Here’s what @ and I knew as we headed into Guthries for the Nerds at Heart event on Tuesday evening: There would be games; there would be beers; there would be other single people; and there would probably be a few obligatory jokes about Star Wars, or Star Trek, or both (is there a difference?).
In other words... we didn’t know much. So, we (at least I; I’ll refrain from speaking on behalf of @) were a little nervous. Did we just drop $20 each to be trapped in a room with creepy men for three hours of uncomfortable silences followed by even more uncomfortable conversations? Perhaps… but we (I mean, I) were also a little excited. Oh the possibilities of love with a social misfit (I prefer to pretend that this is a new romantic concept for me).
To my relief, the Nerds at Heart event did not draw a crowd of too-cool-for-the-school hipsters with their black-framed spectacles, corduroy blazers, and conversations peppered with $10 words. I don’t know how to communicate with them… mostly because I don’t actually understand what they are saying. However, as I learned Tuesday evening, a decent number of attractive, smart women are willing to label themselves as social outcasts in the name of potential love, romance, or even just a date. And a few attractive men are willing to do the same.
As fellow “nerds” trickled in to the room it became apparent that the event drew a good mix of people in their twenties and thirties (and maybe a few forties)—most of whom looked fairly normal—and a roughly equal ratio of men to woman. The organizers, Bathsheba and Julia, began the event with an icebreaker: How nerdy are you? Raise your hand if the following statement applies to you… Not surprisingly I lost, but I did manage to raise my hand once because “I have products that are advertised ‘As Seen On TV.’” It’s true. I do. As Seen On TV products are awesome.
After one of the male participants won the icebreaker and was crowned the King of the Nerds or something, we got down to serious business. The organizers put us into groups to begin the board game portion of the evening, which meant @ and I were separated, divided and conquering our own tables. I suppose the crux of the experience hinges on the group that is chosen for you. My table included was equal parts men and women, though the women were primarily outgoing and the men were almost excruciatingly reserved. Eventually, after a few rounds of Taboo, people began to loosen up. Unfortunately, soon after we were all officially relaxed with the situation, organizers called time on round 1 and told us to wrap it up.
The game was followed by group trivia… to which I knew the answers to exactly none of the questions, and then a little free time to mingle, replenish beverages, and take a much needed bathroom break. The mingling fell flat, not surprisingly, if you consider that people who have labeled themselves "nerds" probably wouldn't list working a room on their top 10 list of best ways to meet new people. At this point, @ and I reconvened to compare notes and reveal who we thought was cute. There were a few obvious choices, the teacher with the sweater vest and the guy with the shaggy ‘do that showed up late, and then there was my pick:
Lou (gesturing towards the scruffy looking man with hair down to the middle of his back): I think the guy with the ponytail is hot.
@: You’re kidding. You are joking.
Lou: No… I mean.... Not his hair, but his face. He’s got a hot face.
@: I forbid this union.
Lou (crestfallen): I know…
Before I could decide whether or not I would defy @'s wishes and talk to Mr. Ponytail, the organizers reconvened the group and assigned us to new tables for a new game with new people. This time, my table was a bit livelier out of the gate. We chose to play Apples to Apples and after a brief dispute over the rules, we managed to find the rhythm of the game. I’ll be honest, while the majority of players at this table were a bit more gregarious, I found myself feeling as though the vibe wasn’t quite as easygoing as I had hoped. Regardless, we sidestepped the awkward indecision of the first group, which allowed us more time to interact, and, if we were lucky, make a love connection (we weren't or rather, I wasn't).
When the second round of games ended, it was 10pm, late for a Tuesday and I was almost eager to leave. Bathsheba and Julie informed the group that they could facilitate one-on-one contact, and if there was a person who had sparked your interest, to please email them and they would pass along your information to the object of your affection.
@ and I left shortly thereafter. I left feeling almost frustrated... maybe a little disappointed. I sensed something was... incomplete. Having never actually attempted speed dating or really any kind of singles event before, I don’t know how the process typically works. It’s easy to understand how two minutes of face-time and a check off list of names can be nerve-racking, high-pressure, and generally not an environment in which I would thrive. But, at Nerds at Heart, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet, much less have a two-minute conversation with, even half of the men (including Mr. Ponytail). Moreover, since the men who come to this event are self-professed “nerds,” how likely is it that they will be proactive about contacting a woman?
I found out the answer to that question on Wednesday when I received an email from Bathsheba and Julia with the subject line: Secret Admirer. Someone actually wanted to get in contact with me (See... I can be nice). Bathsheba and Julie forwarded me his email and now, it is up to me if I want to get in touch with him. The boy in question was fairly attractive, super clean cut, perhaps a little too groomed... and we know how I feel personal hygiene. Point being, he was definitely not my type, but let’s just say, I didn't cringe, horrified at the prospect of this particular man being interested. I’m still deciding whether or not to contact him, but I respect that he was willing to “put it out there” and so it’s likely I will.
After a little bit of perspective and distance, I have begun to look back fondly on my Nerds at Heart experience. Like @ said to me on the drive home from Guthries, it’s not easy to meet people. And this is a way to meet semi-normal people who are looking to meet people who are semi-normal. The initial feelings of mild disappointment and frustration may simply be symptomatic of not having had the slightest idea of what to expect. Now that @ and I have completed our crash course in the potential pitfalls of nerd courtship (Lesson #1: Male nerds are a very literal species), I think another Nerds at Heart event may be in our collective future… that is if we’re still single next month.