Thursday, April 01, 2010

I'd rather be called a bitch than a nerd.

Today I honed in on my trigger word: nerd.

I said something silly today to a coworker and she walked out of my office, laughing. Then she threw a word over her shoulder, "Nerd."
My smile drooped. I felt sad and well, nerdy.
I probably wouldn't have even stopped to think about it, except the same thing happened to me a couple months back on Facebook! An old friend from elementary school wrote on my wall, "You're still a nerd."
OK, yes, she wrote it in response to my claim that if Jane Austen were alive today, she'd totally be my BFF. I suppose that may have been asking for it, but it still made me feel kind of bad and like I was the last one picked for teams at kickball or something (which I always was, by the way).

In school, the number one word I was called was "nerd." I heard it at least once every single day circa fifth to ninth grade. Sometimes it was me who was using the word. But it's still a label. Other labels that flew around in the air on a regular basis were: fat, stupid, ugly, slut. Plus many others. You may remember them. By all accounts, the word "nerd" isn't so bad at all. It just so happens it's the one that was directed at me and the one I maybe even labeled myself. Weird.

After thinking through these awkward leftover middle school feelings, I decided to just own it. Be a nerd! Take the word back. Now I just need to get this shirt to complete my moving forward process.


Anonymous said...

I was called nerd, Olive Oyl, Jolly Green Giant, daddy long legs, loser, and a few other names that make no sense at all.

I call myself nerd lots (thank you Doctor Who/RadioLab/fairy tale obsessions). It depends on who uses it and why.

But I don't think you are a nerd at all.

amy said...

@mapelba-- You're my second writing friend who loves Dr. Who, so I think it's high time I check it out for myself.
I don't think you're a nerd, either.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nerd. I'm cool with it.

It's funny you wrote this, because I've been thinking a lot about what the "nerd" meant back when I was in high school and what it means now. Now it's almost been commandeered as a compliment and is used with almost friendly intentions. I hear people proudly proclaim themselves a "book nerd" or "film nerd" or bestow that label on to others. It's good, I guess that geek is "in," but for those of us that were ostracized in high school because we'd rather watch anime than the latest Tom Cruise flick, the sting's still there.

amy said...

@chicklit-- Such an excellent point. I've even called myself a __(fill in the blank)__ nerd from time to time! That's so funny, because I just realized that I get my hackles up when someone else calls me a nerd. (And I guess it's only really bad if it's not preceded by a qualifier.) I can't figure out why, unless it's just a visceral reaction to being name-called in school. I think if I come to terms with it, it won't rub me the wrong way in the future...

Robyn said...

I can understand how hurtful that would have been back then. Being a nerd is chic now, though. Take back your nerdy power, and own it.

amy said...

@Robyn-- Thanks! It feels pretty good to come to the other side of it.

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