In seventh grade, in the back of my parents’ car, on the way home from another disastrous school-wide dance, my friend Rebekah and I lied to each other in the nicest possible way.

“Nerds,” we told ourselves, “Are awesome.”

They were the most misunderstood subgroup in the high school hierarchy. Everyone should want to be one. Those snotty popular girls who had hurled insults down the school hallway toward us that night? They were just jealous. And they were wrong, too, because we were most assuredly not nerds.

Okay, fine, we admitted as the car turned a corner and a street lamp splashed yellow light into the back, highlighting our awkward hair and gawky arms. So what if we sort of were? It might not be permanent. If we could outgrow training bras, dollhouses with hand-painted shutters, and unrequited crushes, we could outgrow this. Nerdhood? Already speeding into the past, baby.

Only, that was a lie. The biggest of all.

Because now, two decades later, I have realized something. Almost every major decision I have made in my life has depended on my latent nerdhood, from my English major to my novel writing. And every purchase backs it up. The deluxe, shiny black Scrabble board on its spinny little stand. The pressed-wood clipboard and cushy mechanical pencil whose sole job is to support our nightly New York Times crossword habit. The books spilling off the bedroom shelves. This laptop, on which I’ve written novels in my free time instead of shopping at the mall, loitering around the bike racks, slipping frogs into the principal’s pillowcase, or whatever it is the cool kids do at age thirty-five.

I am a nerd, a bookworm. Still. Always. Even when I hide it. I have not outgrown it, and I probably never will. And lately I’ve decided I don’t want to. Because the hobbies that earned me taunts when I was twelve make me happy now. I embrace them.

I will always read novels in public, and scribble in notebooks, and continue to not know the rules of football. I will be introverted and sometimes awkward, and see my tendency to lean against walls at parties as character research. I will be bookish. Someday I will probably wear glasses. I will never be graceful. I will never be cool. But I’ll take joy over those things any day. And that’s one thing that has changed.

Because you know what? We were right, that painful, long-ago evening. Nerddom is awesome. So are confidence and joy and doing what you love. The rest really doesn’t matter.

What about you? Are you anything like you were in high school? Most importantly, what kind of nerd are you?

  • Vicki Tremper

    Well, if nerd equals intelligent, witty, and well-read, then call me nerd, baby! Great post, Caryn!

    • Caryn Caldwell

      Woohoo! High five, Vickie! :-)

  • Shelley Sly

    “I will always read novels in public, and scribble in notebooks, and continue to not know the rules of football. ”

    That’s me! All of those things! I’m proud to be a nerd. I didn’t like it as a kid, but now that it’s more accepted (and as Mooderino said, even more popular), I’m more comfortable with it. No matter how trendy nerdiness gets, though, I was a nerd before it was cool. 😉

    • Caryn Caldwell

      Love, love, love this! That’s exactly it!

  • Lydia K

    Nerds unite! I was a nerd but tried to hide it. Now, I’m not embarrassed by my geeky tendencies anymore. :)

  • Molly Spring

    Nerds are the best kind of people. Part of being “cool” is being distant, unaffected, dispassionate about things. Part of being a nerd is allowing yourself to be excited about what interests you, which is why nerds have more fun. The cool kids are too busy being cool.

  • Julie Dao

    AMEN. I’ve always been a nerd and a bookworm. It took me forever to accept that, but when I did, it felt like a weight off my shoulders. People who don’t get it are just jealous!

  • Caryn Caldwell

    @Lydia – That’s wonderful! Isn’t it nice when you come into your own like that?

    @Molly – Yes! Exactly! That’s a perfect description! And it makes me feel so much better about being a nerd, too. I must remember this.

    @Julie – I like to think so!

  • Julie Musil

    Oh my gosh, I could have written this myself! It describes so many of us, doesn’t it? Especially “I will always read novels in public, and scribble in notebooks, and continue to not know the rules of football.”

    You know what I tell my son? Those kids that make fun of nerds might be working for them some day. You never know!

  • Barbara Hartzler

    Shout out to all the word nerds! Guess we’re not alone after all. Great reminder to embrace our bookworminess and enjoy it. And that just takes the pressure off of always having to say the right thing. If I use a random word that no one’s heard of, like bookworminess, I just say, “Hey I’m a writer. I’m aloud to make up words.” Gets ’em every time. :)

  • Medeia Sharif

    I’m a bookish nerd as well. We rock.

    As a teacher I see the cool kids trying to rock a nerd look with glasses, but that’s not what makes a nerd.

  • Caryn Caldwell

    @Julie – You’re probably right! Seems like a lot of former nerds are now in charge.

    @Barbara – LOL! I make up lots of words, too. Hey, some sentences just call for it. (And even when they don’t, it’s still fun.)

    @Medeia – Ha! I love that nerdy glasses are now cool.

  • M. Christine Weber

    “I am a nerd, a bookworm. Still. Always. Even when I hide it. I have not outgrown it, and I won’t. And lately I’ve decided I don’t want to.”

    Yes. That. Exactly. Well said. :0)

    And I’ve been thinking of investing in a pair of those nerd glasses…just to remove any lingering doubt that I could be anything BUT. *grin*

    • Caryn Caldwell

      Ha! That would be kind of cool.

  • Dawn Simon

    What a great post! Love it! Guess what?! I already have glasses, and my hubby and I have rummy tournaments! Woo-hoo! (Actually, glasses are so cool these days some people buy them without prescription lenses as accessories! So glasses don’t count anymore.) I was and am a nerd as well, clearly. Odd thing: sometimes I’m an introvert and sometimes I’m not at all. What’s that all about?

    Have a great week!

    • Caryn Caldwell

      I actually considered doing that a few years ago, but I felt so fake, so I didn’t! Glasses really can look cool, though.

      Oh, and my introvertedness level depends on who I’m with and what’s going on. I’m always an introvert, just sometimes less so than others.

  • Conda V Douglas

    Oh Caryn, this brings back so many memories. I started wearing (ugly) glasses in fifth grade. I managed to be a geek, nerd and smug snot all rolled up in one. The smug snot because I grew up with an artist family and knew all creative people were geeky nerds, so there. Nyah, nyah.

  • carmen oliver

    Nerdy is beautiful! Hip, hip, hooray for book junkies everywhere!! Go, Caryn!

    I was one of those girls who never really fell into a category. But I eventually found myself. The children of the world are lucky that you’re following your dreams!

    P.S. My daughter used to ask me all the time “Mommy, why is the sky blue?” when she was four years old. I plan to write that book one day! And she inspired me to follow my dreams of being a children’s writer because she never stopped asking “When are you going to write that book, Mommy.”

  • Sheila (Book Journey)

    Ummm… you had a The deluxe, shiny black Scrabble board with a spinny little stand???? JEALOUS! :)

    Yup – Nerd alert. My name is Sheila and I am a bookaholic. Always, like you, books over sports. Books over the mall. To this day I would rather spend a Saturday evening writing or curled up with a great book.

    Loved your post!

  • Caryn Caldwell

    @Conda – LOL! That’s fantastic! I’m so envious of your confidence. Wish I had had that in high school.

    @Carmen – That is a GREAT idea for a book! There’s so much fun stuff you could do with that idea, too. Go, go go! Do it! :-)

    @Sheila – Yeah, we love that Scrabble board! We used to keep running games on our coffee table, and the tiles stayed put because the cats couldn’t knock them off. So nice. Oh, and your Saturday evening plans sound great to me!

  • Heather

    But your nerd friends think you’re way cool. So that’s gotta count for something.

    • Caryn Caldwell

      Awww. Thanks! Just having friends like you is cool enough for me. :-)

  • Christine

    I really enjoyed this post! We should all be nerd and proud. I myself am a girly nerd that also likes swords, lizards, and sharks. 😀 And I, too, can’t follow football to save my own life. I’d rather read!

  • Valerie

    I just got some totally cool, super nerdy socks that my kiddos (and me) love. Yellow socks with black mustaches, lavender with unicorns, Batman socks WITH CAPES. Even twelve year old kids that know everything like these socks.

    Nerds are interesting, multi-dimensional and have personalities. They spend far more energy on worthwhile activities rather than 1) what everyone else thinks and 2) appearances. You go girl!

  • Pamela

    Great post; as a fellow nerd I LOVED it! I was so the gal against the wall at parties doing character research…that made me smile! Now I talk, but I still own the introvert inside:) And the Father’s Day gift I got for the hubby: A Star Wars Darth Vader t-shirt reading “Who’s Your Daddy?.” It is all about the joy of being yourself!

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