I can remember being called a nerd in kindergarten. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t immediately know what it meant. I suppose to a degree that I didn’t care because I liked the idea that I was smarter than everyone else(Ruthless had an ego as a child? Ya don’t say?). But the word has such a negative connotation. And as I got older, but before I again stopped caring what people thought, it took on a demeaning quality I hated. In one sense teachers expected me to always be heads and tails above my classmates, and in the other my classmates always seemed to resent my take on things in class. Why? Well that was the thing. I wasn’t the kid who wanted to remind the teacher we didn’t get homework assigned. I was the one telling her that the textbook was incorrect about something. Or correcting the substitute. Or scamming my way to getting us class outside. Or playing mumball instead of something(We played by sitting on our desks). Basically you get the point that I was the antagonist egotistical prick kid who was both smarter than everyone, and fully AWARE of this fact.
Didn’t stop me getting called a nerd at times. Hell not even playing football, wrestling, playing tennis for Ruskin stopped that. I realized at one point that I was getting called a Nerd for my habits. See when you wash away all that sports stuff you have a black guy in Band(TUBA POWER!) Shout out to all my Drum Majors but especially my first two Jamel(who convinced me to switch to Tuba) and Melissa. You have a High School Debater, a few billion organizations I was at one time or another president of, an at times depressive, overly emotional poet and writer, a massive video game player, actor(mostly Shakespearean), and lover of all things smart. Now remember I didn’t get over 5’7 until Senior year. Loved watching Cartoons and Anime. Was still getting over a general childhood shyness related to my intelligence. Was shaped like a lineman, and remember that bit before about knowing how smart I was? yeah Nerd fits right? Doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt…
So when someone told me I seemed like an Ex-Nerd, I was kinda torn. Part of me thought they were trying to compliment my social adjustment and general personability that really if I’m honest took a long time to get to. Part of me was ready to let my Geek flag fly, yell at them that being smart is not a crime, and go off on a rant that would have ended up here as a Note From Your Favorite Super Villain. And my nerdy, inquisitive, philosophical, part said “What the hell is an Ex-Nerd, and do I even qualify?”
Trying to understand that I went to work making this. I started with getting some stories from other friends who don’t consider themselves Nerds anymore. And the fun part is the guys were fast to respond. We all had a similar story. Nerdy habits, but no Steve Urkel or revenge of the nerds routine. And at some point we just stopped caring about it. It sucked, but we dealt and became who we are now. It wasn’t until I was looking for black female nerds to see how different their stories were that I hit a funny problem. I didn’t think I knew any. Here’s what I mean. I have a thing for smart women. But for the most part none of them gave off the nerdy habit vibe, so I just straight up asked for some. And they came out of the woodwork. I was getting replies from folks I don’t immediately think of. So after some nights listening or reading their stories I finally sat down to write this.
Many of them had been more openly derided as nerds throughout high school. Many cited college as the moment they found truly their own crowd and felt like they either outgrew the label or just straight up stopped caring about it. But there were two women who shocked me. One I’ve known since the beginning of the journey that was law school. The other I’ve known since I broke free of the younger me and became Wonder of Ruthlessness. They shocked me cause in the one from law school’s case I never thought she would be one who felt that particular stigma. Like a few of the fellas though She liked being smarter than everyone else, and it just stopped bothering her, long before most of us. The other one…well without putting all her business out in the street I was made aware that she fought against the label and dealt with the mental consequences far longer than anyone I talked to. And when you go down the list of people who I would have thought were a nerd at some point, much less have it affect them, she is far from that list.
In the end we aren’t ex-nerds. We may not have been nerds in the first place. We are however keenly aware of what things used to be, and everyone said basically the same thing, I think its great that you aren’t harassed for being smart as much, that things are clearly better. Because being smart is not a crime. Because why should you care what people think about how smart you are if you are smarter than them. And mostly because while each of our stories are slightly different, the reality of our successes today mean the next lot of supposed nerds, and the ones after that. So If I have to wear the former nerd badge I do it with honor. After all, for all the ridicule and annoyance, the snide comments from dolts, and the doubts of dunderheads, I’m living the dream. I could keep going on about how certain labels applied to me never fit, but I used to help my motivation in life but Words Don’t Do It Justice!
– THE Ruthless Wonder
P.S. I’m taking over Fridays for a while. With occasional Wednesdays with Ruthless.