Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: nerds

Geeky and Cool


If you would see the family “caricature” drawn years ago on a vacation in Cape Cod, still hanging on my mother’s wall of family shame, you might say, “Boy, Neil, you must have been a geeky teenager!”  Looking at myself back then, I would say you were probably be right.  Yet, I would still have the problem of identity that I was discussing yesterday on my blog.  Was I really a geek?  How do I give you, the reader, a fuller picture of reality?  Or even more importantly, how do I see myself honestly without spending thousands of dollars in therapy?

Despite my goofy caricature, I did not walk around at the time thinking, “I am a geek.”  I went around thinking I was smart.  I was shy with girls, but at the same time, I knew my time was coming.   Basically, I was a neurotic mess, but sexy in my own mind.

Movies and TV shows rarely portray nerds and geeks realistically.  A few years a go, I wrote a post about the TV reality show “Beauty and the Geek.”  In this show, a male geek is teamed with a beauty queen so they can “learn” from each other and win the competition against other teams.  As expected, the beauties meet the unsocialized guys with the broken glasses and unzippered pants and go “yuch,” while the geeks drool over the perfect blond cheerleaders.

Eh, I never bought it.   If these guys were really geeks, they would be comparing knowledge of Battlestar Gallactica triva, not wasting their time on these dopey women.   Some of these women were so dumb, picked that way for entertainment value, that I couldn’t understand why these guys would be remotely interested in them.  Yeah, yeah, men care about the boobs, but as a certified geek, I know that we also have high standards.   We fantasized about the hot girl in high school, but she was also the one running for class president!   No nerd or geek ever wanted to go out with a cheerleader!  We made fun of you.  Pop culture is so one dimensional, thinking that “hot blondes with boobs” trumps all, that the geeky writers who work on these shows forget their OWN experiences as geeky high school students.  Maybe the geeky writers are so desperate to portray themselves as the nice guy underdogs, that they forget that nerds and geeks can be assholes, too, mocking the pretty girl who doesn’t know the name of the vice president.

My high school was a NYC public school, vastly different than the suburban schools you see most movies.  As in any school, there were cool kids, but I don’t recall it being extremely clear-cut who was “in” and who was “out.”  There were athletes, there were druggies, there were criminals-in-training, there were math geniuses.  The “coolness” was segmented, which is probably too complicated to deal with a true to life movie script.  It is the same way that people say that “blogging is like high school.”   Of course it is — if you just hang out with the mommybloggers or the daddybloggers or the BlogHer bloggers, or the African-American bloggers, etc.   Outside of each niche and the set in stone hierarchy, no one might even know you exist.  I know when I was working on the yearbook in high school, I felt like I ran the school.  So did those working on the school newspaper.  So did those on the basketball team.

We all want to be the sun in our own universe.   When I worked on a TV show, every niche of the production team believe himself the true creative force.  The network executives who bought the show considered it their own.  The writers felt that the words were based out of personal experience.  The actors ignored the writers and acted like the dialogue flew out of their mouths through osmosis.  The advertisers saw the show as a vehicle to sell their products.

The mind is powerful, and distorts reality, usually putting yourself in the starring role.  So, yes, I was geeky back then, as can be seen in that caricature, but despite what anyone might have thought at the time, I considered myself quite cool, even if I was still trying to figure out how to ask a girl out on a date, something that has never quite been resolved.

The question remains:  what is the real reality — how I view myself now, how you might view me, or how I actually viewed myself at the time?

Another Myth Busted

Revenge of the Nerds

Revenge of the Nerds

In print and in movies, I frequently encounter the cliche about the nerdy kid, beaten up in elementary school, who grows up to become a phenomenally-successful entrepreneur.  Of course, he’s not really happy because he’s a jerk now, still having the insatiable need to humiliate his former bullies.

To put this myth to rest, I have my friend H here, who is visiting from New York. We went to school together. H was beaten up all the time by bullies.

Me: H, are you very successful now?

H:   No.

Me:   If you could, would you seek revenge on these bullies?

H:  Maybe.  (SIGHING)  But what can you do?

Me:  Have you ever encountered any of these bullies since elementary school?

H:  No…well, actually, indirectly I do know something about one of them.  He went to Queens College, became a teacher, and now he teaches my cousin’s son’s second grade class in Tucson.   How ironic is that?

M:  How does that make you feel?

H:  Good.  At least I know that asshole makes less money than I do.

M:  Here’s what teachers make in Tucson.

H:  (strong curse)

Another myth busted.   Not all nerdy kids beaten up in elementary school grow up to become successful entrepreneurs.