I hereby declare “to nerd” a verb. “I am nerding,” as in “I’m studying a lot and I don’t really have a life, and when I do talk to people I start asking them about their take on the latest common agricultural policy proposal.” Seriously. So I was happy – and sad – when a friend in Lisbon messaged me the other day. “I’m looking for a fellow nerd to go for a drink. I haven’t left my house in days and I’m going crazy!” Poor thing. Like me, my friend is a nerd; she’s a post-doc in biotech working on the thesis she has to hand in by July.
That evening I happily met my friend in a cozy bar where a lovely jazz band played and I ordered myself a glass of white wine, served in a glass that hadn’t seen soap after it had been emptied of its last contents, red wine. I glanced at the document my friend had been studying and saw Greek letters above and below lines and square root signs; formulas that calculated who knows what. My friend said, “Can you imagine! I’ve been studying these formulas for days without even leaving my room – all I ever do is get up from my desk and go to the kitchen to eat.” Oh yes, I could imagine.
We agreed that our nerding is a temporary and worthwhile sacrifice; we will finish our courses in a few months, two knowledgeable women with new careers ahead – or at least that’s true for my friend, as sometimes I think I might finish my course with a brain so tired that I’ll just go sit on a beach and sell coconuts, which really isn’t a bad idea, I’ve already looked into it. It’s been tough for me to balance all the plates as they spin atop wobbly sticks: studying, proper sleep, studying, eating properly, social life, studying, exercising, money issues like everyone else, and a little more studying.
But by the end of that evening I was very happy for my friend and I, and for our nerdiness.* With International Women’s Day coming up, I sized us up when I remembered how I used to feel about nerd-dom and I thought of all the girls and women who feel, as I used to, that women must decide between being beautiful and being educated, as if the two were mutually exclusive, which they absolutely are not.
And that evening with my friend I couldn’t help but think of Brazilian women since my friend is Brazilian and I’m, well, sort of one, and I remembered that Brazilians never really have had much trouble reconciling “crazy hot legs” (I’m flattered, anonymous photo tagger!) with Master and PhD degrees. In Brazil flaunting one’s physical assets doesn’t seem to be a choice over flaunting one’s brain assets. I had forgotten about this aspect of my root culture and all I knew till not too long ago was that in the US I was made fun of for wanting to learn. Generalizations? Were US and Brazilian cultures so different? Does it mean anything that Brazil has a female president who also happens to be divorced? How do women in other cultures feel? How much alcohol was in that wine? Should I stop drinking and writing?
Today I decided to write about all this because it’s International Women’s Day and I especially want to reach out to all the lady nerds out there who believe we must choose between brains and beauty. First of all, women are inherently beautiful! Let’s embrace our womanhood and appreciate our curves. And having brains is an option only insofar as we need to actively choose to learn because nobody is born knowledgeable. I’m not super smart but feeling good as a woman shouldn’t stop me from trying to be…
For all the jokes I make about my nerdiness, I’m not for a second unhappy about it but to the contrary, I love it! You see, lady nerds can choose to shake out our hair and put on some heels and go have some wine to catch up on US-EU trade relations while checking out hot men, we can discuss the ethical repercussions of cloning and chat about gorgeous men. Or shoes. Or economics. Or baking. We can choose.
Finally, ladies, the curves of our bodies inspired one of the most influential modern architects in the world, the late Oscar Niemeyer (who happened to be Brazilian, by the way. And I must say that I visited his museum in Rio de Janeiro and the curves of our thighs are looking pretty good on the roof!). All jokes aside, let’s also be inspired by the curves in our brains.
A toast to all you lady nerds!
*And that’s another word I’ve invented, at least I think so. It really should be in the dictionary anyway.