The other day, I read this article about quite possibly the greatest Academic Decathlete ever.
Some of you out there are probably wondering what an Academic Decathlete is. You can find out by reading the article, but I know a good lot of you are lazy and won't click (and you really should, so you can understand and appreciate the rest of this post).
The short version is this -- Academic Decathlon is a high school competition with 10 subjects: art, economics, language/literature, math, music, science, social science, essay, interview, and speech. The first seven objective subjects are scored via multiple choice exams. The last three subjective events are evaluated by judges. Finally, there is a team game-show-like event called Super Quiz, which is open to public attendance.
I shared the article with Mr. Monkey, and he exclaimed, "What a nerd!"
"What? Do you know whom you married?!"
Mr. Monkey laughed.
You guys, I know how to use "whom" correctly.
If that isn't nerd material, I don't know what is.
The article was of particular interest to me because Daniel the Greatest Academic Decathlete Ever achieved his record score in 1993, the same year that I was captain of my high school's team and overall champion of my county. (For the record, I medaled in essay, speech, interview, art, language/literature, music, and...math. Ha! The science guy who came in second overall was super pissed.)
I competed with Daniel the Greatest Academic Decathlete Ever at state. And, while I didn't even come remotely close to beating him, I was there.
Everyone there was a nerd. Real nerds. You should've seen the "dance" that we had the last night of the competition. Quotation marks required. Man.
Back then, nerds were outcasts. They were the subjects of unflattering movies. You didn't want to be nerd. That was social suicide.
I feel like I've always been fairly friendly, but somehow that wasn't enough for the popular girls. I still remember when my mom brought Chinese food for a party at school in sixth grade. A classmate exclaimed, "Wow! Your mom is so pretty!"
Then the girl paused.
"You must look like your dad."
The sad thing is that I do look like my dad.
Social networking has heightened my awareness of my past. The weird thing about being a female nerd is that, for some reason, unlike girls, boys have always been nice to me.
Including cute boys.
Who knows if this was because they wanted me to do their homework or if they were unthreatened by my mannish unattractiveness and awkward mannerisms?
The cute boy from sixth grade ("Cute Boy") is my friend on Facebook. All the girls were crazy about him. I wasn't. Even as a ten-year-old, I was very practical and knew my limitations. I could do algebra, but there was no way that I could ever secure romantic attention from a boy. This young realist was just happy that Cute Boy talked to her and said kind things during group projects together.
I only keep in occasional contact with a handful of people from elementary school. Cute Boy is one of them. He is still a total sweetheart, and he still says kind things on my page from time to time. Just a really nice guy. But, oddly, Cute Boy seems completely unaware of just how unpopular I was in sixth grade.
I recall a brief interchange we once had about our old classmates.
"Remember those fun dances at Jenny Smith's house?" (not her real name)
"Dude. I was never invited. LOL."
That "LOL" is laced with a little pain and a lot of self-hyperconsciousness.
Today, however, it seems that people want to be nerds. Or they think they are nerds. And they're not.
The term "nerd" is now so overused and misused. It's really irritating. People say stupid shit like "I know everything about The Bachelor! I'm such a nerd!" or "I was so obsessed with Sweet Valley High! I read them all over and over! I'm such a nerd!" or "I have a Mac and an iPhone, and I read a blog about technology! I'm such a nerd!"
No, you're not. What the fuck? That's not what nerds do. That's not who nerds are. You're too stupid even to know what "nerd" means. You can't possibly be an actual nerd.
You didn't go through all that awful gawkiness. You didn't compete in a decathlon that required No. 2 pencils instead of athletic skills.
And you went to Jenny Smith's parties.
Hey, beautiful non-nerdy people, why do you have to co-opt my term? I earned it, and it's not yours to take. You already have your good looks and popularity. Be happy you're not a nerd. Don't steal my word.