The mockery of nerd-face

The press and commentariat are all up in arms about the jeering disrespect of two drunkards accosting Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, in a London Park.

It is an awful sight, but as a fellow nerd — though one not blessed with his great intellect — it was hardly unexpected.

Geekophobia is rife worldwide, and your average nerd can expect to be abused, yelled at or bullied on a daily basis. It is why many a nerd shuns the limelight and prefers working in isolation, far away from the braying crowds.

It is common for the thoughtful, timid, strange-looking ones to find themselves under assault of a crowd of over-excited men in the street, who believe it perfectly acceptable to laugh and scoff at a complete stranger who was only minding his own business.

There are parts of town, not far from my home, I know to avoid, taking a long circuitous route to my destination on foot, to avoid their rude derision. Otherwise I will hear them chant: “Look at that geek.” It seems I will always have a nerd face, though perhaps I could do something about my eternal slouch and stripey jumpers.

Chris Whitty did not want to make a complaint about the drunkards in the park, but that is probably because he has had a lifelong relationship with such insufferable fools.

Certainly, that is my experience. From the bullying idiots on the bus on the way home from school, to the gang of imbeciles who would follow me around the school, laughing “geek, geek, geek” for three years without relent.

Then later, while waiting for a public bus on my way home from sixth form college, the amused youths who would pelt me with eggs at the bus stop. Because of them, I took to walking the four mile journey home from college each evening, a pleasant enough saunter in clement weather.

Throughout his life, the perennial nerd grows used to a lout screaming across two lanes of traffic, “What are you looking at?” Once on a housing estate in Hanwell I was threatened with knives. Later, following a dear friend’s wedding in Tottenham, I was steamrollered by a dozen young men who rammed me into a wall and kicked me to the ground. Why? Because they could.

Nerd-face learns to avoid all crowds, and to shrink away, even at work or amongst a party of friends. As the years pass by, they grow a thick skin, learning to ignore the derision of the crowds as they wink at one another as you pass by. No longer do they dream of delivering a ninja backflip, bopping them right between the eyes with a jabbing kick. No, now they just slink way, muttering to themselves, “this is just the way of the world.”

As for the flapping commentariat, claiming to be outraged at the treatment of the Chief Medical Officer: they themselves are part of the braying mob, usually willing participants in the vilification of the misfits among them. One of them, now inexplicably the Prime Minister, built his writing career hectoring them. Some cool tech companies built their brands on a counter-nerd narrative.

Nerd-face learnt long ago, in his formative years, that he would never escape the ridicule of society at large. He finally reconciled himself to this fact in his twenties. Through his thirties, he told himself: “I don’t care anymore.” In his forties, he starts to embrace this identity.

In time, he will become a champion of nerds, and may even appear on national television, representing all nerds everywhere. A timid nerd-activist, quietly taking on the system, one press-conference at a time.

Now and then, a loutish drunkard will leap out before him to remind him: “You are still just a nerd.” But look how he responds. He walks humbly on the earth and, when the foolish ones address him, he replies: “Peace!”

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