Friday, October 23, 2009

Mr. Nerd

When I was in college, there was a boy who was possibly the biggest nerd on campus. I use the term nerd in the most affectionate manner for he was a nice nerd. Needy and ugly, but nice. He was especially needy for female affection and would latch on to girls like a crack addict sucking on his crackpipe. He was a true nerd, extremely smart, coke bottle glasses with black frames, button down short sleeve shirts with high waisted pants, and a humongous Frankenstein head. He even had a suitably nerdy name - Eugene. There was no doubt that he was the smartest kid on campus, he physically had the biggest brain.

I'd gone to high school with Eugene and had tolerated him in my half nice/half sarcastic bitch manner. But in college, I didn't have a class with him again until my sophomore year. The first thing I noticed was how big his head looked, but he was still the overly anxious nerdy nice guy that I'd teased before. Not unexpectedly, he latched on to me that semester, even going so far as to take the train home with me and getting off at my station, although I knew he lived 2 stations back. He'd bring me candy and constantly ask me if I were hungry. I sympathized slightly for at the time I was madly in love with Eddie, my Cuban American lab partner in Organic Chemistry. I hated Organic Chemistry but I adored Eddie who was just about the sexiest thing I'd ever seen in my whole life. It was also the start for my love of Cuban food as Eddie would take me to these delicious little Cuban joints in the city. But Eddie was already dating some beautiful theater major over at the Tisch School of Arts, but that didn't stop me from flirting madly with him over our bunsen burners and through our steamy goggles. I never had a real chance with Eddie, his girlfriend was way too possessive, just like Eugene never had a shot with me. But I always thought of Eugene as a nice guy, no matter how irritating he could be.

Fast forward nearly 20 years later. I'm at a reception and I notice a humongous Frankenstein head. There can only be one other head that big. I wander over and lo and behold, it's Eugene. He's gotten stouter and I don't know if memory is playing me false or what but his head looks even bigger. You've got to have some pretty strong neck muscles to hold up a head that big. His glasses are thinner and more fashionable and he is wearing a nice suit, although it doesn't fit him that well. But otherwise, he looks exactly the same. Still ugly.

I smile and saunter over to say hello.

"Eugene!" I say.

His large head swivels over with an imperious twist and he stares at me down the side of his nose. "Yes," he says with quite a sharp and impatient tone."

"It's me, Ellen, from NYU. How are you?"

"Ellen, Ellen, Ellen," he says in this really unctuous tone. "How are you? What do you do now? Did you go to med school?"

"No, I went to law school," I respond, not sure how to take him. He immediately launches into how he went to medical school and has a thriving practice in the area and how his son is a genius pianist who'll probably go to Juliard and his other child will definitely go to Harvard or Yale and then introduced me to his third wife. Yes he told me she's his third wife. All the time, speaking in this arrogant, offensive and belittling manner towards me.

His ego had finally surpassed his ginormous head.

As soon as I could, I extricated myself from him and his third wife and fled the scene thinking my friendly nice nerd had turned into an unbearable jackass. This saddened me and I started thinking about how when you practice law, you come across so many assholes that you know were most likely nerds when they were younger. What caused them to change? What makes a nice person turn into a jackass? I don't know, but I definitely don't want to remember this new Eugene. I prefer the old one, with his sweet demeanor and ugly face that grew on you. Too bad that Eugene is gone forever.


Kate said...

This is a sad story =(
I don't ever give a jackass the time of day. They're not worth wasting time talking to. I wonder why Eugene changed.

Blogless Troll said...

If only you'd asked him out on a date... Ha! Sad about Eugene. I've known people like that. It's that I'll Show You revenge thing that gets them through all the years of torment.

And thanks a lot for bringing up Cuban food. Now I must go find some place that serves plantains for lunch.

Charles Gramlich said...

Well, although you were nice to him, probably many folks weren't so nice. I imagine he was teased unmercifully and made fun of. I figure that would turn anyone into an ass once they got into a position of some power and influence.

Kelly Polark said...

I bet he remembered you and was just too snobby to admit it! But kudos to you for being nice.
You told the story well, Ellen.
I wish your kids were there to say, "Who's the ugly guy with the ginormous head?"

Kimbra Kasch said...

Oh I had lots of those nerd friends - heck, I was probably one of those nerds myself. My sons and husband prefer the label of "geek" 'cuz I guess it's kewl to be a geek and not so much to be a nerd.

Geek is computerific and nerd is just booky - but that's me. ;)

I work in a law firm too - so you're making me giggle. :)

pacatrue said...

What BT said. But people just change as well. I went to my 10th high school reunion, um 9.5 years ago now, and was surprised how I got along with people I disliked back in the day and vice versa. What ya gonna do.

Laurel said...

That is sad. I was a nerd with lots of nerdy friends. We had a great time, though, and all of us grew up to be pretty happy people.

blogless troll nailed it. Too many of us translate the social isolation of youthful nerddom and cling to it on our path to success in adulthood. To have no friends in high school because you're skinny, zit-infested, too smart for normal social interaction, and everyone else is still young and stupid definitely sucks.

Having no friends as an adult because you're just a grade-A jackass must be worse, though.

Lana Gramlich said...

I've been down Eugene's path, myself, so I'll start by disagreeing wholeheartedly with Laurel's implication that we "choose" to "cling to" social isolation as adults. When someone grows up alienated from society, that is their "normal." We don't typically make & have friends because we've been denied the opportunity to learn how to. It's just much easier being alone. Besides, if enough people are cruel to you for a long enough time, why the hell would you WANT to have anything to do with them?
Did you know that psychological torture has been found to be just as painful & damaging as physical torture & that psychological counciling doesn't often help (& sometimes even does more damage?)
Funny how people abuse others, expect them to be okay with it & when they're not, revictimize them with "you're choosing to cling to isolation." *snort* Give me a break.

Laurel said...


I'm speaking from very bitter experience. I don't live in my hometown because frankly, I don't care to see any of the people who were so horrible to me for the years- YEARS- that I came home in tears every day.

I choose to be friends with anyone who wants to, be kind to people, and enjoy my life. I'm old enough and confident enough now that if someone doesn't reciprocate I don't let it bother me, at least not for long. It is a choice.

It is not okay to be condescending, unkind, or rude to other people just because I was a miserable teenager. My experience made me very averse to behaving in a way that makes other people feel diminished.

I'm sorry if you feel that I've slighted you or can't relate to how it feels to be left out but let me assure you, I can. Seventeen by Janis Ian was my personal theme song for a long time. Nobody would have crossed the room to pee on me if I burst into flames.

People grow up, though, and when I meet some of those people now I find that they truly wish me well. I'm secretly glad that they've gained weight, but I would never say that out loud ;)


Aniket Thakkar said...

This has turned to a heated discussion. So unlike the comment section of Ello!

I guess you touched a bitter nerve for many of us geeks/nerds. I am no saint; so I'm, not so secretly happy to now meet those hunks from school days who not that hunky any more with their "good looks" drying out. And even the world realizes that looks are sexy but success is sexier. No one wants a broke hunk. And when it comes to success - Geeks Rule! :D :D

Me, am happy the way things turned out for me. I only have a handful friends from school days but I can trust each of them with my life. And that's precious.

PS: We are all happy people over at Ello's so bring on the happy back, okay?

Lauren said...

Aw that's too bad that he became a jerk. I agree with Charles though. I bet he got made fun of quite a bit and now he's enjoying the tables being turned. You think that he'd be nice to people who were nice to him though. I am sure that he remembered you but enjoyed being a jerk. Too bad.

Being a nerd is 1000 times better than being a jerk. Too bad he doesn't realize it :-P

larramiefg said...

Personally I'd like to know what Eddie grew up to be! ;)

Mary Witzl said...

I was a nerd in high school AND college and I'm still a nerd: it hasn't gone to my head at all! And my head is a normal size, too. And my kids couldn't get into Julliard if their lives depended on it.

Great story, though sad. It's so much nicer when you meet people who were awful in high school and they've turned into decent human beings. (Hasn't happened to me much, but I live in hope.)

And what did happen to Eddie?

J. L. Krueger said...

I guess almost everyone knows a Eugene-like person and some here have claimed to be "like" him. Except perhaps the turning jackass part.

Our culture tends to glorify the "beautiful people" and denigrate those less attractive even though some of the "beautiful people" are in fact some of the most ugly people on the inside.

Sandra Cormier said...

I almost felt sorry for Eugene until you revealed his current jerkiness.

As a former nerd, I was on the receiving end of many well-placed kicks to my shins, but I don't respond to any old classmates with rudeness.

I now live in my high school town & even the classmates who ignored me are good friends today. I let my experiences shape who I am, but in a positive way.

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