I am currently on my fourth decade as a nerd, having learned to read at four years old. I can geek out about certain subjects, as can most nerds, but I don't enjoy debate, and can read at least some social cues, so I narrowly escape the dork. When I get interested in a subject, any subject, I can be a somewhat obsessive researcher, just so I can feel confident enough to discuss the subject with anybody that asks about the subject once I bring it up. I have been known to read a book, then if that book references another book or two, I might just read both of those as well. And I can retain most of what I read. Of course that means I have been known to accidentally lapse into TMI (Too Much Information), giving people more information that they asked for or needed. When I finally started noticing eyes glazing over (or looking around for a way out of the monologue), the development of a shy smile and a little self deprecating humor to ease the tension from those accidental over share moments helped a great deal.
Social anxiety comes early for the Nerd. Good grades and high test scores often come at the cost of time spent playing with other kids. Parents that are not careful to make sure that kids have downtime and outside activities run the risk of building the perfect academic beast that has no one to play with at recess. Then again, if a kid is both socially awkward and has no hand eye coordination, recess might turn out to be overrated. I can remember many a day of getting picked last for every recess activity because everybody knew as well as I did that anything involving me and a ball was going to end in complete and utter disaster. I was always the guaranteed "out" for the other team. In Jr. High School (middle school, nowadays) I was the kid that got a C because I at least dressed for PE. Other than running laps, which I could do without tripping over my own feet, most of the time, any athletic ability passed me at a clearance of 35,000 feet, which is roughly the altitude of most commercial aircraft, but I digress...
There is no one particular look to the Nerd. They come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes and hair lengths. In fact, most clean up real nice when they want to or have to. Key words: "WANT to or HAVE to". The vast majority of the time, the Nerd couldn't care less what they look like to you. They would rather be working on their latest project, testing a new theory or figuring out a tricky line of code. If they're comfortable, they are generally more productive, and productivity means EVERYTHING to the Nerd. Being made to look a certain way is a card best played sparingly, and only if absolutely necessary. Some are actually quite attractive. If they feel like making the effort.
The Nerd is the original non-conformist. Conforming to what the cool kids did was always a lost cause, so why continue trying to play the game? The Nerd was the first person to embrace the mantra Just Be Yourself, because imitating someone else was a fast road to disaster. Many a Nerd can quote you chapter and verse about how they tried to fit in at some point in their lives. This was generally inspired by wanting to hang out with some group (Lest you think otherwise: Yes, Virginia. There ARE adult cliques!) of people that were thought to be at or near the top of the social strata. The Nerd would then change anything about themselves that was deemed unacceptable by the group: Hair, clothes, manner of speaking, conversation topics. Whatever they felt they needed to do. After a while, one of two things would happen which would prove the old movie cliche to be entirely true: the group would find some way to push the Nerd out anyway, or the Nerd would figure out that not being genuinely themselves was not worth the hassle of keeping up an appearance acceptable to someone else full time.
Despite all this, the Nerd manages to reproduce.
I myself have given birth to two Nerds. My son wasn't your regular academic go getter. Far from it. But he did develop quite an affection for Manga and anime, which he follows on every medium available to him, and can give you more back story on any anime character than you ever asked for. Although with his naturally argumentative nature, he can occasionally slip into Dork territory, his saving grace is a sense of humor that allows him to escape whatever verbal hole he digs himself into. He will look into any subject he is actually interested in, enough to give himself some working knowledge of the topic so he can talk about it without sounding stupid.
My daughter came to Nerdom through school, the same way I and most of my fellow Nerds did. A powerful combination of grades and test scores marked her entrance into the realm of the Nerd, and her recent passing of the Cognitive Abilities Test, or CogAT, which certified her placement into the Gifted and Talented program, solidified her place in the hallowed halls of the Nerdsphere. I am getting her into the habit of looking up anything she has a question about, and trying to introduce the concept of reading for pleasure. She loves math, and is almost insanely good at rapidly absorbing Math concepts, something I always had a hard time with.
In this generation, the Common Nerd is clearly evolving. No longer content to be a shadow on the wall of popular culture unless he or she conforms to it, The Nerd is taking ownership of his or her own particular quirks, and letting the world know that they are in fact, good enough to play on the playground with the cool kids. As is. Witness the popularity of TV shows like the Big Bang Theory and game shows like Jeopardy, that not only entertain you, they challenge you to think a little. The Nerd now exists outside of the classroom and the lab. There are Nerd athletes, models, actors, artists and any other profession you can name. My son is both a budding chef and a developing stand-up comic. My daughter has a talent for dance and an interest in cheerleading.
And both children are conventionally good looking. If and when they feel like putting in the effort. Which I don't force them to do, unless there is a valid reason. I know the rules.