The Words of a Nerd

My name is Lori and I am a hopeless “Nerd”.  In today’s language, a “hot mess”.  And I am a mom to a hopelessly popular or (much as I detest the word) “SWAG” son.  Mothering a teenage child I don’t understand creates another layer of difficulty in an already frustrating stage of life .  I reflect on our differences today, his 14th birthday.

Too bad there isn’t a “Nerd Anonymous”.  But as “nerds” are fairly anonymous (or when “nerded” wish for an anonymous life), there probably isn’t a need for one.  Yet, “nerds” are the meat and potatoes of society.  After all the concept of “popular” or “elite” wouldn’t exist if just anyone can achieve this identity.  But society worships the tip of any iceberg, no matter how cold or jagged it is.  “Nerds” and “popular” people both allow themselves to be squished into a square peg, when they are hexagonal, or no “geometric figure” at all.

So as a nerd, did I have it all that bad?  No, not really.  But I grew up in a strict religious sect that only allowed skirts, and as I am not best shown in a skirt, I was looked down upon with pity.   I was at times anorexic and always unattractive, an unfortunate attribute associated with “nerditis”.  To cope, I developed a persona best described as a bit offish and surly. But I was smart and, gasp, could WRITE, so I was a reluctantly tolerated oddity,  and voted most likely to succeed, mostly because who would marry me?

Lori pre marriage 018But all those books you read about the ugly girl/caterpillar turning into a beautiful (or in my case, cute) butterfly are true.  I achieved cuteness for all of 2 seconds, but that was long enough to understand that the “other side” had drawbacks as well.  For “popular” persons are stuffed into a role tighter than I ever realized.  As a teen, I longed for beauty.  When beauty came, I realized that all eyes were on me when I walked into a room, that I didn’t know who was my friend or who wanted to date me for my shell. Worst of all, I was exposed to jealous “cattiness”, which stung me to the heart.  If I grew up this way, perhaps it would have been easier.  Dreams are often best kept in one’s imagination.

My son is super-social, but privately he is a mess.  For him, “friendships” are Game Theory come to life.

He recently told me that I had it easy growing up.  “Mom, you have no idea what it’s like.  It’s so stressful to be constantly watched.  Other kids copy me if I wear a certain type of outfit or shoe, or if I change my hair.  If I say something it’s all over school.  Teachers complain that I don’t talk in class.  It’s because I am afraid of giving a stupid answer.”  He turns to marijuana to calm down.  I fear that he will fall to these demons of smoke and mirrors. While he has girls lining up, he is squished into a type of behavior impossible to maintain.  The one item that is in his favor: he is brilliantly likable when he wants to be.  Getting a job wont be the problem, but keeping it?  I put my bet on the nerd next to him in line.


The duality of nerds and elite is a cultural, life stage and personality phenomenon.  A popular guy growing up in the 50’s and transported into today’s world would be brutalized. A popular high school student may not have the same station in college.  In general, popular people are tall, attractive, charming extroverts with dominant personalities. 

While nerds are a lower caste system, we are anonymous, a status that can be free of the spotlight.  We can choose to live the lie or rise above and make life a little better. For a person who does not look in the mirror has 360 degree vision, and the world is seen clearly in its’ vast intricate beauty.  Art can flourish, scientists can create wonders, and they can pay attention to what they choose to do, versus what they have been chosen to be.  While doing can change, being is a static state.

So am I saying that popular people are useless?  Not at all.  They can create castles out of mole hills, make the unloved lovely, and give greatness to others if they choose.  But the “higher you go, the harder you fall”; bravery and the willingness to put their neck on the line is extremely difficult…… an argument I have often with my son.

“Man looks on the outside but God looks on the heart”.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people consider you.  God sees us all as an equal beloved creation.  A great comfort to me.  And I hope a great comfort to you, whatever your lot in life.


11 comments on “The Words of a Nerd

  1. Oh, I don’t envy you at all at this season in your life. I taught boys just coming into puberty for years. You gotta feel sorry for them. Their genes )and their jeans) are so screwed up. It sounds here as if you have a leg up on most moms raising boys. It sounds as if he still talks to you and considers you to have at least a little sense. I raised a daughter who knew more than me when she was 12. Nothing wrong with nerds, my friend, they anchor our society. I didn’t wear a pocket protector and my glasses weren’t broken, but I suffered from some of the same insults and condescension from the “in crowd” during my teenage years. Acne did not help my social status either. Thanks for sharing. You brought back some funny memories I have from my own nerdiness. God bless. I finally learned, as you say, that God looks at the inside, not the outside. And in my case, that’s a blessing. :>)

    • Yes, for us it is better. But, in the interest of NOT writing a book, I did not discuss the reality that most people have hearts that are full of bitterness, lonely but not finding what they seek, hard, full of hate and black with unrepentant sin. For them, it will be sorrow and woe. For God, it is a continual series of “heartache”, sadness and disappointment. I don’t know how He stands to see his beloved creation turn to the evil all around us. As a mom seeing this in her son, I feel the misery of a loved child making really bad choices.

      • I can relate to watching a teenager making really bad choices. I have a daughter who made some as a teenager. She is continuing to pay for them as an adult, though, she doesn’t see it yet. I know your pain. You have a tough job raising a boy, although I will take raising sons over daughters any day. I taught middle school for years. Girls at that age are mean and nasty. I’ll take boys any day.

  2. I understand a bit of what you’re going through with your son. I would also consider myself a nerd 🙂 I use this word affectionately because I think that us nerds are just individuals who are not afraid to express our interests and personalities, no matter how kooky these things might seem to others. My brother, on the other hand, is similar to your son. He was also kind of “popular” in school and I was kind of the older, nerdy sister and sometimes I still feel that way. It was worse when we were in high school together. Now that we’re both adults, it seems we have grown much closer to one another and we understand each other better now, accepting one another’s faults and differences. I know it seems that you have little in common with him as far as interests go, but there will always be that mother-son bond.

    I appreciate the comments you left on my blog. I hope you saw them.
    Have a great day!
    P.S. You have a lovely singing voice!

    • Thank you– I have performance anxiety (which Barbara Streisand also has, so I consider it a weird problem not related to talent!) but no problem with recordings. So now I am ready for you to try it! And delete is my favorite button if it isn’t as good as you want it to be…just like writing, recording never shows the “oh crap” moments when you are jumping up and down because you screwed it up for the 10th time… 🙂 And for your OCD, I am bipolar with some OCD habits, but one can only focus on so many mental problems at one time 😉

      • I know what you mean 🙂 But let me tell you, you are a great singer! I was playing around with garage band last night on my Mac, trying to work out the components to recording my voice. I’m not sure what I should sing. I better keep it simple 😉 I’m sure I will record and re-record about a million times before I think it’s good enough and even then I won’t like it 😉 I’m sure you know what I mean! OCD ugh haha.

        • Get a decent mike and a filter if you can. Mine sucks and I need a filter. Yes, simple is good, BUT you need to be on key, especially with simple tunes that require a fair amount of breath control IE: Scarborough Fair–a killer for sure! If you have music, it will mask flat/sharp notes…and I will be totally jealous.

      • That’s funny that you mentioned Scarborough fair 🙂 I sing that song all the time. It’s one I remember fondly from a time I sang it for contest. I love that song.

  3. Is that really a picture of you in the skirt? You were very cute…not just cute.

    • Sigh, WERE being the operative word! It sucks that youth and “cuteness” is so fleeting! But thank you for the compliment, the “me” back then appreciates it! I once brought in pics of me at that age (22-25 ish) to my work friends and they responded: That was YOU!?!?…..Gotta love honesty…..So I have gone full circle, as many do, I think. Ahhh….to reverse time!

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