“He’s so hot,” my friend said, looking across the bar. And he really was.
He was tall, lean, with the strongly-defined features and three-day scruff that is near-mandatory for a EuroBro of his stature. He had olive skin and black hair and everything about him screamed “I just came back from a few days on the Mediterranean coast, where I belong.” When he talked, people listened. When he saw a girl he liked, he approached her with no hesitation. And in his perfect, near-blinding hotness, he became almost invisible. He was handsome, yes, but he knew that he was handsome, and his complacency radiated from every pore.
“Not my type,” I said, “But I see it.”
All my life, I’ve loved the guys you might call “nerdy.” I love a looker as much as anyone else, but the tall, lean frame and strong roman nose are meaningless if not packaged with a very particular kind of personality. I don’t want someone who is flawless, or someone who floats through life on a puffy cloud of their own self-assuredness, and I never have. Something about that, beyond just not being my type, exhausts me. And what makes someone nerdy, or what relieves them of the existential burden that is knowing your own hotness, doesn’t have to do with video games or comic books or Joss Whedon productions. It’s something much more innate, something much more universal.
We often pick things, like books or music or games, to label as “nerdy” and imagine that anyone who participates in these activities is inherently a nerd themselves. But this is absurd, because what is really universal in the people we call nerds is their passion, and their curiosity. They are often not bound by the desire to enjoy things in measured doses, or to qualify their interests, or to become good at things that have never interested them for the sake of appearance. Someone is a nerd when their eyes light up over that thing they love, and they get all sweaty and weird and zesty and couldn’t care less who’s going to look at them strangely if they do.
I don’t consider myself a nerd, even though I read what might be a lot of books or consume what is conventionally labeled as “nerd culture,” and it’s because I think that I haven’t earned the title. In many ways, I am still handicapped by the desire to please, and justify, and fit in, to the point that I have often feigned interest in things which bore me or obscured the joys I find in things that others might consider weird. Though I try to work on it every day, I am still very much interested in approval and acceptance and falling within a certain bell curve. I haven’t given up the struggle to be perceived a certain way. Nerds have.
The men I love, or am attracted to, are always nerds. They have always decided that what they loved in life, what interested them and made them tick, was more important than anyone else’s opinion of them. When I hear a man talk about his interests with complete, unabashed joy, there is nothing more compelling.
And amongst men, something even more difficult — and perhaps more profound — about nerddom is its utter rejection of oppressive ideas of masculinity. A nerd is not afraid to get excited about things, to express his emotions and opinions, or even to cry. He has come to understand that the painfully restrained cool that is often passed off as a unique kind of virility is simply a way to smother the soul, to pretend that you are not a full human with a beating heart when you only have such limited time on this earth to be one. Just as I am not interested in the narrow definition we’ve come to give to what is a “real man,” I am thoroughly interested in seeing what men can be when they allow themselves to show the full spectrum of human thought and emotion.
I am not interested in the nerd snobbery. I could never win a competition of “who knows the most about this thing,” and such an endeavor is pointless anyway. It’s not about earning any kind of “cred” and racking it up like Scout buttons on your sash. The point is allowing yourself to experience and share the deep joys of being a human, and loving exactly what it is you love — even if that’s another person — without having to obscure it under a few layers of disaffected cool.
A nerdy boy has never played mind games with me, because when he loved, it was, to him, another wonderful thing about being alive. A relationship was another aspect of existence that he could learn about and understand and grow with and find new ways to appreciate every day. When I have strayed from the nerdy boys, I’ve always gotten into trouble. I have had to decipher texts, and pretend that I wasn’t too invested, and wait for long periods before returning calls. I had to play the “I’m not that into you” game, because they possessed a fear of appearing too interested in whatever it was they were loving at that very moment.
“How could he not be your type?” My friend asked, looking back over at Hottie as we walked away from the bar with our drinks. “He is everyone’s type.”
I wondered in that moment if that was really just another way to say that he was no one’s.