October 18, 2001
In Praise of Geeks
Don't bother me with the guy voted "Cutest smile." That guy's gonna go bad on you. That guy will be of no use. Worse, someday soon he will bore you; he will frustrate you with his basic inability to understand human suffering the way a geek can.
Johnny Dimples never endured unwieldy growth spurts or had to wear glasses to preschool. Dimples' parents dressed normally when they picked him up from school in their normal car. Dimples went to the prom, had sex before he was 22 and saw "Star Wars" fewer than three times.
Meanwhile, a geek was home on prom night in the garage with a set of beakers and tools, building character.
Give me a guy who grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, whiling away Friday nights in front of the Atari and watching reruns of "Mr. Belvedere," and I'll give you the sexiest thing on the planet.
First, the obvious. The geek can take care of business. He can upgrade your RAM, hook up your modem, make your applications run faster and suck your important documents back from the black hole they fell into. He can talk particle physics, photosynthesis and homeostasis. Quite possibly, he speaks several languages. He knows when major Civil War battles took place. He has memorized literary quotes, or at least lines from "2001: A Space Odyssey." He may not fit into the world, but he knows how it works.
This doesn't sound romantic until you consider the paradigm of the Professor from "Gilligan's Island." If you ever wanted to get off that island, he was your only hope. He could make a conch shell into a radio. Maybe he never succeeded, but you knew it was possible. Stilted? Yes. Socially awkward? Yes. Your only hope for deliverance? Obviously.
Starsky, Hutch, Ponch, John -- they did nothing for me. I'm still trying to find that Professor.
It used to be the big burly guy was a girl's best bet because he could go out and club dinner.
Not long ago, carpenters, plumbers and handymen were the thing (see: any Playgirl from 1972 to 1986). For the same reason, today's geek is appealing. It isn't just a matter of convenience but of security, of safety. A geek can think his way out of a jam, protect you from inefficiency. When you're in geek hands, you're in good hands.
There's something basic about the thrill of watching a man rewire a toaster. It's a thrill emanating from the brain stem, telling us our offspring will thrive and prosper and know how to pirate software off the Internet. It's survival of the fittest, digital Darwinism, the female medulla reconfigured to ditch Superman for Clark Kent.
There are mean geeks that never bounced back from the humiliation that was life before college. Avoid them. They are angry.
Mostly, though, geeks tend to be kind-hearted as a result of copious anguish during adolescence. While many have since grown into their bodies, acquired contacts and earned stock options, they still seem genuinely grateful for female attention, the kind they never got when they wore their geek on their sleeve. They're happy to have you around and they show it, sometimes by writing a love note, more often by writing you a program to streamline your billing.
I've often wondered: Does being brilliant separate you from your peers, thereby creating isolation and geekiness? Or, does geekiness necessitate having to pick up interests the winners have no time for? Which came first, the chicken or the egghead?
I'd have to ask a geek. He'd know. Or she'd know, which brings me to an important point. Girl geeks are pretty darn hot, it's just that most guys aren't wired to see that.
The company of girl geeks captivates me especially, because they've eked mastery of quantum mechanics and HTML out of a world that just wants them to have nice teeth.
As for me, I've always straddled geekdom. I'm smart enough to know who the truly smart people are and dense enough to think I might have something to offer them in exchange for all their cognition.
But as the height of stupidity, I may have limited my own geek pool by pointing out their boyfriend supremacy. There's going to be a run on dorks! A shortage of Smarty Pants! Caltech will be swimming with chicks! Oh well, after years of inventing our vaccines and miniaturizing our processors, they deserve it.
Teresa Strasser is now on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.