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Is Nerdy the New Cool?


When I attended college in the eighties, female students sometimes started conversations with me. I never started conversations with them, because I am an introvert. After a minute or two, they often asked what I was majoring in. When I said, "engineering," they turned their backs on me and walked away without another word. Some rolled their eyes, and then walked away. But, some were more polite. They simply ended the conversation in a sentence or two and walked away. This became so predictable that as soon as they asked the question, I knew the conversation was over. It became kind of a joke in my mind. Whenever I was having a conversation with a girl and another engineering student, and the girl asked the question, the other engineering student and I would look at each other. The unspoken message that passed between us was that each knew what would happen next. And sure enough, it happened. This response seemed especially strong among women majoring in liberal arts for some reason, especially among the sociology and psychology majors. They were the eye-rollers.

Being an engineering student was the next best thing to the kiss-of-death to women. I never understood why, because I never overheard any of them say anything substantial about it. In the few conversations that I happened to have overheard, it seemed that they all understood that male engineering students were simply to be avoided. I don't think it was that they were actively plotting to keep us from reproducing. From what I could tell, it seemed that maybe they all thought we just had nothing to offer them.

Fast forward three decades. Engineers and computer scientists have been on the cover of Time Magazine. Everyone knows who Elon Musk is. Engineers are running China. And, women seem to be attracted to engineers. Not too long ago, I was talking to a female psychologist. She asked what I did for a living. I was expecting the usual response when I said I was an engineer. Instead, she smiled and said, "I like engineers. I'm married to an engineer." I just about fell over in shock. Excuse me. Maybe I've been living in a cave for three decades, but what is going on? Is Nerdy the new Cool?

I wrote an article a few months ago in which I admitted that I am a nerd, and someone actually accused me of bragging. What is happening? Is it that nerds are now multi-billionaires? Is it that they run giant corporations like FaceBook and Amazon and are constantly in the news? Are nerds no longer flogged in the streets? What is happening to the world I live in?



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