Dispatch From the Land of Nerds: I Might Be a Dork, but I'll Always Sing, Dance

By Dispatch From The Land Of Acknowledged Nerds
Monday, May 4, 2009

So, Cheryl Kravitz has come out of the nerd closet. Dear readers, if you're a nerd too, complete this sentence with a candid, personal experience and e-mail it to pagethree@washpost.com:

"You know you're really a nerd when . . . "

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized with horror that I am still the nerd I was in junior high. It's been a whole lot of years in between, and somehow I am just as big a dork now as I was then. I wouldn't normally admit this, but since we're already probably friends on Facebook, I figure it's all right.

Washington is either a great or rotten place to be a nerd, depending on your point of view. It's okay if you are a scientist, a professor or a brain surgeon. You want nerds for that. It's not too swell to be a nerd when you are invited to fancy dinners, networking receptions or some discussion groups. You're not part of the crowd in the know.

Here's an example of the kind of nerd I am:

When I was growing up in Chicago, we lived in a blue-collar neighborhood on the South Side. It was not unusual to hear about fights at some local schools that involved things like switchblades and brass knuckles (whatever they are). This was around the time "West Side Story" hit the movie theaters, and my equally nerdy friends and I decided we were similar to the Sharks. I have no idea why, except we loved Bernardo's purple shirt and we thought Anita was cool.

Anyway, we formed a gang. We also called ourselves the Sharks and wore outfits made from our fathers' old undershirts. We drew sharks on them that looked like inebriated porpoises. One day we went to a playground with a layout similar to the one in the first scene of "West Side Story" so we could sing or dance our hearts out.

Years later, I told a colleague this story, and he shook his head in disbelief. "Are you saying you were in a gang that performed scenes from Broadway musicals?"

When "West Side Story" was in town a few months ago, I bought one of the T-shirts, figuring it was a step up, and sang my version of "Tonight." My husband and daughter walked away from me. Quickly.

Here's another thing nerds do: We have weird little fantasy lives. When I was in my algebra class, instead of paying attention, I would pretend to be the hairstylist for Ronnie Spector. You know Ronnie Spector? She was the lead singer of the Ronettes in the '60s. One day, while my teacher was explaining equations, I was drawing girls with enormous beehive hairdos. My punishment was to draw 500 girls with beehives since I liked doing that so much. He thought I would be upset.

These days, my nerdiness is even more apparent. I don't turn my cellphone on when I am in the house and still haven't perfected the art of texting. I tie my shoes in bunny ears rather than a proper bow and haven't seen the latest cool movie, whatever it might be. I'd rather read a real newspaper than one of those hand-held devices.

So in the grand scheme of things, what does this mean? I guess it means I will never, ever be prom queen, head cheerleader or Ms. Spector's stylist.

But you can stake your life on the knowledge that at a moment's notice I will meet you at the nearest playground, snap my fingers and twirl to the sounds of "I Feel Pretty."

-- Cheryl Kravitz, Silver Spring


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