By Kenneth Shipp
Contrary to popular belief, nerds like to get married, have kids, and such. Crazy, right? You may be one of the lucky ones to have found yourself such a wonderful nerd of whatever fandom they are undoubtedly obsessed or get excited about. But I’ll dare to venture there have been a few odd looks at the cosplay they spent 4 months putting together. You may not understand what the heck Pon Farr is, “So say we all” has no meaning to you, and Jackson Pollack paintings go right over your head. Fear not!! This handy guide will help you better relate to that special nerd in your life (Or just nerds in general to be quite honest, these apply across the board)
8. Perfect Speech Not Required
Does your nerd friend or significant other know Klingon like the back of their hand? Can they write a whole book in Elvish? Congratulations, you’ve found someone extremely dedicated to the lore and worlds that they watch, read, or play in. But this does not mean that you are required to learn any of it. Would it be cool if you picked up a few of the phrases? Sure, it would be, but they also shouldn’t expect it from you either. The next time they drop the Dothraki for Dummies book in lap, it may be time for a conversation.
- Avoid Nerd Fights Like The Plague
With so much of our interactions occurring online nowadays, you may not see many of these interactions taking place. But trust me, they still happen. Online forums have allowed entire factions to spring up who debate the finer points of political strategy or war campaigns in fiction to the silly, but downright divisive ones like Goku vs Superman (or Superman vs anyone honestly)
You should not engage in these under any circumstances. Unless you’ve become well versed in the lore yourself that is. Then you and your nerd friend can engage in long winded debates between yourselves or jump online together and bash the internet trolls together. Just remember to keep it civil and avoid stooping to the lowest levels that scour the internet.
If you decide to engage in friendly arguments or not, you must be prepared to…
- Accept Their Even Weirder And Nerdier Friends
Look, maybe you didn’t know what you signed on for by marrying, dating, or befriending this person. But just like they can’t get rid of your annoying friend Sheila (who clips her nails in your living room, hasn’t returned your copy of The Dark Knight, or still hasn’t seen a single Star Wars film) you can’t cast their social circle aside to fit your whim. Now, if there’s inappropriate behavior going on, that’s a different story. However, it’s not weird if they decide to go LARPing on a nice Saturday afternoon. Spending a whole weekend on DnD wasn’t weird before you got there. And, they most certainly will be dressing up for Dragoncon in matching or similar fandom attire. If they ask you to join in, why not give it a strong consideration? Joining them where they live and breathe is a great way to meet their friends. Who knows? You may even like the activities that they participate in, but there are plenty of neutral ways to interact with them in mixed company. For example, I’ve been to a party where the host and hostess created trivia for all of their party guests so there were categories everyone in the room could get and not just sports, history, etc. Little things like that go a long way to reaching out and are fun ways to work together. With that being said, make sure to brace yourself…
- It’s Gonna Get Weird (Deal With It!)
Undoubtedly, they like that one show, character, or item and you can’t stand it. Oh you know the one. The one that’s just too much for you to handle. Maybe they like Attack on Titan and naked giant humans is a smidge too much. Perhaps they are a dude who likes to dress up as Sailor Moon. They might even like My Little Pony. Oh, did I go too far?
Look, I get it. You may be a little embarrassed by the fact that they dress up like a pony. I don’t get it either, but we must not judge them. I never said you had to dress up like them, I’m just asking you to accept their weird hobbies. It doesn’t make them who they are, but it is a part of them. Asking them to change that would just a hard as asking them to change who they hang out with. They have developed a kinship with their fellow nerds that is not easily broken. Their attachment to their favorite show can be just as strong so you need to respect that (So long as it’s healthy, not damaging, there is a difference). When you want to relate with a nerd, be prepared to go down the rabbit hole, just a little bit.
4. Don’t Be Mean (Even with sarcasm)
It will be tempting to deal with your embarrassment or awkwardness by belittling their chosen activity or favorite series. But if you do that, how long do you think the relationship will last? How many times do they have to hear that you hate the Enterprise D retrofit model on the kitchen table before they get tired of it?
But Kenny! I never say anything really mean. Okay, sure, but do you ever say a snide remark? Do you roll your eyes when the next convention is coming up? Do you say “Kirk is my favorite captain too” with a nice dose of sarcasm? Yeah, you have to cut that out. If you don’t like it, fine, but those combinations of hurtful comments will only shut the door and push you further from them. Now maybe you have a valid point that a Master Chief model above the fireplace looks out of place, but there’s a nice way to say it and a mean way. You can respectfully work together and figure out the best way to blend your lives together. It doesn’t require attacking the other person. With that being said….
3. Know When To Say No
There are times you need to say “No”. It’s a word that doesn’t get tossed around our culture very much any more. But there are times when it’s vital you have the capability to say it when it matters most. Your nerd friend may be on the brink of doing something very rash or irresponsible. In that moment, you’ll have to examine your own motivations to make sure you aren’t saying it just to make it easier on yourself or to avoid the conversation.
But our fandom doesn’t give us the license to get away with whatever we want in a relationship. Just because you don’t get the difference between photon or proton torpedoes doesn’t mean they have the right to build a replica of the Enterprise bridge in your basement depleting your entire life savings. That was kind of a absurd example, but not too far off the mark. Set limits and boundaries on how to enjoy the hobby responsibly. If your nerd partner is unwilling to do that, then you have some things you really need to work on besides how to deal with their hobby.
2. Make An Effort
While all of these can apply both ways, this one is crucial for everyone involved. Find ways to work out the different hobbies in your lives. Don’t assume just because you like different things that you can’t make it work. I have many friends with various hobbies, but we are united or find common ground doing something together. It could be dancing, watching movies, hiking, etc. You won’t know until you ask and you can’t connect until you try. But just going once to something isn’t enough. Even if you are not going to sit through every season of Doctor Who, remembering some of the things that are important to your partner goes a long way. I have many Doctor Who friends and while I can’t stand the show personally, I still listen to their excitement and love for the show. Sure, I could dismiss them and say that I really don’t want to hear anymore about the new doctor. But they are my friend for a reason. I’ve clearly seen something in them that I like enough to be around, why would their love for a British sci-fi show come between us?
1. Be Honest
Finally, my last piece of advice. If you really don’t like something or have an issue, speak up! You don’t have to nod your head like you enjoyed every episode of Naruto that they wanted you to watch with them. You can tell them you’re not a fan of Farscape or Babylon 5 and it’s okay. Honesty is so important to any relationship and a lack of it will hamper it quicker than a blast from Ronon’s gun. The more open friends or partners can be with one another, the stronger and more powerful the relationship and bonds become.
Additionally, to all my fellow nerds, Listen up!! Most of this list has been spent trying to help your friend or significant other relate to you better. You should also remember that as much as this list is for them, it applies to us as well. So think about things they would be interested in. Make sure to be willing to try their crazy or wacky non-nerdy thing. And be okay with the fact that you probably can’t name your first born son Obi-Wan…