Saturday, July 18, 2009

Training To Fit

Paul Graham's essay on nerds is good reading for almost anyone though middle and high school nerds might benefit most from it. The essay is all about them written by someone who has experienced the all to familiar pattern of ostracization that is their shared fate. Having seen several nerds in my own life, I believe parents can be a real help in filling the coolness gap that exists between the nerds and the hip crowd at school.

Consider for instance a thirteen year-old math geek who is pretty but has no time or interest in looking attractive. A mother could step in be her style guide, take matters into her own hands to make sure her daughter never looked anything but her best at all times. So the little geek could be number and pattern crunching to her heart's content all day long but she'd have her hair styled and face made-up perfectly thanks to her mother.

She'd have the best of both worlds specially because she is not making any effort to look attractive and yet she gets the attention that a young girl of her age needs. She would be far more appealing than the cool teenager who primps and preens in front of a mirror for hours and depends on her peers for validation. The geek is lucky in that she does not need any of that to begin with and yet has enough and more.A father can play a similar role in the life of a male geek.

If parents get their nerdy kids into the habit of presenting themselves in the best possible way at all times, eventually it will become second nature for them - at some point they will learn to cruise independently without the parental training wheels. Attire and grooming is one part of presentation where parents can easily help. They can also help nerds polish their social and people skills in a home setting and as they gain confidence encourage them to expand their comfort zone.

Parental support can ease a lot of the awkwardness these kids feel around their peers and as Graham points out they value other things in life much more than fitting in. While that is true, being a misfit is fraught with anxiety and it really does not have to be.

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