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