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I Can Even - Elf M. Sternberg
I Can Even
I can even.

Today, Andrew Sullivan posted a letter from a reader in which a self-described "nerd" discussed his inner misanthrope in a weird cry du croeur about how "being a nerd was not supposed to be a good thing." The letter comes across as deeply angry; angry that the word "nerd" is now not just a topic of popular culture, but has been embraced, extended and, to some degree, extinguished. The complaints he makes are just odd; the deeply weird and wonderful experimental comics of the 70s and 80s are still around. So are surreal video games. So are role-playing games. You don't have to play TSR's latest "It's like Warcraft, but with real human beings"; there's always Pathfinder.

But more than that, I remember being deeply nerdy and yet I never felt that the original creators owed me anything; I always recognized when I might be intruding on someone else's turf. I also remember being excluded, but never exclusionary; my AD&D games were welcome to everyone who knew how to shower and play nice, and if the gender balance wasn't 1:1 it was closer to that than it was to zero. We wanted like-minded people to be there with us, for us; we enjoyed each other's company and affirmed each other's humanity.

Sullivan's writer just can't have the word "nerd." It belongs to me, too. It belongs to everyone, male or female, who deeply loved something so much they wanted every last little detail of it embedded in their brain, so they could turn it over time and again, analyzing every facet of it until it had become a part of them.

The furor only points out that there's a community of men (yes, sadly, it's still almost entirely of men) that doesn't need validation. It needs therapy.

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