Nerds Will Always be Cool
In grade school, the word “nerd” was akin to other reputation-destroying names like “bookworm” and “teacher’s pet.” These dreaded monikers meant nothing but isolation and ridicule. They also implied something was wrong with you, that perhaps you were socially awkward or indulged in strange habits. Either way, if you were a nerd, you were different, and nobody in grade school wants to be remotely different from their peers. It’s like being told you have a third eye in the middle of your forehead.
Nerds tended to stick together, moving in a cluster that asked not for notoriety but for freedom to be who and what they were without mockery. Occasionally, one or two escaped their drudge-like social ranks and befriended someone with a modicum of respect. But for the most part, the nerds kept their distance and knew without being told they were less cool than they should have been if they wanted to be included.
It's a Cool, Cruel World
Looking back on the kids who were obvious nerds versus those who were cool, it’s easy to see what separated the two. The former were prone to wearing the “wrong” clothes or enjoying an activity that hadn’t yet gained social acceptance. For instance, in the '90s, students who did well in school were nerds. This decade also deemed nerds as those who followed orders and worried about the future. On the other hand, the cool kids went to parties and blew off school in favor of more interesting endeavors. They were interested in cars and popularity, the latter of which came to those who dressed well and endlessly socialized. This is not to say nerds didn’t socialize, but they did so with less vigor because they were not as great in number.
But what is the particular trait that defines one as cool? It’s hard to put a finger on this because a person’s cool factor can change depending on environment or particular group of friends. In some instances, cool means you’re relaxed, as in you’re comfortable with whatever is going on around you. Other times it means you’re a trendsetter, a leader, or an enigma. In still other situations, being cool means you are simply smart enough to blend in with the crowd.
Embracing the Difference
It is this concept – blending in with the crowd – that separates cool from nerd. At one time or another, each nerd made the decision to break away from the pack. But he didn’t do this to cause a stir, as does the cool kid who shows up for class wearing a t-shirt that reads “Cannot find reality.” The nerd broke from the crowd because he wouldn’t deny his true self in favor of social acceptance. Whether this meant indulging in bird watching or joining the Amateur Astronomers Club, he consciously chose to do what pleased him, not what pleased everyone else.
A person could wax poetic for hours about the merits of being a nerd, but nerds are just another valuable subsect of our society - just as important as the cool people, the jocks, the entrepreneurs, and the inventors. Each of these groups offers diversity so we don’t constantly see the world through the same dull lens. Nerds prove that reading books, watching Star Wars, and playing video games are not sins… they simply deviate from more widely-accepted activities like drinking and dancing. Cool people show us that blending in can be beneficial because it teaches us something about societal expectations. Jocks raise our interest in sports, entrepreneurs open our eyes to possibility, and inventors ignite curiosity.
Oddly, as each of us ages, we are less prone to falling neatly into any specific one of these categories. Instead, we form our interests and personalities from fragments of many different groups. The person who was once called a nerd might today be a small business owner, just as the cool person might have invented a life-saving device. The one who perhaps first embraced his differences is the nerd, who will always be cool if for no other reason than because he refused to conform.