Embracing My Inner Nerd

After 33 years of shame and denial, Matt Crowder finally confesses that he is, and always has been, a nerd. And he’s proud of it.

 

I have always loved superheros. I was one of the little boys who had my mom put a towel around my neck with a clothes pin so that I could have a cape… I mean what decent superhero doesn’t have a cape? I would run around my house with my arms out in front of me pretending like I was flying like my favorite, Superman, or hold a wrapping paper roll like it was a light sabre. But my joy in being a geek started to change when I got glasses and started to feel like a nerd.

At first the glasses weren’t a big deal, I liked being able to see the board in class and I was unique because most eight year olds didn’t have glasses. Moving to Michigan and starting Junior High marked the beginning of a rough time in my life. I was the new kid in school with big thick glasses. I blamed my glasses as the reason the girls didn’t like. All I saw in the mirror was Steve Urkel, and that’s was how I thought people saw me.

When I was at home, however, I stayed true to my geekiness. I watched Star Trek, Star Wars, and anything I could get my hands on with Superman or Batman in it, I just didn’t advertise it. At school I kept to myself and had small group of friends—which was great—but what I really wanted was for the girls to notice me. I thought there was no way I would get the girls with my looks so I fell back on my smarts. In math class I offered to help anybody who needed it, especially the pretty girls. I liked that they talked to me and treated me like a normal person, even though I didn’t feel like one.

I lived in my comfort in being geeky and I accepted being “The Nerd” until my senior year. I can still remember that cool September night at the football game when how I saw myself changed. Earlier that week, I’d been fitted for my first pair of contact lenses. I couldn’t wait until that Friday after school and work when I was able to pick up my sets so that I could put them in and go to the football game without my “Nerd” look.

I sat down in the back row behind two really pretty girls from my math class, but didn’t say anything because I wanted to see if they would recognize me. Throughout the first half I noticed them looking back at me and then whispering to each other. It wasn’t until half-time that they finally turned around. One of them just said, “Matt?” Of course I said “Yeah it’s me.” It was then that I heard the three words that I had always wanted to hear, followed by one that rocked me. “Wow, you’re cute now!!”

This blonde haired beauty that I had always had a crush on gave me the biggest compliment I had ever had and at the same time hurt me. The thing I took away from it was that even though I was the nice guy who helped her out with her homework, she didn’t see me until I got rid of my glasses and stopped looking like a nerd.

Something changed in me and at that point I started moving away from the geeky kid that I had always been. I saved my money from work and bought myself nicer clothes. I tried hanging out with what I thought were “the cool kids”. Slowly I began to lose a part what made me who I was. Honestly, even though I’d changed, I still didn’t get any dates and didn’t even kiss a girl until college. Thing is, I was trying to change the wrong things. I was (and still am) painfully shy when it comes to girls. I’m sure if I had spoken up and actually asked a girl out I might have gotten a chance, but I was afraid that they would remember the nerd and not see who I was turning into.

This pattern of changing myself to fit others continued for 14 years, until two weeks before my 32nd birthday I found out that my wife was leaving me. Buried deep down inside of me was still that geeky kid who loved his superheroes. Ten seasons of Smallville, half a dozen Star Trek movies, three Star Wars movies, four years of Battlestar Galactica, and a Superman tattoo kept that part of me still intact even if it was only a smoldering ember of the fire that it once was.

When my wife left I was forced to reevaluate who I was and what it meant to be me. There was a big part of me that felt like that I had that pair of glasses again that no one could see past. Once I was on my own and could wear what I wanted and watch what I wanted, I found myself settling back into my old geeky ways it felt really good. Kind of like on a cold day when you find that old pair of sweats in your drawer that fit just right.

I found some cool superhero shirts that now fill about half of my closet, I watch my geek shows as much as I want, and am not afraid to show it. I finally figured out that it wasn’t the glasses that held me back. It was my own insecurities and not being true to myself that held me back. I don’t mold myself like Play Doh to what others want me to be anymore. Even before I got my eyes fixed and had my glasses, I was always the sweet kid who helped people just to be nice and to get the cute girls to notice me, but I wasn’t really being myself.

Part of being a man is being true to what you believe in and true to who you are. I will never forget that September night when a pretty girl told me I was cute. I don’t linger on the “now” at the end of it, I just remember the compliment and smile. Some people are born with the confidence to stick to who they are. It took me a long 33 years to figure it out, but I’m glad that I did. I am a man, a father, a Soldier, and a Geek. I couldn’t be more proud of all of those now that I am finally me.

 

Photo courtesy of net_efekt

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About Matthew Crowder

Matt Crowder is a 33 year old divorced dad of a 7 year old daughter. Originally from Holland, Michigan, he is currently living in Northern New York where he has served in the U.S. Army for 10 years. He has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently a Sergeant First Class tracking the strength management of over 20,000 Soldiers.

Comments

  1. Congrats on finally arriving at you! It takes some of us a lot longer.

  2. Welcome to the dark side. :)

  3. Great article…I think one of the greatest blessings I’ve received in my 30’s (I’m 37 now) is comfort in my own skin…Like the comfortable pair of sweats you referenced.

    Watch out though…what I’ve learned is women often find a truly confident, decent man pretty irresistible. Be careful not to go breaking too many hearts.

  4. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    No capes! I refer you to Thunderhead, Dynaguy, and Splashdown, all of whom met their untimely ends as a result of cape-related trauma.

  5. Mathew,

    I’m wondering what you think of the new DC universe online trailer.
    It’s totally badass. Rather than play the game, it makes me want to see a feature-length movie based on this plot-line:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJYLylxc2iE

    Also, I’m wondering if you have been watching the show Comicbook Men.

    • John,

      Yes, I did see that trailer. My brother had sent it to me shortly before the game came out. You are absolutely right in that it is badass. That is what I would love to see out of a Justice League movie if they ever did one. I have also caught a couple of the episodes of Comicbook Men. Good stuff, I’ve always been a fan of Kevin Smith and his movies too. Plus, if I am not mistaken it comes on right after Top Gear US which is another favorite of mine. Of course the Top Gear UK on BBC America is a classic, but seeing the American guys do it now is pretty cool.

  6. Thank you everyone for you kind words of support. It did certainly take a long time to get there but I am comfortable in my own skin finally. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that I am working on changing about myself, I just change them because I want to, not because someone else wants me to.

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