When I got married I was somewhat of a closeted nerd. I hadn’t collected comics in years and I tried my hardest to suppress my superhero fanboy-ness. After our first son was born though, I swung the door wide and proudly began to live my life as a modern-day nerd man! This was, of course, partially dismaying to my wife, who wasn’t fully aware of how extensive my nerd-dom reached. I’ve always been a music-nerd, which she was fully aware of, and early on it wasn’t a hindrance to our relationship. Some of our best memories are because of concerts we went to (she once surprised me with Fall Out Boy tickets and we got engaged at a Waking Ashland show). But comic books…? This was new, and unexplored territory we were traversing into. This “Great Unknown”, this “Final Frontier”… I hadn’t prepared her for this side of me, and it isn’t the kind of personality attribute that’s known for it’s subtlety.
I began collecting again, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid, then I started buying every cheap (and some not-so-cheap) trade and graphic novel I could get my hands on, and I finally set up a pull-box at a local shop so I could get back to reading current stories again. Boarding, bagging, boxing… this was a side of the skinnier, long-haired boy she married that she wasn’t used to. And I’ll admit that I’ve made the classic mistake of going overboard and being excessively flamboyant with my nerdiness, but I’ve also (only recently) discovered that I’ve made the mistake of being too selfish with my nerdiness. This is something I was surprised to learn. See, I’d been trying to S.H.I.E.L.D (see what I did there…) my wife from the obnoxious nature of my nerd obsession when all along it was something that she wanted to be included in. Not because she LOVES comic books or anything, but because it’s something important and special to me, and she wanted to share in that because we enjoy seeing the people we love be happy. So I’ve started making an effort to include her in my nerdiness. This year she and I went to Nashville Comic Con together, and we even took our children. She’s also started helping me with organizing my comic book collection by suggesting that we create a spreadsheet for all of my books, and this is something we work on together. I hate that it took me so long to come around to realizing that I didn’t have to keep my nerdiness away from or risk sacrificing it for the sake of our relationship. There is a certain level of moderation that is needed (you don’t want your nerd obsession to be an grave inconvenience or irritation to your loved ones), but you don’t have to abandon it either.
Now obviously my story isn’t going to be the same for everyone, but as I thought about it, it dawned on me that SO many couples are out there right now completely unaware of the arguments that await them because of a nerd secret that one of them is keeping. I thought, “How many couples do I know that have been through this exact same thing?” A lot, is the answer. It’s obviously very common in men. We have a harder time growing up. We don’t want to let go of the things that we cherished as nerdlings and we carry that into our relationships. A lot of times we get embarrassed and hide it so that we can’t be mocked or ridiculed by people we care about because we don’t know if its safe to let them in.
I decided to reach out to some of the nerd-spouses that I know (as well as my very own Bride-of-Nerdenstein), in order to pick their brilliant brains about their relationships with their significant nerdy-other, and see what insight they might have that could be helpful for a young couple that might be where they’ve already been. Most of them being nerds (or geeks) themselves have some great insight that may be helpful for you if you’re currently in a young, or new, relationship with a nerd, or if you are a nerd yourself just looking for love…
Do you both share a nerd obsession?
Shandi – Not really, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t really obsess about anything. I let Stephen do that. I will enjoy something up until the point where someone might say, “Oh, that’s that thing Shandi really likes.” It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional to frequent nerdiness, I just don’t have a “thing”.
Paige – We both like to play video games. And lucky for him I’m pretty good at video games. We especially love the Halo games (we’ve beaten all of them several times). We also really enjoy the Lego games. We played and beaten all of them close to 100% except for Pirates (neither of us cared for that franchise). They are really fun to play, especially if the subject matter is something you already love. I’m sad to say that Lego Harry Potter did not do the franchise justice.
Kari – Yes and No. We share a love of Super Heroes, video games and certain TV shows. He does not, however, share my obsession of Doctor Who.
Melody – (I am absolutely the nerd in our scenario. My husband Nick is a geek. I knew he was a geek from the get go, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my nerdy/geeky tendencies caught him off guard a bit. So, we are BOTH answering the questions!)
We share a lot of geek obsessions. I introduced him to books, in general, but specifically fantasy. He was my gateway to the Whedonverse (my gateway, but I can kick his ass at Wedon related trivia now.) and broadened my knowledge of comic book lore. We frequently play video games together, but he is definitely more of a gamer than I. I am a huge history, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, and mythology nerd, so from me he got Joseph Campbell (and thereby a whole new window into Star Wars), understanding of historical culture (which really helps when reading/watching GOT), and a vague general knowledge of eastern and western mythos and social hierarchy.
In what ways has their nerd obsession been a point of contention?
Shandi – I have a hard time when a hobby begins to require time or money. Yes, darling, it’s adorable that you read comic books. What the hell?! You just spent $35 on comic books?!? And now you’re going to waste your whole weekend walking around a convention, oh no you didn’t?!? I have very few if any things I care about, if it can’t be worn or eaten, it’s hard for me to justify purchasing it. Most areas of our lives now are filled with his obsession and it leaves very little room for anything else. Currently we have 3 rooms in our house with comic book decorations and 2 long boxes in our living room floor (the room that is supposed to be free of such things)
Paige – Well, I’ll admit it….I really enjoy the Twilight books. I read them before the movies came out and when I made Cameron watch them he couldn’t get over the sparkling vampire. I totally understand his argument that she can’t just change vampire folk lore, but my argument is that just because Bram Stoker was one of the first people to write a popular story about vampires (a mythical creature) doesn’t make that the only way to interpret vampires. We’ve discussed many, many times and always have to agree to disagree.
Kari – The only time it would ever be a problem would be if one of us watched an episode of our shared TV shows without the other.
Melody – Generally, we are so in harmony regarding our mutual nerdiness that it is not. Occasionally he gets obsessy over a particular show that I am not watching with him, Breaking Bad for example, and he will tell me every bit of minutiae about every single episode. This results in me doing one of three things, 1) put a time cap on said discussion, 2) forget time cap, but require that my feet get rubbed for the duration of said monologue, 3) if neither of the above works impose a two day moratorium on the subject.
Also, one of the single biggest fights we have ever had in our 12+ years together was while co-reading Game of Thrones. We got on a jag about feminist themes, and (without spoiling) I argued that a particular incident seemed uncharacteristic of Tyrion, who I believe to be one of the more feminist characters in the saga. It literally became a shouting match, before we both realized how stupid we were being.
Can you pinpoint the moment you realized, “I’m in love with a nerd.”?
Shandi – I of course knew about the music nerd Stephen. And I knew about the movie nerd Stephen and the knew-a-little-too-much-about-comic-books Stephen, but I have to say it was when he started doing a hold box at our local comic book store that I realized what I had married. He was going to, for the foreseeable future, have a steady stream of income and time going into the world of comic books. It wasn’t even something he consulted me on, it was just one of those “things you do” as a nerd. But as a naive young-ish nerd wife, this was definitely an eye opener.
Paige – I think maybe when I went into his room for the first time (after I took in the subhuman living conditions) I saw a small sword. I asked him about it and he said he got it at the Renaissance Festival…it was a copy from LOTR. I think I knew then that I was in for something different and I was completely ok with it.
Kari – The moment he told me he was into WWE.
Nick – We were driving back from visiting the inlaws, and Mel popped a tape she had found in her old bedroom into the tape deck. It was the read along tape (complete with sparkle sound effects to indicate page turnage) called Cabbage Patch Kids & The Great Rescue. There were about a half dozen musical numbers, and Mel not only knew every word, but sang, full volume the entire tape from beginning to end. It felt like that moment at the end of LOST where Jack put his hand on Hurly’s shoulder and said, “you’re like me now.”
(MEL interjects…) “Am I HURLY in this scenario?”
(NICK continues:) To be clear, I am Hurly in this scenario. It makes no sense, but for the sake of my marriage, I am Hurly.
Melody – I think my first clue was about four years before we started dating when he cast me as Mr. Pink in his stage adaptation of Reservoir Dogs.
(NICK interjects…) “Make sure you say that this was two years BEFORE Rushmore came out.
(MEL continues:) This was two years before Rushmore came out. *Sigh*. Or maybe it was the time we met George Lucas, and he f’rilz almost passed out.
Do you ever find yourself enabling their nerdiness?
Shandi – All the time. I like to surprise him with my comic book knowledge, the sense of pride that I see well up when his wife knows something about comics that your average lay-person doesn’t. I got a Green Lantern tattoo for our 5 year wedding anniversary and we named our daughter Torunn Pym… yeah, I’d say I’m an enabler.
Paige – Oh all the time, I tend to only buy things for him that are Star Wars or DC related. I also realize that is who he is and what he loves. What kind of wife would I be if I didn’t let him do the things he loves so much. Once when we were in OKC he was antique shopping (because not only does he have a 6 year old’s heart, he also has the heart of a 70 year old woman that loves going into antique stores) this particular store was very different. It was just vintage toys. He haggled his way to getting two very old Ewok piggy banks (Ewoks are by far my favorite and we had a dog named Wicket at the time) and a giant AT-AT, Claude, (who was buckled up in the back seat for the 400 miles, 10 hr trip home). When he told me how much he spent I was a little upset but when I saw how incredibly happy and proud of the things he got, how could I be upset at him.
Kari – All the time. I love watching him play video games, even buying them occasionally for him. I also keep him awake past bedtime so that we can keep watching “our shows”.
Melody – Yes. All the time. Why wouldn’t we? We purchased two copies of every Harry Potter book at midnight because we didn’t want to share. Have you seen that Portlandia sketch where they mainline Battlestar? Yeah, that was based on us. We are still trying to sue.
What do you love most about your nerd?
Shandi – I love how happy he gets about things that seem so inconsequential to anyone else (me). I love how he can share his nerdiness with our kids and the pride he gets when our two year old correctly names all the comic book characters. His playfulness and ability to connect so powerfully with his own childhood fantasies makes him not only an amazing father but a really fun husband.
Paige – I love that he isn’t afraid to be himself, even if it might not be the norm. And that he’ll always want to play with our son. Because I know when Charlie gets old enough to really play with toys, I’ll probably have to end up getting one for both of them.
Kari – Everything? I do love that we share the majority of our nerdiness. Also that he fully supports my Doctor Who obsesh.
Melody – I appreciate our mutual respect and intellectual curiosity. He never dismisses my nerdiness, or any of my new found shiny things. Quite the opposite, actually. Oftentimes he gets super in to it. i think that it works well for us because we are, both of us, students AND teachers by nature. It never gets boring because since each of us is always learning something new, and we will inevitably share that knowledge, there are always surprises, and always new things to obsess over. Also, he is super cute, and he makes me laugh.
Nick – She is nerdy about very different things, but obsessive in much the same way. So, she speaks my language, but she can show me new places to go, like Doctor Who, Peter S. Beagle…I love that she lets me see a culture in which I have always been immersed, through completely different eyes. I had always thought of geek culture as a very “male,” culture. Being able to see it, to understand it from a feminine perspective (especially since I am the father to two little geek girls) has really made me view all of it in a new light. It is like I get to geek out about it all over again.
The answers I received were enlightening. I realized two very important tings:
1. That my wife is harboring some resentment that is going to need to be addressed, right after I finishing reading some comic books.
2. That more often than I imagined, nerd-love is mutual. Sometimes BOTH people are just waiting to let their nerd flag fly, and sometimes that nerd flag is apart of the initial attraction. So be confident in your nerdiness! Confidence is attractive, and will be very helpful in landing the perfect nerd (or nerd-chaser) for you.