I recently had a flirtation with a guy whereby we debated the merits of using Dictionary.com versus the actual hard copy, old school, book version of the dictionary. And I realized, with some degree of alarm, that this felt familiar. That this—this courting by way of words—was not a one-time thing. It was a recurring thing. It was my thing.
Thinking back, I remembered a past relationship I had with a fellow writer, and how it began with us exchanging flirtatious emails that centered around … books. And words. Big, big words. His emails were filled with huge words that I’d have to look up in the dictionary, or on Dictionary.com, and I’d check the definitions of my own big words that I wanted to pepper in the emails I sent to him. Our emails went on into the midnight hours, and though they were about literary topics and read like personal essays, I felt a surge of sexuality under the surface and between the lines.
During our email correspondence, or as a result of it, I felt like my brain was expanding daily, constantly filled with swirling words and sentences and carefully crafted paragraphs that he sent to me or that I was planning to send to him. I felt alive and on fire and filled with desire, fueled by these words, as books and writing and passion crashed together all at once in him. One night I had a dream that I was lying pressed up against him on a bed overflowing with books, both of us naked, him reading classic literature to me before we made rapturous love, a tangle of sweaty limbs and cool, crisp pages intertwined.
But there have been more men subjected to my nerdy ways, and not just super-intellectual bookish writer men. There was a man who chain-smoked Marlboro Reds and had a deep, gravelly smoker’s voice and beautiful lines etched into his face from his dark and checkered past, wore an authentically tattered leather jacket, and lifted heavy things, often. He didn’t have a nerdy bone in his body. That is, until I started talking thesaurus to him as I straddled him, both of us only partially clothed. I breathlessly asked him if he preferred using the thesaurus in book version or its counterpart in the Microsoft Word Tools dropdown menu. And he … responded. We went back and forth with … synonyms. Right before we made out.
This was foreplay. For a nerdy Type A English Major honors student, this was my dirty talk.
And going further back to my nerdy flirting roots, almost 10 years ago, there was the guy in the band I used to see play every Monday night. And each week I’d bound up to the stage after the show and greet him with a hug and a new big word of the week, and he’d reply with a word of his own. He wore a leather jacket. He played the guitar. He was in a band for God’s sake, and look what I did to him!
Yes, I’m a nerd, and yes, books and words stimulate my brain, which in turn turns on my body. But my nerdy flirting has been successful through the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to encounter men who have been receptive to my nerdy ways.
Thinking even further back, I remember being in seventh grade, desperately longing to be liked and accepted. Trying so hard to be cool, to disguise my nerdiness, my love of reading, my pride in my good grades, to hide them all under an acid-washed Guess jumper and matching high top sneakers, a tousled perm, frosted peach lip gloss and blusher, and bright blue eyeliner and mascara. But nothing I could do or wear could ever cover it up, and people still knew that there was a nerd underneath. I remember standing in the brown-carpeted dank-smelling middle school hallway near the Language Arts classroom, in front of a row of bright orange lockers, shifting my knapsack on my back, brushing away a wisp of hair, and smacking my frosted lips as a gaggle of cool boys swaggered by in their matching sweatsuits and feathered haircuts. And the coolest boy of them all called out, “Hey, Jen!”
I turned around, my eyes widening, breath catching, pulse quickening, and heart racing, hearing his voice say my name.
Not slowing his stride at all he asked, “Did you read the dictionary last night? For fun?” He continued strutting down the hall as the rest of the boys erupted in laughter.
Now, over 20 years later, my natural curls have replaced my perm, and I wear dark wash jeans, cotton tanks tops, and Converse shoes instead of an acid-washed extravaganza. I wear barely any make-up at all and certainly none of the frosted variety. I live surrounded by my computer and notebooks and pens and books stacked on shelves and stuffed under tables and overflowing on my windowsill. I’ve proudly come into my own as a sexy nerd who thrills at the sound of a man who’s not afraid to bust out his biggest big words. Maybe other methods of seduction work for other women, but I’m sticking with my nerdy flirting. In my experience, I’ve found that after age 25 being a nerd became cool, and if I could go back to those brown-carpeted orange-lockered middle school halls, I’d tell those sweatsuited boys, “If you only knew how fun reading the dictionary could be.”