Being a nerdy child is painful for both boys and girls. Boys who prefer study to sports have traditionally been seen as weaklings by more physical peers. This may have changed now that both studious and warlord-type boys use computers to pursue their interests.
Bookish girls, I fear, are still pegged as potential “old maids” even before puberty and are a source of worry to their mothers. When I was nine, my mother bribed me to attend after-school dances at our elementary school.
By the time I reached high school, I had gained enough cultural awareness to reject my nerdy true self. Well aware that boys don’t like girls who are too smart, I played dumb in most classes and batted my eyes at the football players—unsuccessfully. Adolescents can spot a nerd a mile away and only fellow nerds asked me out.
Even in adulthood, nerdiness is a disadvantage. In Mormon culture, real women sew, decorate, and make crafts. I tried, but my self-esteem nose-dived at every enrichment meetings where, despite my best efforts, I always produced an item that looked like a kindergartener’s reject.
Finally, I was vindicated. I was called as Gospel Doctrine teacher back when the curriculum allotted two years each for studying the Old and New Testament. Instead of hiding my history and theology books under a basket of unused embroidery floss, I could display and quote from them publicly in church. (This was before the rule for church teachers to limit teaching materials to the manual and scriptures.) A captive audience to regale with background material and historical gossip about biblical characters and events from my wide reading was as close to heaven as I expect to get. The only calling I’ve ever totally enjoyed, I expect no blessings in Heaven for fulfilling it. My reward came in this lifetime.