We've already announced to the world that we've got a thing for nerds. Whether it's Michael Cera's fumbling high-school track star in Juno, the Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill show, or the cardigan-wearing McSweeney's fan behind the counter at our local Apple store, we're completely sunk by striped shirts and clever sneakers, not to mention that combination of sweetness, smarts, and self-deprecation. But as we cracked Benjamin Nugent's American Nerd: The Story of My People, an exultant study of the Dungeons & Dragons set, it dawned on us why our crushes never work out: because nerds in adulthood — post-nerds — are the biggest players out there. It's the same thing every time: We fall for a horn-rimmed mouth-breather, basking in the kind of gratitude that can only come from a guy who spent his formative years having his underpants yanked over his head. He wins us over, then moves on. Why? Because his high-school invisibility didn't result in lifelong menschiness; it inspired him to spend his 20s regrouping. Now he's eternally trading up, making up for lost time. Here's how it works: Pigeon-toeing his Converse One Stars, eyes downcast, he confesses over a tumbler of Basil Hayden's that he "could never talk to women." Feeling magnanimous and hiply counterintuitive, we decide we could love a man with aggressively short pants and no muscles to speak of — that only we can detect the sexy devil within. Him? He's wondering why we're still wearing last season's Louboutins.
How All the Bad Flings Led Me to the Woman I Married
In this excerpt from forthcoming book How to Grow Up, writer Michelle Tea explains exactly that.