Marissa Mayer is probably the perfect woman. Which is bad news for me, because we're nothing alike.
She's tall, blonde and perky, with a bubbling laugh and impeccably sharp outfits. But more to the point: She's really nerdy. And because she has always been really nerdy, she is now a billionaire, and she can buy lots and lots of sharp outfits. That's what happens when you're like the eighth person hired by the founders of Google.
Being tall and blond and striking aren't really enough, anymore, in the world I live in. You have to be nerdy, too. It's the nerdiness that pulls it all together. That gives it a certain...oomph! A certain bite. A certain respectable, adorable, infinite potential.
Which I don't have.
I studied a lot in college and grad school, and I didn't party. Nerdy right? Wrong. See, I was misinformed, studying the wrong things. Sociology of religion. Ethnography. I wanted all of my projects to involve interviewing people about their lives. Basically, all my research was pretty gossipy.
When I moved to Brooklyn, where it's cool to be a nerd girl, I realized immediately that I was inadequate and probably letting my generation down. Young people respect nerd girls because nerd girls are the future.
This is why nerd girls are great: They wear big, sexy glasses and understand how the world works. They know how their vintage bike fits together. They majored in physics and neurobiology. They like math a lot. They like things girls aren't "traditionally" supposed to be good at and they're always a little surprising to people who still think girls aren't good at those things. They either take delight in this surprise, or they don't even notice it, because they're too busy solving an unsolvable equation while wearing a baggy striped jumpsuit and fantastic heels.
This is why I'm not a nerd girl: For one thing, I can't remember facts. Remembering facts is crucial to nerdiness. And you have to remember them right. This is me trying to remember a fact:
"Did you know that 50 percent of American women under the age of 30 who have babies are also not married?"
"Or maybe it's 40 percent. It's in the New York Times. You can check. And the women might be under 35. But I'm pretty sure it was 30. Crazy, right?"
Obviously I'm bad at numbers, which I sometimes call "numbers" and not "stats." Here are the things I'm good at, and I'm going to write them really fast, without thinking, so I don't have time to qualify or excuse them: Writing, singing, painting, cooking, listening and being polite. I am also really loving, really maternal, and I sometimes cook chicken for my cat because she doesn't like regular cat food and she looks so sad.
The worst part of my nerd guilt is that my husband is a nerdy guy. Which is, of course, what attracted me to him. He studied computer science. Actually, he has the very same degrees as my nerd girl icon Marissa Mayer and from the very same school. They even specialized in the same area -- artificial intelligence. Robots! Badass. Whenever there's a chart at the bottom of an article, it makes my husband happy.
"Oh, OK!" he says, after just a glance. "NOW I understand."
Once he tried to teach me calculus, and I cried. Do nerd girls cry? Or do they just rise to the challenge?
"But it's so fun..." he said, baffled. "Honey? Are you not having fun? Oh no! What did I do?"
I WISHED I thought calculus was fun instead of cruel and impossible and ridiculous. I wondered for a second if my husband wished I was different, too. That I was more like him. That I was more of a cool, modern woman, who he could talk about nerdy things with. More like Marissa. What if one day my husband just can't take it anymore? What if all the quiche and the paintings of beautiful naked women and the writing about body image and the tender maternal reflexes are too much and he leaves me for a nerd girl with a viciously sharp mind, who makes quick math-y jokes that are plays on science-y jokes that are poking fun at stereotypical girly women?
No. I'm panicking. He loves me for who I am. We complement each other, in this really conventional, old-fashioned way. And he really likes quiche.
But you can understand my apprehension. Not being a nerd girl isn't easy. I feel myself being rendered obsolete. I think I'm a thing of the past. I can't keep up. I sometimes struggle with the simplest apps on my droid. Which happens to have an operating system made by Google. I just learned that from Marissa Mayer.
We saw her speak the other night at the 92nd Street Y. Her boots were fantastic. Her hair was shiny. She wasn't wearing any glasses, but she definitely could have rocked them. She made a hilarious joke about when she was in this national honors science camp for genius children who are good at everything and the kids would amuse themselves by making "non-Newtonian fluid" and throwing it at each other. Her laugh bubbled over into glee. "That's cornstarch and water," my husband whispered to me. And I nodded like, "Of course! Obviously."Later, on our way back home, I said, "Non-Newtonian what?" Turns out cornstarch and water can do some pretty awesome stuff, when they get together.
Then we went inside and I made this incredible cauliflower in a curry sauce. I'm not saying Marissa can't do that too (I read somewhere that she loves to cook, because she can, in fact, do everything ever), but I felt pretty good about it.Google will definitely never hire me, and maybe I'm not my generation's shining light of hope for the future. But I can paint a mean naked woman. Well, a nice one, really. And when you hang that stuff on your wall, there's always something to talk about, no matter how nerdy the company.