Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nerd is the new cool

Like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory my son, Tom, has always been a square peg in a round hole, stubbornly refusing to follow his peers no matter the consequences. As a human being I am full of admiration of his insistence to be himself, but as a mother it is agonizing. 

When we were in the UK, he was horribly bullied at school for being weird and nerdy, with his unfashionable clothes (he refused to wear anything but too-short elasticated trousers and long-sleeved tops. Sadly, this was pre-Big Bang Theory), almost-but-not-quite Harry Potter glasses and ahead-of-his-time obsession with Doctor Who (a few years before the new series when no-one knew what it was all about). But the worse sin of all was that he hated football. He would tell me, quite matter of factly, that everyone ignored him at lunchtime when he wouldn't join in the game and he just walked around the playground by himself. Every time I imagined this poor lonely little boy, all by himself, wandering around with nothing to do and no-one to talk to for an hour, it felt like I was being violently stabbed in the chest.  

One of the best things about moving to live in California is that he is now seen as merely a wonderful English eccentric and is loved for his idiosyncrasies, rather than attacked for his nerdiness and slightly strange dress sense. He now has a large group of equally nerdy, but lovely friends, a busy social life and is doing extremely well academically. He still likes Doctor Who but now everyone else has caught up.

Tom as Mr Bean
So far this year he has twice found himself in the local papers, being celebrated for being geeky. The first occasion was for his Mr Bean impersonation! 
He was actually dressing as a witness as part of Novato High School's Mock Trial team. They beat all the odds as the underdogs, only being pipped to the post by the very posh school of almost-lawyers in the final of the county-wide competition. Because this is America, The Mayor of Novato gave them a Proclamation recognising their success even though they came second. You can see and hear this on the link above (it was broadcast on Novato Public Access TV. For some unaccountable reason, Tom decided to do an even worse Cockney accent than Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins when he introduced himself.

The second occasion was for running around with a gun in a local school playground. No, don't panic. It's not another Sandy Hook. He is part of Novato Nerd Nerf Nation. He and some friends get lots of fresh air and exercise at the weekends shooting foam bullets at each other. Think the picture says it all ...
Novato Nerf Nation

But those two examples of weirdo-ness pale into insignificance with his latest idea. He recently got a new iPhone 4. He loves it, but keeps leaving it at school, in his bedroom, in cars and so on. So he ordered a cover for it, one of those ones that strap around your arm so you can play music while jogging. For a while I thought he needed it for some strange Nerf war reason, but I then found him busily cutting and sewing (yes, sewing, wonders will never cease) as he adapted it for a special purpose. The next day I found out what.
Tom showing off the very first iWatch
He had created the very first iWatch!

I didn't see it til the end of the day and couldn't help bursting out laughing. "What on earth did everyone say? Did they tease you?" I asked, part of me fearful that he had really pushed the boundaries of British eccentricity too far this time.

"No, actually they didn't," he replied smiling. "Most people just said Oh, cool when they saw it. I was a bit surprised myself when only about 10% went You knob-head!"

"What did the teachers say?" I asked. "I thought you weren't allowed your phones in lessons?"

"Well, that was the best bit," he said, looking a bit triumphant. "They couldn't really say anything as it's my watch."

Hilarious. What ingenuity. But totally nerdy. I would never in a million years have dared to do something so completely uncool.

So there you have it: Nerd is the new cool.