If I had a dollar for every time a normal acquaintance of mine said something along the lines of, “you two would really get along! You both share a specific nerdy interest,” I would be a rich woman. I think non-nerds think this is a nice thing to do, trying to put two people together who like to talk about something that they, the non-nerd, don’t want to talk about as much. Hypothetically, this is a very nice thing to do, because it’s not like that’s not how many of my good friendships originated: we both like stuff, let’s talk about stuff.
But here’s the thing. Nerd culture is vast. I highly doubt that people would see two people who both liked, say, a particular football team and say “oh, you would really get along!” immediately and no matter the other circumstances (i.e. what’s known about the two people’s personalities, the depth of similarity of interest). It’s understood that while teams, like nerd interests, can be things to bond over, they carry a varied population of fans. But non-nerds often seem to think that nerds are one category, in terms of social compatibility, and that just is not true.
For example. The friend I had ages ago who told me that I’d get on with a friend of hers because we both liked Game of Thrones? This friend attended a conservative Christian college and was directly of the culture, as was her friend, and I’m a socially liberal agnostic feminist who watches the show for the costumes and the scraps of subtextual femslash. I’m sure she meant well, but it wasn’t worth pursuing, in my opinion, because if I have to even qualify “well, I mean, I often hate the writing, but it’s pretty and everyone is talented and I guess I can’t quit Game of Thrones,” that’s not a trustworthy barometer that I’m going to get along with someone who only watches the show and not on any analytical level.
Being told by people that I like superheroes and someone else likes superheroes and we should be friends because we like superheroes? This is such a tenuous connection. That’s not even liking the same football team, that’s liking the same sport. And when “liking” is defined as we’ve both offhandedly mentioned the same superhero media in conversation? That doesn’t tell me anything. I, as a queer feminist femme nerd girl, am incredibly wary of presumably straight cishet nerd boys. This is not to say that some of them aren’t fine, I’m sure they are, but I’ve heard enough horror stories, unwillingly sat through too many Big Bang Theory episodes, and walked into too many comic book stores only to be looked at skeptically like I don’t know what I’m doing (and, granted, sometimes I don’t, I’m still learning, but sometimes I do and that’s when it smarts) not to be skeptical. Many nerd boys are gatekeepers and/or overt chauvinists and/or nice guys who believe in the friendzone. I wouldn’t rule a friendship with a nerd boy out automatically, but both saying we watch Agents of SHIELD is not grounds for a friendship singularly.
(I mean, look, for example at even hardcore SHIELD fandom, which is by and large a place I don’t want to spend time. Between SWWers, those who disrespect or dismiss Daisy [or the other girls, but especially], and rabid shippers of certain heterosexual ships I hate, I know I wouldn’t get along with many of them.)
And then there’s the other part of this. I don’t think I’ve heard the “oh, you should meet my friend who is also a nerd” line in the context of…well, other women in literal years, yet everyone’s always eager to introduce me (I use the first person here so as not to assume but I do assume this happens to other people) to their also nerdy man-friends. Or even just male acquaintances. Sometimes it’s overt (“do you want their number?”) and sometimes it’s attempting to be subtle (“I mean, we should all hang out”) and every time it’s very uncomfortable. Because the problem is that non-nerds aren’t often going to understand when I explain any of the above points or causes for wariness. Non-nerds see two nerds, and in a worst case scenario this is equated with helpless social rejects and in best cases it’s equated with well-liked but misunderstood somebodies, and they say “I should arrange a meet-cute!” to themselves, regardless of the little details, but nerds are people of details entirely. That’s where we live. And especially us girls know that just being a nerd might not “cut it” with nerd boys, so it seems like a recipe for failure on top of an attempt to play ill-conceived heteronormative matchmaker.
I mean. I’m sure this has happened in queer contexts, but not in any of the queer contexts I’ve ever been in. Or any of the nerd contexts, either. When my drift partner says “you should talk to this other person who’s really cool and has things in common with us” I believe her because she doesn’t just mean we both like Captain America. Nerds are about details and nuances. Non-nerds are about… I’m not sure. Saying “putting people into boxes and setting them up for traditionally-sanctioned heterosexual romance” sounds incredibly overdramatic, but I can’t think of a way to phrase it otherwise.
Anyway. Coming back to the PSA. Non-nerds, though I expect my readership is primarily nerds but still, please think before you make suggestions like this. Ask yourself “do I get along with everyone I’ve ever met who also like skiing and Beyonce?” The answer is probably no. And non-nerds with traditional perceptions of boy-girl relationships, how about we just stop assuming that every time a girl and a boy have anything in common it means they should go out on a date.
–your fangirl heroine.