Today I’m going to talk about being a nerd. So before we get started properly, let’s define what that means, and for that we go to Wil Wheaton’s proclaimed King of the Nerds, Chris Hardwick, founder of Nerdist. In various interviews, he’s given the following definition: “a little awkward…hyper obsessed and focused and incredibly passionate about the things that we are into.” So there you go. That’s a nerd. He lumps geeks into the same category, because at this point in time, they are basically the same thing. And this nerd label is one that I will gladly accept. I am a nerd, and I am proud of that. But the real crux of this post is about embracing your nerdiness and not being afraid to show it. That’s part of why I’m posting these photos of myself, some of them TERRIBLE. But let’s get started.
So, the number one thing to do when you’re trying to embrace your inner nerd is to just realize that you are enthusiastic about the world, and stuff in it. Once you’ve figured this out, stop worrying what other people think. I know – this is hard. This is something I’ve struggled with too. But as long as you care what strangers think about you when you’re doing something you love, it taints that love. If you care that other people can see you in your Wonder Woman costume on the way to opening night of the movie, maybe you’re not ready to go out in costume. So start smaller. Have friends and family take photos of you having fun out in the world. I’ve got here photos of me in regular attire just having fun – sledding like a goofball, posing with the Duke Dog at JMU Bridgeforth Stadium with my head in his mouth. These photos were later posted in a public place, and people could tell I was having a great time. I wasn’t wearing a costume, but I think people could look at the joy in my face (or expertly feigned horror) and see my enthusiasm.
If you’re the kind of nerd who wants to wear costumes more, but you’re afraid about what people will think (see above), use an acceptable costume occasion to your advantage. I love the Renaissance Festival for this (see lead photo), even when I was wearing my crappy homemade (by me, so I’m allowed to call it crappy), held together with a literal shoelace costume. There are so many people there in various states of costuming, and if you make an effort, it’s going to be appreciated by someone. Even if that person is yourself. But if you’re looking for a “go out in public” costume time, Halloween is your best friend. It’s also a great time as a woman to choose a non “cute” or “pretty” costume. Too often these are the choices that the ladies get. Here’s one of my favorite costumes I made (yes, made: electrical tape stripes on a thrift store soccer shirt) – Peppermint Patty from Peanuts! That was the most comfortable costume I ever wore, and I got so many compliments and questions from people asking about how I managed to make that signature bubble swoop in my hair (especially since I didn’t have bangs at the time) – the answer is lots of bobby pins, and so much hairspray. And when this Charlie Brown showed up – it was a great opportunity to take a picture with a stranger!
And that picture with Charlie Brown is another reminder – other people are excited about the things you love too! If you need this verified, search for your favorite thing on twitter. There are other people who are probably talking about it more than you know. I have a friend who LOVES ancient warfare and weaponry, and he spends more time on twitter (and facebook) talking about it than you would believe. My dad has loved model trains since he was a kid, and did you know that there are multiple magazines that cater to different kinds of model train enthusiasts? So if you’re debating whether you should dress up for that movie opening like bitty baby Maggie back in 1999 (for Star Wars Episode I), especially if it’s opening day or a midnight showing – do it. People who go to see movies that early do it because they love that thing too, and even if they’re “judging you”, there’s a good chance it’s only because they’re jealous they don’t have the guts to embrace their inner nerd.
And really, being your nerdy self in a public way is really about conquering your fear, or at least being less afraid. If you’re still afraid of being openly nerdy about a thing, find a friend who loves that thing as much as you and be nerds together. Find a geeky tee shirt with your beloved thing on it, and wear the crap out of that shirt in public. People who know what it is will notice and will probably say something encouraging, and then you’ll know you’re definitely not alone. I did this with a guy wearing a Critical Role tee shirt at the Renaissance Festival last year, and we high-fived, and it was like doubling-down on our nerdiness in the best possible way. Living your life in fear that others will find out what you love is a terrible way to live. Be free, my nerdlings, and live a better life!
Ok. So that was not the best, but I know my readers are also nerds. Let me know what other advice you would give to people who are hesitant to wave their nerd flag and let other people know that they have specific and deeply enthusiastic tastes. How would you encourage others to be more open about the things that they love? How is your own life better for being a proud nerd about your favorite things?