Super Cool or Uber Nerd?

Nerd. Dork. Geek. Loser, dweeb, spaz. These were the cries I so often cast down from the apex of popularity during the glory days of high school. These were not social slurs mind you, but merely a harmless practice of self-amusement joined by my fellow socially elite.

Yet something disturbing happened to me the other day while hanging with my peeps at a restaurant. Giving our waitress the full benefit of my charm, I made a pun that I happen to find quite witty. Was my repartee rewarded with the appropriate awe and admiration? No. In return I received an unjustifiable accusation that I am "such a nerd." I scoffed at her groundless jab, looking to my comrades to rebut in my defense. "She's right, man. You're a nerd. A big one."

I was completely aghast at this horrid allegation as I met it with great denial. How could I be considered a nerd? From what I can tell, I've always been on the leading edge of cool. I buck the rules whenever possible. I call everybody's parents by their first name. I watch MTV, but not for the music. I get "wasted," "plastered" or "sloshed" on a quasi-frequent basis. I use slang like "mad," "hella" and "wicked" despite their lack in grammatical fidelity. I quote movies made before I was born. I get fashion tips from the E! network. I started 80s nostalgia back in 1991. Nerd? I think not.

I tried to think of what could possibly give someone such a false impression of the true me. Granted, I have occasionally ventured over to the History Channel. And I've been known to engage in heated contests of Jenga. And once in awhile you may catch me singing loudly (and a tad off key) while in the shower, the car or retail dressing rooms.

But that doesn't make me a nerd...does it? In some bizarre, twisted turn of fate is it possible that I, once the very picture of cool, could have somehow evolved into (gulp!) a nerd? Had I finally gotten my come-uppance by unwittingly transforming into that which I so carelessly ridiculed in my youth? I needed answers. And fast.

To help me on my quest of self-discovery, I decided to trace my potential fall from cool by returning to the last place I remembered being "with it": high school. I thought a trip into the past may somehow help discern how and when I possibly ventured down the darkened path of dorkdom.

I began my inquiry by questioning someone who was a bit of a mentor to me in my youth: a math teacher who really made a difference and was as much a friend as an instructor. I asked him to tell me what he remembered about my days in his class.

"Well, you never did your homework." Success! True nerds love homework. It's a medical fact that nerds are chemically dependent on academic work even when outside educational buildings. Geeks will go so far as to request unassigned work. For fun. Freaking geeks. This compulsion is almost as strong as their mindless addiction to grades.

"But you did freak out when I tried to give you a B. You kept going on about 'needing' an A. I never had a student cry before that." Thanks a bunch, Aristotle. I never liked that jerk anyway.

Desperately, I next sought emotional refuge in the student body. Surely the legacy I had left behind in these hallowed halls was still well intact. I quickly searched the student population for familiar faces, expecting a reception befitting that of a conquering hero. I could always be counted on to generate a commotion while passing by my classmates.

And yet, as I toured the building now, I noticed something strange. I brushed past the students with little to no reaction. The only conversation I inspired was when one twerp inquired to another who the "old head" was. I quickly came to the sad realization that I had not attended high school with any of the midgeted students that were so oblivious to my presence. Talk about shock and awe.

I attempted to stay positive and turn the circumstances in my favor. I tried to see this as an opportunity to start from scratch and let the cool within me shine through. If I truly possessed coolness, these high school girls wouldn’t be able to resist my elder appeal.

I found myself surrounded by little bodies that were sinfully underdressed and swimming in discount perfume. Tiny faces caked in makeup singing songs I'd never heard of. It was like being in an Oompa Loompa whorehouse.

I tried to get my mack going, but it was useless. In the deep recesses of my mind, I knew that among the scantily clad female populous lurked the younger siblings of my friends. Girls I had probably last seen when they were still in diapers. Even those Pampers covered more flesh than their current wardrobe.

One such Britney clone I recalled from the days of her infancy approached me with equal parts excitement and hesitation. I felt the same way, though my quickly abandoned feelings of excitement were of a different nature. "Hey, Joe! Aren't you, like, supposed to be in college? You aren't, like, the new physics teacher, are you?" Like, what a little tramp.

What was going on? Had I really changed? Was I ever cool to begin with? Am I actually capable of an Oompa Loompa reference? I was beginning to face the sad, sad truth: I could possibly be a nerd.

Defeated and downtrodden, I returned from my nostalgic journey seeking solace from the only entity that had always been honest with me: TV. Never letting me down, Comedy Central was my savior this time in the form of a film called "Can't Buy Me Love."

This 80s teen flick blasted my conception of popularity and taught me that labels like "nerdy" or "cool" are just superficial classifications that serve no better purpose than to stimulate an insecure ego. The view of our peers is not what defines us. Everyday we each face the canvas that is our life, awaiting our actions to paint the picture of our soul for the world to see. That is unless you're a jock, in which case you probably haven't understand a damn word I've said, you filthy primate.

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