I used to be a snob. I was an English major, after all, which is synonymous with "young snot." I was conditioned to admire e.e. cummings and sniff at j.r.r. tolkien. To drink coffee at coffee shops, not to play strategy games at home.
And then I married a nerd.
My husband is a bonafide Star Wars lovin', Risk 2210 playin', Terry Brooks readin', World of Warcraft Night Elf. At my family's pirate-themed party, he came as a CD pirate. He watches Star Trek reruns while playing League of Legends. And just recently, I caught him speaking Jaba the Hutt's language to my daughter, God help her.
And I love him just the same. Actually more. I have a lot to learn from nerds, and you may too. (Although, I must say I did make my husband throw away his Darth Maul boxers upon marriage, a decision which I stand firmly behind.)
I just finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. In a study of introverts, they found that oftentimes young "nerds" who are ridiculed for their Dungeons and Dragons pastimes actually are introverts who have an immense power of focus and passion. They are excellent at sitting still and taking in large amounts of information with passion. It may earn them ridicule as kids, but as adults, they are invaluable assets to companies and teams. (Think Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple.)
But besides just having focus and passion, my nerdling husband has taught me another thing they have that I could have used a lot more of: hutzpah. It takes backbone to like something that you know may get you a swirly at school the next day. While I was busy worrying about what would make me socially palatable to the powers that be, my husband was enjoying himself and being himself. He had the self-confidence to dismiss the preconceived notions of cool around him and simply do what he likes. Novel, huh?
And that is why, although I still do not like Star Wars or Star Trek and probably never will (though I have gained a love for Tolkien and Douglas Adams), I can enjoy and embrace my husband's nerdliness. Rather than conforming, he embraces his passions with gusto and good humor. And that is refreshing.
Growing up, I was what you would call "painfully shy." If you have read this post about my friend-making abilities, you may have already intuited that I am not exactly an extrovert. When I was in first grade, the teacher had me go to a group class to teach me how to talk in front of others - I was too shy to speak up or participate in class. I don't remember the class, but I don't think it particularly worked. I was asked routinely growing up and through much of my young adulthood, "Do you ever talk?" (On a funny side note, my husband was continually asked, "Do you ever stop talking?" And both of us are introverts for that matter.)
Painfully shy. It's such an apt phrase. Because I was so shy it hurt. It hurt to be in a class and fear that the teacher would ask you a question and everyone would look at you and notice how dumb you were. It hurt to be on the playground, trying to tag along with a group of girls you were afraid to be with but also afraid to be without. It hurt to feel like you were always on the outside looking in. Why it hurt, I don't know and it smacks rather of the melodramatic, but it did.
Now as an adult, I'm far more comfortable in my skin, over a long slow process of growing up, I suppose. Thinking back over my childhood, I hope to raise my daughter to be comfortable with who she is. To have the confidence to do what she loves. To be OK being different. Even if that means she likes Star Wars.