Thanks to the efforts of Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine, being a nerd has shifted from a negative connotation to a positive one. Nerds are knowledgeable and passionate when it comes to specific topics and cultures, and almost always happy to share that passion with others. Nerds frequently flock together, both online and in person. Being able to share your passions with others can be an amazing way to gain more knowledge and find an even deeper love of your nerd-love.

Sometimes, though, there’s just one problem.

Sometimes not everyone in a flock is actually part of the nerd-gang. Sometimes folks just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most often these people are the partners of an actual of nerd, sometimes they are friends who are coerced in to involvement because of tangentially related hobbies. Sometimes they just look the part. The end result is the same – Nerd by Association.

Calm down. It's not time to panic. Don't get trigger happy.
Calm down. It’s not time to panic. Don’t get trigger happy.

It starts off innocently enough. You’re sitting with your partner, having drinks with friends or perhaps picking up the goodies in your box at the comic book store. A topic is mentioned. Your partner lights up, this is his time to shine! Your friends begin chatting, discussing their topic and the history and the nuances and how some celebrity is ruining everything, whatever. You try to pay attention, but your mind wanders. You sit there, smiling and nodding politely. You even recognize a name or two. In the end, you still have no idea what’s happening. Next time you spend time with the group, the conversation starts again. Maybe the conversational loop happens a few times more. Time passes, and soon your friends begin to associate you with the conversation about The Thing.

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Then, unexpectedly, your Facebook notification alerts you: someone has shared something on your wall. What could it be? It’s an article! About The Thing! With that one tiny blip on your smartphone, it has begun. All those times thinking about your grocery list while your friends talk about their Nerd item has finally twisted and mutated, and now your friends think that because you’re always around when they’re talking about The Thing, well, surely that means you like The Thing too! Congratulations, you are a Nerd by Association.

So what do you do? There are a few options.

Option #1: Deny it.

Re-enact Shannon Doherty’s rant in the elevator in Mallrats about not giving a shit which characters are crossing over in limited edition foil covers. At the very least, you’ll impress them with your grasp of jargon. The downside of this is that you may make your friends feel bad and awkward that they’ve spent all this time misunderstanding your involvement, that you may not have been enjoying hanging out with them while they discuss The Thing. You may feel that spending time with your friends is great no matter the topic, but they may not.

Option #2: Say nothing.

Continue to smile and nod and think about your grocery list when the topic comes up, maybe with less enthusiasm but still grinning and bearing it the whole time. Probably the least effective option, but also the least amount of effort. I take this path when it comes to zombies. I love horror movies, I love indie movies. I have done Special Effects makeup for various friends. My name is Barbara. You would think I would love zombies. I actually hate them. I hate that no matter how hopeful the characters are, eventually they’re totally boned. Even if they escape whatever shack they’re holed up in, they’re still outnumbered by zombies and chances are pretty darned slim that the hordes are ever going to go away. Zombie stories are awful. The only two zombie movies I own are Shawn of the Dead, and The Undead.: the only zombie movies I can think of that have mostly-happy endings. When people start with the whole “They’re going to get you, Barbara…” I take the path of least resistiance. I nod. I grin. I bear it. The effort to change the image of me as a zombie fan is too much for me to even try.

Option #3: Embrace the Nerddom

The third option, of course, is to embrace the Nerddom. You may not love The Thing, you may never watch more than one episode in a year. The key is to find something in it that you do find interesting, and work with it. Let’s use an example of another Nerd by Association. My darling boyfriend enjoys WWE Wrestling. He and my friends can talk for hours about how the story writers can spin this character, how this one is going to have to win in order to set up this other guy, the insanity of some guy being able to lift up the 450 lb monster and throw him over his shoulder. It’s rather interesting to see him study all the possibilities and the strategy of making celebrities out of people who do nothing but flop around on the ground. Somehow, I got tied up in this. I knew enough about wrestling from when I was a kid to chime in on occasion, just to keep involved in conversations so that people wouldn’t start asking me “What’s wrong?” because I wasn’t talking (If you’re a chatty-cathy like me, you get asked this a LOT). I didn’t much pay attention to wrestling until my fella surprised me with tickets to the WWE Raw filming in Pittsburgh. “Oh cool, how fun,” I said, willing to grin and bear it. We’re partners. I drag him to stuff all the time. Turnabout is only fair play.

Committed to a night of checking my phone and ignoring the action, off we went. Once we got through the merchandise sales area, waited far too long for an overpriced soda and popcorn, and met the hilariously drunk Yinzer-girl sitting beside us, we settled in. The action started…and within a few minutes I finally found an angle I could agree with. Wrestling plotlines, various degrees of acting and athleticism, none of that really hit with me.

What did hit with me, however, was watching mostly naked and ripped dudes running around for 3 hours. Ok. Now I get this. Now this makes sense. Suddenly plotlines mean a little more – they mean the guys I like are coming on soon. Plotlines mean that the moron who will never cease his yammering, is going to get beaten up by one of the attractive ones. It even turns out that occasionally you actually do get to see some impressive stuff, like a 450 pound dude getting flung over a shoulder like a sack of laundry. All of it means I get to see topless dudes for 3 hours every Monday night, and my boyfriend approves. And that? That I can get behind.

Shiny!
Shiny!

It turns out that being a Nerd by Association can be a pretty interesting chance to broaden your horizons. You may never enjoy some things, or you may never be able to escape some associations no matter how much you protest. Every now and then, though, you’ll be exposed to something that really does interest you. Then it will be your turn to make someone else a Nerd by Association.


Barb2Barbie O’Havoc has been considered a nerd since the first time she pissed someone off for having a weird opinion. Since then, she’s been spending her time indulging in the surprisingly expensive habits of reading trashy vampire novels and hitting people while playing roller derby. Both of her main hobbies have led to a love of terrible puns, much to everyone’s dismay.

Barbie O’ also loves coffee and local restaurants, and occasionally rambles about both on the Johnstown Food Blog.

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