Lindsay Kriz is a nerd. She has been a nerd for a while. In fact, as she shares in a recent column in The College Heights Herald at Western Kentucky University, “I’ve basically been a nerd all my life.”
Her nerdiness initially sprang from an intense fascination with the external design of computers. Then came a fixation on the fashion worn by performers in music videos. Pokémon followed. Nowadays, in her universe, Star Trek reigns supreme.
But Kriz is not a nerd by many of the most classic, outdated characteristics — social awkwardness, acne, unwashed hair, pocket protector, huge glasses and conversations centered on only comic books or lines of computer code.
As she explains, the nerd stereotype worried her. She was “afraid that people would automatically put me into this category of a person who is socially inept, has very few friends, and is in a mindset where interacting with the real world does not compute for them.” The truth, as she wrote simply, “Being a nerd just means you’re passionate about something.”
To that end, she is calling for a massive nerd redefinition. At a time when NBA nerd chic and tech-oriented geek chic are both en vogue, Kriz believes “we need to get past the 1970s or 1980s-type nerds from movies like Sixteen Candles, the ones who wear the big glasses and drop their things and keel over when a pretty girl comes by.
“That would only happen to me if Brad Pitt showed up.”
In the Q&A below, Kriz discusses the benefits of fandom, the term “functioning nerds,” the rise of girl nerds and a bit about her current Star Trek focus.
Q: How did your nerdiness start?
A: It’s basically so ingrained in who I am, I don’t think it will ever leave. I’ve always had obsessive tendencies about things, starting when I was younger, even weird things, things that are hard to admit in a column. I just can’t imagine going to a movie or reading a book or listening to music and then turning it off or leaving a theater or putting it away and never thinking about it again. I think and analyze things too much to just enjoy something superficially and then go back to my routine. I’m kind of in my own little world that I’ve created. People call it fandom, a fandom kind of world.
Q: What is the appeal of fandom for you?
A: Fandom is a big part of my life because it makes it exciting. If I didn’t enjoy the things I did, I’d simply go to class, eat, go to class, come home, watch TV, etc. And with fandom I still do those things. But it’s almost like it brings an energy to my life. There’s always something new happening, something to watch for. Even when I’m just in my room typing, I know that something new is occurring and that things are constantly going on around me. Even though I’m not there for all of it, I almost always feel on edge, just waiting for something new to interest me. It sort of keeps me on my toes when so many want my feet planted firmly to the ground.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about the modern nerd?
A: I think the misconception is that we have no social life. We have no social graces. I do think there are some people who are not necessarily socially inept, but socially awkward. But I can just as easily talk to people for hours online and then go hang out with my friends. I don’t have any problem socializing or making friends. I’ve never had a significant other, so I can attest to that stereotype. But I have a friend who’s just as nerdy as me and the boys are knocking at her door, so I think it’s the fact that people think you’re socially inept and you don’t have any friends and no actual social life of any kind. I definitely do. I’m a functioning nerd.
Q: What does it mean to be a functioning nerd?
A: A functioning nerd is somebody who doesn’t fit the stereotype of a typical nerd. They could look like a cheerleader or have tons of friends. It’s somebody who has their passions, but it doesn’t affect their social life. So, if you are a functioning nerd, yes, you can have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Yes, you can have friends. And yes, you can be good at conversation. A lot of times in movies and TV shows, you will see the nerd character who will make a reference like, “Oh this is just like on episode 43, 29 minutes in.” It seems like that is all they talk about. That’s obviously not me. I’m just like everybody else. I go to school. I have pets. I have friends. It’s just that within the fabric of my life, I incorporate this colorful weave of fandom within it. Basically, if you looked at me just walking down the street, you wouldn’t be able to tell I’m a nerd — unless you saw my Star Trek tattoo.
Q: What are you noticing about girl nerds?
A: It’s not just boys who push up their glasses at 2 a.m. while they’re playing video games. Most of the nerdy people I know are girls. I think in this day and age more females than males are nerdy because showing so many emotions about a subject is considered more feminine by some. And for a man to be passionate, aside from the stereotypical sports or other masculine interests, is still frowned upon, though many may deny it.
Q: What’s your most intense current nerdy passion?
A: As horribly nerdy as it’s going to sound, since 2009, Star Trek has become a humongous part of my life. I’ve left Kentucky at times, but I’ve never really gone anywhere. And since I joined the [Star Trek] community, I’ve been to conventions. I’ve met dozens of actors and actresses. I’ve made friends I honestly cannot imagine not ever knowing. I’ve only known them for three years but I feel like I’ve known them a lot longer. They’re a niche, a community, a family that I value just as much as my friends here. I feel like it’s becoming a part of me. When people see [something related to Star Trek], they think of me. It’s something that gives me a source of joy if I’m stressed or if I need an escape from homework or reality.
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