These days, being a geek is cool.
Rather, it may be more appropriate to say that being a geek is now trendy and commercial, meaning that the same people who once looked down upon others for their geeky and time-consuming interests now wish they had them. Suddenly, “How To Date A Geek” has become a legitimate topic of relationship advice and discussion from Cosmo to Jezebel, and everything in between. A majority of the fifty articles on this topic I’ve come across over the past few months have been less than enlightened, and advocate people relinquishing any sense of self-identity and self-respect to attract a certain type of person.
In fact, when I inquired about blogging for the team here, they were excited to have a non-geek on board. One of the first ideas that popped up relating to article ideas was one presenting a perspective of a non-geek who was in a relationship with a geeky guy. I don’t have an answer to the question of “How does that work?”, other than “It’s complicated, but all relationships are.” However, it did get me thinking about geeks and dating, and the unique challenges that lie therein.
Earlier this year, the guy I am currently dating–who would be proud to label himself a “geek guy”–forwarded this article to me (How To Date A Geek Guy: Offensive Advice Or a Smart How-To For Women?). It took two seconds for me to roll my eyes. I’m sure the article came my way because he knew I’d want to blog about it, and of course I did. Being objectified and stereotyped, and dehumanized in the process, is not strictly a topic for frustrated feminist rants. It happens to all of us at some point. This article addresses the idea that it may not be offensive, but rather helpful to women in understanding more about how geeky guys work.
You’ll have to excuse me while I laugh at that double-standard. Should this even be a question? Of course it’s offensive. It encourages stereotypes and learning how to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to attract someone you have to work to click with. The alternative (realizing that successful relationships are about organically bonding with someone who seems like a natural match) is a lot more difficult and doesn’t sell magazines or garner traffic. It’s no different than “7 Steps To Get A Mega-Hottie To Talk To You”, something most people with any common sense and depth would immediately find shallow and demeaning.
Of course, if you’ve picked up Cosmopolitan or Maxim in the past decade, this is not a new ploy to help the single and lovelorn. The fact that “attracting a geek” is suddenly the huge type of conquest to which people are aspiring in their social lives is what seems slightly amusing to me. I’ve been attracting geeks of various types and personalities into my life for a very long time, and it isn’t because I’ve followed any of the advice in the myriad of “helpful” articles out there. It’s simply because I look to fill my world with compatible spirits. It is because I am interested in knowing people, not stereotypes. I find the entire idea of “How To Attract A Geek“ to be entirely ridiculous and condescending, something that popular media excels at accomplishing when handing out life advice to others.
Therefore, I decided to write this article on “How To Date A Geek”. There simply weren’t enough of them. However, mine may be infused with a heavy dose of reality and personal anecdotes, so be forewarned.
1) Ask Yourself Why You Want to Date a Geek
Many geeky people are eligible prospects and have a great deal going for them. However, if you’ve come to the conclusion that every geek is a future Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, you’re going to find yourself sadly disappointed. Likewise, if you truly believe every geek girl is the next Felicia Day or Tina Fey, it’s time for a reality check.
Geeks are not all millionaires or seemingly sexually repressed people waiting to turn into porn stars in the bedroom. They are not all quirky and witty and charming just by nature of being geeks.“How To Attract A Geek“ should not be something you’re reading because you believe there’s something in dating a geek that will reward your shallow and materialistic side more quickly than attempting to date any other type of person. Life is not The Big Bang Theory, and geeks do not exist in a universe where they will drop everything to ogle and idealize a hot girl or guy. Not all geeks are socially inept, inexperienced in dating, or waiting for you to come around and change their life. Shockingly, most are quite happy being who they are and pursuing the hobbies and interests that define them as geeks.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from attending Dragon Con, it’s that geeks may ogle Duct Tape Girl and Scantily Clad Thor, but attention will be quickly diverted when the cast of Battlestar Galactica enters the room.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to attract the attention of a geek because you think dating a different type of person may help break unhealthy relationship patterns in your life, you may be right. If you are, in some way, kind of a geek, and are looking to be appreciated for the intellect and sensitivity and passion for life you have to offer, you may actually find that attracting a geek is a way for you to meet a kindred spirit. Even if you’re not a geek but are tired of shallow social games and manipulative tactics, getting to know someone who could care less about societal constructs surrounding dating may be helpful to you. There are many reasons to date someone who is a geek, but it’s important to remember that you’re dating a person and not a stereotype.
2) Be Yourself
It seems obvious, but I’m absolutely serious here. Dating is about meeting other people with whom you share a connection, and hopefully you find people who accept you for who you really are. If you’re so caught up in pretending to be someone else, you’ll never find that person. Just because someone is a geek, it does not mean that person resides in a fantasy world. It also does not mean that person is not well-rounded, lacks other interests, is at a loss when it comes to social intelligence, and has never had a fulfilling relationship. If you’re looking to date a geek because you’re flattered by the idea of someone being flattered that you’re bothering, you are undoubtedly in for learning a lesson the hard way. If you are not sincere, or you’ve got ulterior motives in getting a geek to find you charming, it doesn’t matter how attractive you are or how much your friends think you’re a “catch”. Geeks are smart people, and being less than yourself is painfully transparent to all. Almost every article about being attractive to geeks mentions “Learn to be interested in his interests, even if you’re not”. This makes me think that the world is full of good actors, or the people who write these columns have never even gone out for drinks with a geek.
I’ve attracted a geek guy in my life. Or 20. Or maybe way more that I’ve just never known about. I’ve had serious relationships and meaningful friendships with more than a few. Some of them are fairly well-known geek guys who might be shocked to learn they’re considered geeky. Despite the fact that I seem to attract a certain type, I don’t watch sci-fi, I don’t see what’s so endearing about Kaylee from Firefly, I don’t program computers, I don’t play video games, and I don’t see the need to dress like Slave Leia or dress in lingerie at conventions in order to get attention. I am just me, in a pretty unapologetic way. I don’t purposely seek out geeky people. I just go out into the world and see who I happen to meet. I do my best to form connections, not simply collect acquaintances.
I have some geeky hobbies. I keep a blog. I play trivia every week. I’m a literary geek, a theatre geek, a music geek. I’m artsy. I dress in costumes whenever possible. Glitter follows me as I walk. I’m a little unconventional (okay, I’m a lot unconventional). I’ve been to both DragonCon and Burning Man. But I also love shopping, reality TV, and all things girly. I don’t wear glasses. I’m emotional rather than rational, and people don’t often see the intense and substantial side of me until they get to know me. Yet, geeky guys tend to be attracted to me instead of the beautiful women who are trying to attract a geeky guy, or the geeky girls looking for a counterpart. Likewise, although it’s not always an instantaneous attraction, I often find myself falling for geeky, introverted guys with whom one might assume I don’t have much in common. Often, though, it’s a balance that works. My strongest and most emotionally bonded relationships and friendships have been with geeky guys, and I don’t have to pretend to like Star Trek or Halo to build those. It does not mean I don’t support their interests or care about them or that I’m not willing to participate in their passions. It does mean that I don’t see the point in pretending to be who you are not. There are people in my life who do something for a living I couldn’t even explain very well, but they are extraordinarily important to me.
Sometimes, opposites attract. Other times, you find that those who understand you the most may appear to be nothing like you, but actually are. Getting to know someone takes work. Dating a geek isn’t about sharing geeky hobbies, although it’s wonderful if you do. Most of the geeks I’ve met value intellect and substance highly. They have been the most difficult to get to know, but once I have, they have also been some of the most rewarding friendships and relationships in my life.
3) Introversion VS. Extroversion
There is certainly a stereotype about geeks. In every movie or television show, the geeky character will lack emotional intelligence, feel uncomfortable in society, dislike people, be unable to talk to those he or she finds attractive, or will be trapped by the burden of being painfully shy.
What’s being discussed here is the matter of introversion versus extroversion. Not all geeks are introverts, although many are. Likewise, not all introverts are shy, socially awkward, or hate people. Introverts account for nearly half of the population, albeit the quieter half. Most personality tests employed by psychologists measure introversion and extroversion on a scale, and it’s unusual for people to find themselves at one extreme or another. Not every geek you encounter hates attention or suffers from social anxiety disorder.
I could write an entire article on relating to introverts, as it’s a fascinating topic in itself, especially if you’re intrigued by psychology in the way I am. However, being a geek is not the same as being an introvert. Introverts, by definition, are simply people who find that social situations require a great deal of energy and need to recharge that energy with alone time. On the other hand, extroverts may enjoy alone time but need social interaction in order to recharge and feel balanced again.
Not all geeks are introverts. Not all geeks are shy or socially awkward. Not all introverts are shy and socially awkward. However, as with any stereotype, some are. Understanding whether or not the person you’re attempting to date is an introvert or extrovert will make a great deal of difference in how you approach someone and how that person responds to you. For more on understanding and relating to the introverts you know and love, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s Quiet:The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Once upon a time, I traveled to New Orleans in order to meet a highly introverted, somewhat geeky guy I’d known online for many years. I liked him because he was intelligent, emotionally open and sensitive, and seemed to have knowledge and interest in just about everything. I am drawn to intelligent, sensitive, and passionate people. However, many of them are introverts by nature, and it can be difficult to get to know someone who has those qualities if you can’t get them to open up.
People do tend to naturally open up to me, and I’d say about 75% of those close to me are introverts. However, my trip to New Orleans to meet this particular person was something for which I was unprepared. I was 20 years oldand didn’t understand much about life or relating to others. I met him at the airport and noticed that it seemed a struggle to make conversation, and when I chattered on to fill the silence, he rarely made eye contact with me. I was a little heartbroken because we’d been so close for years online, but I had to conclude that he truly didn’t care for me in person.
At dinner, I asked him why he didn’t talk to me. I apologized for potentially offending him and expressed that I was disappointed that it seemed he didn’t like me. He responded with “How could you think I don’t like you? I’m not quiet because I don’t like you. I’m quiet because I do like you, and I don’t know how to be around someone like you.”
That was my first experience with learning that highly introverted people feel and express themselves differently than “someone like me”. It taught me that if you fall for someone who is an introvert, communication and feelings may not be completely simple and straightforward all of the time. That experience and subsequent relationship helped me understand people in a much better way.
However, it is important to remember that while many geeks are introverts, the two don’t go hand in hand. Just because someone is a geek doesn’t mean he will hate parties. Just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean she’s a sci-fi fan.
A great way to understand others a little better is to understand yourself, and I’m personally enamored with the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. It has explained a lot of things about me that I never could identify or articulate very well, things I’d call Alaynaisms. It really hasn’t steered me wrong yet, in terms of explaining why I get along with those I do, and why I can’t successfully have relationships with certain types of people.
Part of attracting the right people into your life is understanding what makes someone the right kind of person for that job, and what makes that type of person unique.
4) Have Your Own Passions and Interests
Most geeks are geeks because they care about one or more things in an extremely passionate way. If the geeky object of your affection is also an introvert, you’re going to find yourself feeling lonely and resentful if your only interest is everything you do with that person. More often than not, you’re going to find yourself not being an attractive option to that person in the first place if you don’t have things in your life that ignite your own excitement for life. Joie de vivre is contagious.
Passion, intelligence, and depth are some of the most attractive qualities you can possess if you’re hanging with a geeky crowd. Independence is also an important thing. You don’t need to like the same things as the person you’re trying to attract, but you should like something and be willing to go out and pursue that on your own.
One of the most threatening ideas for a geek to handle is that it is necessary to give up his or her passions in order to find a healthy relationship. It is also tiring and a great deal of pressure to pretend to share all of someone’s interests in order to attract his or her attention and hope that person will eventually find you the more interesting option. There are not that many co-dependent geeks, because pursuing any passion, project, or hobby tends to be a solitary endeavor. If you want to date a geek, you’re going to have to be as comfortable pursuing interests outside of a relationship as you are pursuing them with your partner(s). You’ll need to get in touch with your independent spirit. This is especially true if you’re dating a geek who spends a great deal of time focused on school, work, research, or any other endeavor that demands time, focus, and concentration. It is not something every person out there can handle. Only you know whether you’re the type that needs constant attention from a partner or the type that thrives on being given space in a relationship.
Be yourself. Be a fascinating, unique, compelling person. Care about things. Make the approval or company of others optional. Love freely. Express yourself, even when others prefer you didn’t.
If you want to attract someone who is a passionate and multifaceted person, first work on becoming that type of person. I was recently speaking with a small group of friends about “being ordinary”. I mentioned that most people I encounter simply aren’t terribly interesting. It isn’t that I don’t relate to their interests. It is that they either don’t have interests or are afraid to discuss them in social settings.
It is terribly easy to be ordinary and keep your enthusiasm for life under wraps. More often than not, this will cause the average geek to not even notice you’re in the room.
5) Avoid Becoming a Trope
The idea of “tropes” as increasingly pervasive in geek culture, especially if you’re female, is another article for another time. However, “tropes” are one-dimensional stereotypes, and while you may discover that one aspect of your personality is very “trope-like” and attractive to another person, playing that up leads down a harmful road.
I have a close friend who has been a part of my world for a long time. He happens to be an intense, somewhat geeky introvert who is one of the most complex people that’s ever passed through my life. Our friendship is a complicated and unique one. However, at one point, he told me that he didn’t consider me the type of person with whom he could ever have a successful long-term relationship. I found this a bit surprising, as we seem to have an abundance of natural chemistry, understand each other very easily, and share a pretty awesome emotional and intellectual bond. He is one of the people in my life with whom I feel no pressure to be anything but exactly who I am. Yet, while he’s always been this fixture in my world who effortless connects with me in a way that goes beyond being close friends, he’s also always been very certain that we’d never work out in terms of a long-term relationship.
Masochistic personality that I am, I once asked him why. There are a number of reasons that are far more important, but one he mentioned immediately was, “I have a strong aversion to manic pixies and muses.”
My friend is a witty and snarky person who never fails to make me laugh. Therefore, I assumed the answer was sarcastic, designed to avoid any real emotional discussion. Yet, months later, the same statement popped up in conversation, so I understood he was serious. Before getting to know me, he actually feared I would interfere with his life or change him in some unwelcome way, were we to become too close.
I’ve learned there is a very fine line between being a quirky, emotional, free-spirited person who has a natural talent for opening people up to new experiences and ways of thinking, and becoming someone’s “manic pixie dream girl”. There is a fine line between feeling appreciated because others tell you that you inspire them and existing as someone’s “muse”. This is true of every trope in existence. Once anyone begins to see you in one-dimensional terms, or attempts to place you neatly into a “trope-like” category, you can’t have any sort of meaningful connection with that person.
My friend may have initially seen me through a specific lens based on how others saw me or what he heard from others about me. He may have simply seen the “trope-like” side of my personality because I am guarded until I trust others, and only display what feels comfortable and non-intrusive. Either way, it accomplished nothing positive, especially since he was doing the same thing in how he presented himself to me.
It may seem a wonderful thing to have someone idealize you or put you on a pedestal as a few people in my life tend to do. It may seem wonderful when someone tells you they won’t pursue you because you are out of their league or they don’t know how to be in a relationship with “someone like you”. On the other hand, it may seem terribly unfair when you are judged or disliked for these very same attributes. It may hurt to be rejected because of the type of person you represent, rather than the complex person you really are.
In reality, both are extraordinarily harmful. You can’t relate to someone who views you as an ideal because that is something to which you’ll never quite measure up. The more the aforementioned friend stopped seeing me through the lens of the kind of person he imagined me to be, a lens I have to bear partial responsibility for creating, the closer we’ve become. Likewise, once I stopped trying to figure him out and just accepted that people have many levels of complexity, I grew to see we weren’t really that different, after all. I don’t think we’d ever have become close friends if the ideas of “tropes” were allowed to define us.
Behind most “tropes” is a little tiny bit of truth, embellished into a one-dimensional stereotype. Yes, you may have qualities that make it easy for those who don’t know you to see only that and judge accordingly. Don’t allow yourself to be seen as one-dimensional, and don’t think that playing up that one dimension will make you more attractive to a geeky prospective romantic partner. It is ultimately demeaning to both of you and makes it even more unlikely that you and that person will get as far as actually relating to one another.
Which, of course, brings us full circle. Deciding that you want to “attract a geek” is in itself a one-dimensional and unhealthy way of looking at relationships. I think a lot of people who identify themselves as geeky go through life looking for a certain level of acceptance, someone who really feels “I care about you because you’re you, not because I see you as a type or because you might have potential if I change you enough.” I think it’s not just something geeky people feel and want, but something anyone who has ever felt a little bit not like everyone else has experienced. I think I attract geeky, introverted, and/or unconventional people because I understand the importance of authenticity and acceptance. If you don’t have that, you don’t have the kind of openness and level of trust that builds strong relationships.
If you want to attract a geek, you can do the stuff that’s in all the articles. You can find someone who’s interested in sleeping with you and hanging out with you for a little while, until it becomes obvious you have nothing in common and pretense wears thin. That’s true of almost any “type” of person you want to consciously try to attract.
If you want to have a meaningful relationship or friendship with a geek, don’t do a single thing this (or any) article mentions. In fact, give up on the idea of people as “types” or attracting a “type” because it’s cool, or because of what you imagine that might have to offer you. Be comfortable enough with who you are to put it all out there and attract people because they are somehow right for you.
Maybe then you’ll be on your way to a healthy relationship, whether your partner is a geek, a hippie, a prep, a yuppie, a hipster, or any other “type” that comes to mind. In reality, that person isn’t representative of that “type”. They’re just a compatible partner for you, on whatever level that connection happens, and you don’t have to fake it to find it.
Spending your life faking it isn’t good for anyone. I don’t care if an internet article, or Cosmo, is telling you otherwise. Both you and your potential partner(s) deserve far better than a relationship built on one-dimensional connections and false pretenses.
Relationships occur between people, not labels. Perhaps the best way to attract a geek is to always, always keep that in mind.
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