Experiments in Black Dating: On Being a Black Nerd
On the Saturday before the 2012 Labor Day holiday in the US, I drove 3.5 hours in rain and heavy weekend traffic from my home to Richmond, VA. The purpose? To go on a date arranged by my relationship coach.
To call the experience a failure would be an understatement. While I don't consider it a waste of time, it was very much a failure! The following Friday, I spoke to my coach about my date's feedback. Negative. Negative. Negative. Negative across the board. She had not a single good thing to say about me.
Apparently, the fundamental problem she had with me was that I am…as she put it…a nerd. I cannot disagree with this assessment. I long ago came to terms with my being a nerd.
My questions for the Black women reading this are  why does this matter and  why is this bad? I'll leave it as an exercise to the Black women readers in audience to answer. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
How is it that a successful, single, heterosexual, legally employed, wellness oriented, intelligent, authentic, educated, responsible, childless Black man can be faulted for being a "nerd"? What kind of criticism is that?!?! Of all of the things you could possibly fault a Black man for, and for all of the things that Black men commonly get faulted for, and you want to pick out for criticism the one general trait that has made me successful in most areas of life? I have to consider any woman who criticizes success as a loser by definition.
Should I be a bum like far too many Black men are? I should be unintelligent, uneducated, apathetic, emotionally stunted and possess all manner of other character flaws? Is this really what Black women want from Black men? If so, that just proves my hypothesis that Black people and Black America both are doomed to extinction.
This woman's obsession with dating "cool" guys, and not dating "nerds", probably explains the situation she currently finds herself in, relationship-wise, more than anything else. While I can't help but think that she did me a favor with her violent refutation of me, this experience is just a symptom of a larger plague of thinking within the Black female community.
Upsides and Downsides
I can't make a complete argument for the so-called nerd without covering the actual negatives and downsides of dating such a man. Nerds, in the vernacular, tend to be socially awkward and may even display symptoms of Asperger syndrome. They tend to be less physically attractive than many of their non-nerd contemporaries. They may not have interests that are commonly popular, such as sports, instead preferring to spend their time learning in some way. Whether through reading or doing, their time tends to be spent in the pursuit of knowledge as opposed to physical or athletic or other popular pastimes.
Now, let's consider the implications of the above. While nerds may tend to be socially awkward and even introverted, it is possible to be a functioning member of society with these characteristics. For example, I used to be quite misanthropic. I'll admit to hating people. I liked computers because they were logical and you knew what to expect from them, while people were non-deterministic and unpredictable. However, after doing some growth and development work, I came to see that I can and do love people. (To quote Elie Wiesel, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.")
What I learned about myself was that I really hated seeing people who were lazy, whether intellectually or in some other manner. I came to realize that I like people who are hard working, persistent and striving for success in some arena. I also saw that I don't think of myself as being very intelligent. What I am is hard working and persistent, as my favorite high school teacher told me (and I refused to believe). I started saying "I'm not so smart but I put in the work. If I can do it, anyone can do it." When people refused to put in the work, that would make me angry. So it wasn't that I hated people. I actually love them and think more highly of them than they tend to think of themselves.
As far as being socially awkward, I have been so for as long as I have been interested in Black women. Due to my upbringing, I never learned how to interact with Black women generally. It is rare that I meet a Black woman with whom I can have the same kind of stimulating, engaging, intellectual conversations that are natural to me. Most of the time, even women in my age bracket appear to have conversation far below their chronological ages. Its truly a very dispiriting state of affairs. I don't particularly care what anyone on television is doing in their own life. To me, its a sign of emptiness that so many Black women are captivated by the lives of others. Its sad, really.
As it pertains to Asperger syndrome or other conditions which contribute to social awkwardness but are usually associated with "nerds", there is some medical treatment that can be made for those. It is definitely a harder situation to deal with but it can be addressed. Unfortunately, I can't speak to the situation of a "nerd" who displays these traits.
When it comes to physical appearance, nerds can learn to address their deficiencies. It will take some effort and like all endeavors, they will only be as successful as they are committed to being. If they want to grow and develop in this area, it is entirely possible. For example, I like nice fragrances so I buy scented candles and I own more than 1 cologne. Learning how to find a cologne I liked was fascinating to me and I'm very careful about the fragrances I wear. This has served me well with the women I have dated or been in relationships with. Like in other areas of life, one must practice behaviors that they are weak in so that they develop and convert that weakness into a strength. Nerds are as capable of doing this as anyone else.
As for other aspects of physical appearance, I am still growing and developing. Its a process, not a destination. I once had a girlfriend who, when I joked that she liked "pretty boys", told me that if I got braces and straightened my teeth, I would be a pretty boy. While that offended me more than the comment about persistence by my high school teacher, it took some difficult lessons vis-a-vis my relationship coaching to appreciate that. Eventually, after a bad dating experience and the incessant prodding of several women friends, I got braces.
My coach also encouraged me to make adjustments to my wardrobe. Since I was paying him for his advice and knowledge on attracting women, I listened. I began buying jeans from Express and eventually some shirts as well. At the behest of one of my "big sisters", who also had implored me to get braces, I started buying different shoes. All of these adjustments, gradual at first but increasing over time, made an impact when I first met my soon-to-be wife.
Finally, as part of a larger personal growth "spurt" that occurred starting in 2007, one of the activities I took up was snowboarding. While the reasons are unimportant, what I learned from learning to snowboard is that you don't do your sport to get into shape. You have to get into shape to seriously enjoy your sport. Snowboarding requires a lot of physical endurance and stamina as well as leg strength. Thus, I began physical training in earnest. It was slow at first but I threw myself into it in 2008 and 2009. By the end of 2009, I was in the best shape of my life at 170 pounds and 9.5% body fat. I started getting a lot more attention from women, much of which I didn't even notice because I was so heads down into my training.
There are many communities of nerds who have take up physical pursuits later in life. To make the assumption that all "nerds" are physical monstrosities who are unconcerned with their appearance is naive at best and a lie at worst. However, most nerds also start taking care of themselves physically in the pursuit of a larger goal. When they understand the reasons clearly, nerds will commit to good nutrition and exercise with even more vigor and determination than most of the "normal" population. That intense focus on learning and gets directed into learning about how their bodies work and experimenting with fitness routines and exercises. Its all a matter of knowing clearly what they are doing and most importantly, WHY they are doing it. And it is that intensity that nerds bring to almost everything they choose to do of their own volition, including (I might add) relationships.
Black women, please consider…just consider…that you may have spent far too much of your limited time on Earth maligning men like me because we are nice, respectful, honorable, authentic, trustworthy, intelligent, and educated. While doing that, also please consider that you have been sabotaging your own stated desire to be in a relationship with a Black man (if that is your goal). By vilifying and criticizing the very qualities you ostensibly say you want, you are sending the message out into the Universe that you really don't want those things. You are telling God to deliver to you not a man who will love, honor and cherish you but a man who will disrespect, dishonor and abuse you. This might explain the quality, or lack thereof, of the men that you encounter and enter into relationships with. Just think about it.
I know many Black women will not like what I've just said here so if you have a cogent counter-argument, by all means, share it in the comments below. Why is a Black man being a "nerd" a bad thing? In many other American cultural and ethnic sub-groups, nerds are respected and even cultivated. Only Black America seems to have such a negative view of "nerds". I'd like to hear a well reasoned response to this from Black women. I'm cautiously pessimistic that I'll ever receive one. Rants are not welcome at all.
As for me, at least I don't have to worry about going back to Richmond anytime soon, if ever.