Finding Love For Nerds: A Guide
von Sven Köppel
On this day, it’s been 10 years when I have found my love, the partner of my life. I’ve been in my 20s, and it was quite a different life compared to the 10 years before. In my teenager time, my friends had names like Perl or Gentoo Linux. I probably was the perfect stereotypical basement dweller. It was not so much of a compliment being called a nerd in the 2000s.
Suffering and the wish for a change
If you are a happy nerd, stay a happy nerd. There’s nothing wrong with it, despite people tend to say so. If you have the luxury to be resident in a democratic country, where the free development of one’s personality is possible, the only outside pressure you may feel is social pressure from your relatives, your fellows or peers (in your family, class, school, college, university, etc). Hopefully the only thing these people can do is speaking (probably in a harmful or violent manner), but not acting harmfully in a physical way. I don’t know you as a reader, so all I assume is that you have a similar life to what I had. I experienced extensive (mental and physical) bullying over most of my middle and high school time. Bullying has its own logic, and from my perspective, adaption to the aggressor is not a valid long term path from escaping these situation. It is up to you how you reply to outbreaks of violence.
The nice thing of nerds is that we have a microcosmos where we spend time with things we love and understand, such as technology. It is logical, rational, predictable. It may have its quirks and little challenges of problem solving. It may be complex and challenging. But ultimately it can be controlled, mastered and governed. That are moments of power we experience, and there is little need for other valves for blowing off steam of accumulated frustation. We acknowledge that the situation might be very different for other people. Many teenagers spend much of their time doing sports and hanging around with their peer group. Acting physically is the natural expression for these people, they don’t even act much different with you as with their peers. The important question for you is: Do you want to put yourself on the same level, answering violence with violence? Doing a killing spree is not an option for an educated person as you. If people dare you to kill someone, the situation is quite fragile and you better make sure to find professional help (maybe some specialized charity or the police). If you want to survive such a bad time, try to avoid being part of a massacre.
For me, school time has not been the time for a change. It was basically surviving hellscape and there was hardly anybody of the same age which was peaceful or even trustworthy. It was a situation of hatred. Where to find love? This question get’s quite philosophical in this context. For you, it may be neccessary to get out of some toxic environment which helds you down. This might be your family, relatives or your town, maybe even the culture and country where you live in. In my case, the change of situation when moving from high school to university already did most of it. Being surrounded by people who have some basic level of manners makes quite a difference. Being allowed to exist is the fundament for living it up. Finding a place where your basic rights are respected is the big challenge of their life for some people.
Once you found peace, there might be something growing inside you. This is what I mean with the which for a change. For me, the starting point for this have been a traumatizing experience, when I realized (well aged beyond 20) that I never experienced love. I could not do different then developing a strong wish for changing that. Evventually, this desire overwhelmed everything else, dramatically decreasing my performance on daily tasks. Congratulations, this is lovesickness, or heartache. Next to loosing a loved one, this has been one of the strongest emotions in my life. It took me a few months to name this feeling. Unfortunately, I still had not a single clue what to do in order to overcome.
Carrying out the change
Here’s a thing: As nerds, we do care less about the physical world and more about our imagination. In the internet – I mean the real one, with IRC and discussion boards, not Instagram – there is no such thing as physical appearance. Within a text based interface, the concept of self-confidence can be easily made up. It is easy to escape situations, just by closing programs on your computer. Surprise: Things are dramatically different in the real world.
For being loved by somebody else, first of all you must be loved by yourself. This includes your physical presence, defined by your body, clothes, look and even things like smell. It is easy to change your attitude towards what you think about your mind, but it is quite hard to change your attitude towards what you think about your body. Ironically, this is the situation where you should consider re-evaluating everything you know (or think to know) about the world. For instance, I always hated sports. It was the root of all evil in my childhood. What people called “sports” is however only a small part of it. School sports is typically solely team sports and competitions. But there is so much more, thinking of all kind of individual sports where you don’t need to care about others. In fact, in a free country, nobody has the interpretatioanl sovereignty of what actually is sports and what not. What about trying something you never did before? There is so much deeply weird shit, such as climbing, doing yoga or deep diving. I know a professor who once made his transition from basement gamer to extreme sports. In fact, working out has such a dramatic effect in (self-)perception and inner balance that it is non-acceptable for your mental and physical health to exclude this topic from your life.
What comes next is a decent understanding of personal hygiene. No need to cut your hairs or change your dress style. Instead, it is all about doing things intentional and by purpose. If you want to be a metalhead, do so with style and confidence. Do so by means of a deliberate and conscious decision, and not because you always have been one. Look for trustable people and find out whether they feel disturbed or attracted by your appearance. Just ask them, and do not accept a neutral answer.
You should do all this with the purpose of increasing your self-awareness and self-confidence. Consider this: You have probably spent already one quarter of your life. Look up your life expectancy, time is running up. You feel a pressing need to change. The world won’t change so much in the future (except you opt in for moving around, exploring other cultures). It is about you to make a difference. I know, this sounds like surrendering, but it really is not. Instead, it is installing micro-corrections to your personality, increasing the compatibility between you and your environment.
Should you adopt to the world or should the world adopt to you? There is an easy answer to this philosophical question, and it is: Let you and the world meet somewhere inbetween. This is just based on evidence: Your previous way of doing things has not brought you to finding love, so there is no way of keeping things the same. Carrying out the change means changing yourself.
Where to find love
It may be part of your world view that the vast majority of people are dumb. This perception comes from the places and groups where you have been. I cannot state whether your perception is representative (for the whole world). However, (hopefully) you can change the societies where you spend time in. Going to university is a perfect example, as it filters out all people without qualification. It is also quite obvious that you will be in different company when you are within a yoga class or within a football stadium. For me, the single decision with the biggest effect with this respect was the decision to join a (laymen) acting academy. This group of people was diverse and profound in a way completely different to students in natural sciences. In acting, people are naturally in trying theirself new roles, which is basically the essence of trying out a new self, experimenting with identity and perception. The reverse psychological, paradoxical nature of theatre was a door opener for me to understand and merge into the general society. By doing the complete opposite of what I used to do, I explored the whole spectrum of human activities. This enabled me for opening to other people and evventually getting familiar with another single person.
In my twenties, social life evventually took place in cafes, bars and house parties. Of course, alcohol simplified a lot of things. In contrast, discos and clubs never got suitable for me to become acquainted with others. Nevertheless, all these localities are for rather superficial conversations. If you want to get known to others, join some recreational activity (those which take place in afternoons, not in the night). It is probably not a coincidence that the more exotic and weird such activities are, the more interesting the people are.
The good part of dating is: Nerd dating is a thing. There is little need to lower your expectations considering a partner. However, what is also true is the little female share in STEM. If this is a problem for you depends on your (sexual) preference and most of all your location. For instance, in German higher education landscape, this phenomenon is much more severe on technical universities compared to classical full universities. I don’t like the dramatic form of speech of supplies and demand, and reality is more then statistics and stereotypes. If you are searching for queer and trans people, you might be used to the fact that the community is very sparse, in particular offside big cities. Changing your location is the easiest way of getting a new perspective. You will be surprised how much better things look in other communities.
Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
Evventually, I met my crush in the acting academy. Turned out, she even was a theoretical physicist, just as me. It has been an amazing journey of 10 years, we both graduated and carried out our academic carriers. We even have a little nerd child. After 10 years, all these sorrows seem so far away. It is somewhat similar to educational achievements which look so insignificant in retrospective. Of course, each stage of life brings its own little problems, and it is difficult to compare different ages. What a time to be here and being able to say all this about loving nerds.
This article is part of the Tech blog of the German cooperative consultancy DenktMit eG. We are a group of experts in various topics of computing, carrying out the most challenging client projects on budget.
A post by Sven Köppel
About Sven Köppel
20 Jahre Softwareentwicklung in diversen Bereichen, davon über 10 Jahre im Bereich Forschung & Entwicklung, in Projektmanagament und Leitungsfunktion (bis zu 15 Mitarbeiter:innen im internationalen Team). Seit 2019 hauptberuflich im Bereich Startups unterwegs. Lehr- und Fortbildungstätigkeiten runden das Profil ab.