I did, so that I could talk with them; but not for dating purposes, ‘cuz I’ve been married for twenty-five years to a cuddly blonde I met at an SF convention. I do fear, though, that this kind of competitive aggression is encouraged in males (geek and otherwise) more than in females.

    And yes, this blogger guy does sound like 1) an idiot, who 2) doesn’t go to many SF conventions.

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  8. Mel
    January 17, 2007 at 1:33 AM (13 years ago)

    It’s possible the Geek Challenge is just a “male social pattern,” but I was raised to find that sort of behavior rude, “male social pattern” or not, and it drives me nuts–and the place I most often encounter it is among male computer/SF geeks. I don’t get it from men in science, or male history geeks, and only infrequently from male martial artists.

    I don’t feel that I should have to prove my geek “credentials” just because apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do.

    (I should note that I don’t think all or even most male geeks are socially inept and arrogant; but I do find many aspects of male geek culture in groups really personally offputting, which is why I don’t get involved in it.)

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  9. Liz
    January 17, 2007 at 8:46 AM (13 years ago)

    Oh, excellent. I do love geeks but I know exactly what you mean and it drives me up the wall. And I get frustrated at not being able to fix the “queen bee” thing (lots of attention but lots of commodification) and so then just run with it and try to have fun while screwing with people’s heads.

    Having to prove my nerdiness even in the most casual conversation is very annoying!

    It helps quite to band together with other nerdy women.

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  10. Reb
    January 17, 2007 at 6:43 PM (13 years ago)

    Orange Mike: that’s more or less how I feel, even when I’m not dating someone. I think it’s awesome to find a new person to talk sf with; but I’m not willing to jump through hoops to do it (and hopefully don’t make others do the same). Because that just sucks the fun right out of it, and it’s just so *rude*.

    Mel: My problem with simply calling it a “male social pattern” and moving on is that just excuses the sexism of it. Even if their end goal was to figure out if I was someone they’d want to be friends with, they were going about it in a sexist (and you’re right, very VERY rude) manner, which is just…not okay with me, even if it’s not considered behavior out of the ordinary. Especially if it’s considered that, actually, because sexism *should* be out of the ordinary, not a common occurance…

    I should have made it clearer in my post that I don’t think every male nerd is like that, either; definitely most aren’t. I just have had a few too many run-ins with guys who happen to be both nerds and assholes.

    Liz: the queen bee thing is so hard to deal with. When it was happening to me, I always felt serious pressure to be on top of my nerd game, so to speak; I was being treated like I was special for being a geek who was also female, and felt like I had to *earn* that specialness by being geekier than I actually was. At the same time as I enjoyed the attention I felt very boxed in by it, and by trying to live up to the expectations of what I thought these guys wanted me to be, when all I wanted was to hang out and watch Star Wars (or whatever), without the pressure or the attention.

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  11. Dating
    February 20, 2007 at 12:09 AM (12 years ago)

    Nerds are sexy.

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  12. digital_rainz@hotmail.com
    May 24, 2007 at 6:14 PM (12 years ago)

    seems like this post is stale anways, but WTF, we guys nerds never catch break, we treat any girl that will talk to us like a gueen, much less a nerd girl, who is treated like a goddess. True most geeks will do the nerd challange to ensure ur a geek, cause we nerds know that people that want to talk to us are either asswipes seeking to make fun of us in some way or trying to MAKE FUN OF US. so sorry its a defense mechanism. OF course the girls that get cherished by us nerds, get big headed and decide they can do better( shh. which of course they can), and dump us for the jocks and preps. Jeebus, we will never catch a break. oh well ttyl

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  13. Reb
    May 25, 2007 at 10:23 AM (12 years ago)

    digital_rainz…That basically does prove my point, which, as you seem to have missed it, is this: I (and no other women I’ve met, nerdy or otherwise) don’t want to be treated as a goddess. I want to be treated as an equal.

    I may be off base, but my snap judgment is that you might benefit by reading Heartless Bitches explain what’s wrong with Nice Guys. (Hint: it’s not that people don’t like guys who are nice.)

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  14. Reb
    May 25, 2007 at 10:24 AM (12 years ago)

    Arrg, typo. That should be:

    I (and ever other women I’ve met, nerdy or otherwise)don’t want to be treated as a goddess.

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