Owning My Inner Nerd

My daughter came home from school last week, sobbing, because one of the kids in her preschool called her a nerd. While I stroked her hair and wiped her tears, I flashed back 25 years to when I was fifteen. The head cheerleader, who was my secret friend, turned away from me at the lunch table. Standing there, holding my green plastic tray with my soggy hamburger, limp fries, and orange juice, I saw the apology in her cheerleader eyes when she said, ďThis is not the nerd table.Ē

She may have been cruel, but she wasnít dumb. I am a nerd. Straight A, pre-med, attended church twice a week, didnít drink until I turned 21, didnít cuss, and saved my virginity for marriage. I knew what it would take to fit in. I was pretty enough, could be funny enough, and I did date the schoolís cutest boy. But to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids, Iíd have to pretend to be someone I wasnít. The truth was that I cared about getting good grades because I wanted to be a great doctor one day. I didnít drink at parties because I thought it would be irresponsible. I chose not to sleep with my boyfriend because I didnít feel ready to have that kind of emotional connection, not to mention that I was scared to death of getting pregnant.

Does that make me a nerd, or just an authentic human being?

Next: The temptation to wear masks

The Temptation to Wear Masks

I remember the angst of those days. Itís so tempting to cave into social pressures to be something that youíre not, to wear masks to get invited to the right lunch table. I still feel that pressure at times. As a doctor, blogger, author, artist, and mother, itís tempting to wear many masks. If I slip on my white coat and climb up onto an ivory tower and talk down to people, Iíll be the kind of doctor the big wigs at Stanford expect me to be. If I write my book as if Iím the guru who has it all figured out, the best publishers might fight over my book at auction. If I wear black and act dark and mysterious, the high-end art dealers in New York might pay attention to my paintings. If I blog the perfect top 10 list with all the right Google keywords and just the right snappy title, I might get more web hits and Twitter followers and Facebook friends. If I wear the right sweater set and dress my daughter in the cutest Oilily clothes and bake the perfect cupcake, Iíll fit in with the other Mill Valley Mommys.

But Iíve decided not to live that way. When I wrote my book, Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, which comes out in September, I refused to get into the doctor box. Instead, I wrote it the way I practice, as if Iím sitting with a patient over drinks, talking about the reality of how our bodies work Ė as opposed to the way the tabloids portray us. When I blog, I write my truth, rather than conforming to somebody elseís standard of what I should be doing or how I might get some company to sponsor my site. When I paint, I make happy, gestural art thatís authentic to who I am. And the Mommys will just have to forgive me for showing up in sweats and bearing cupcakes from Whole Foods.


When I started my blog Owning Pink, I decided I would write from my heart and tell the whole truth. I would integrate all of the facets of myself, yank off the masks I was wearing, and be ALL ME, ALL THE TIME. I would own all the facets of what makes me whole – my creativity, my spirituality, my relationships, my health, my sexuality, my career, my planet – and ME. And I would encourage others to do the same.

So I am still a nerd. Iím a girl scout. I still have my goody-two-shoes tendencies. And I donít care what you think about that. Instead of trying to impress you by being something Iím not, I invite you to join me. Strip off your masks, show me your authentic self, let your freak flag fly, and I will love you exactly the way you are.

An Invitation

Are you up for it? Can you own your inner nerd, your deep-seated freak, your darkest shadow, your sexy goddess, and your quirky idiosyncrasies? Can you own your addiction to Ho Hos and your preference for being on top and your compunction for scrapbooking and your thick thighs and the way you say ďyaíll?Ē Can you accept that youíre perfect just the way you are and that the authentic you is all you really have? Can you own YOU?

If you can, I promise you can come sit at my lunch table.


Lynn Demsky
Lynn D4 years ago

I would recommend that you always just be yourself, if people don't like --- other's will!

KS Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Eco M I A MoonWalk Again
EcoWorrier M5 years ago

sorry not sure what is Nerd?

Nicole Gorman
Nicole Gorman5 years ago

Nerd and proud!! Can't wait to buy your book when it comes out!

Eva Orta
Eva O7 years ago

Really neat article. Even though 'nerd' never really has (had?) a very negative connotation during my high school years. I always had friends from different 'cliques' yet was considered a semi-shy nerd by most. That meant that I enjoyed studying and getting good grades, would not be regarded as very out-going but rather as shy, was considered to be something of a goody-goody-two-shoe and yet, I never felt the 'nerd'-label was a negative one. It was (is?) simply who I am. That is not to say that I sometimes wished that I could look just as purdy as that one popular girl or wished that I had the guts to talk to that boy I really liked or... Teenage-blues affected me as well ;) It was just that labels in our school were not... Everything. There were groups and cliques, sure. But they provided a general overview, not an iron-clad rule-system.

Merelen Knitter
Merelen Knitter7 years ago

I love reading the article and the comments and seeing all of my fellow nerds. :)

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

I am so very happy for you!

I've never been part of the "in" crowd. I actually never fit in any crowd. Too normal to be with the "nerds", too eccentric to be "normal". Not athletic enough to be a "jock", not "bad" enough to be a "burn out"... I was never a cheerleader either. Yet I had friends in every group, so I was well known, even if I wasn't popular.

I've just accepted the fact that I am who I am. Yes, it hurt sometimes that I never had a table to sit at, on the other hand, I was the one that people came to when they just needed to talk, knowing their secret was safe with me.

I had my hand full of good friends, and that's all I needed. I'm still like that. I speak my mind, and often people are either really offended or love what I say. I can't please everyone all the time, so I'll stick to being me.

I'm so proud of you that you withstand even with peer pressure from the likes of Stanford! That's a mighty high bar, and people are lucky to be able to reach it, and with hard work, some do. Then to not break under what's expected and keep your integrity! wow! Kudos to you! :-)

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare7 years ago

I have tried to hide my 'nerdness' for a while, not because I really cared what anyone thought, but I didnt want to be that girl who studies all summer long or never dates.
Now that I am a older, I think I found a healthy balance between the nerdy and the slightly cool parts of me. For example, I do enjoy being out all day long and going nuts, but Im definitely reading a book before going to bed.

Bente S.
Bente S7 years ago

I would love to have you at my lunchtable. :-D
Great article!

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