As a gay counselor (therapist, coach, sex therapist – I do all of those) for 28 years, I always enjoy when discussions with my clients inspire me to write on a blog topic because “life’s truths” just seem to jump out at us in discussion. One of these was recently when I found myself saying, “I’m convinced that nerds make the best boyfriends!” Turns out, I’m not alone.
I set out to write this blog article and just for kicks I Google-searched on “nerds make the best boyfriends” and no fewer than 19 articles that basically had the same title – “why nerds make the best boyfriends” – came back.
At first, I thought, forget it, it’s been done. But the one thing they shared besides having drastically similar titles (who copied whom?) was that they were all about straight women and straight men. Yawn. So, since nobody was writing about this from a gay male perspective, I thought I would, and “translate” what some of them were saying for a gay male context.
Most of the articles are list format, which I also like, because I think they’re easier to read. Some of the best traits of nerds include many items, like this one from e-harmony (which I do NOT recommend; remember, e-harmony was founded by a vicious, anti-gay “reparative” therapist and was sued for anti-gay discrimination! https://www.eharmony.com/dating-advice/dating-tips/ladies-9-reasons-you-should-date-a-nerd/):
- He’s Heartfelt
- He’s a Smarty Pants
- You’ll Get the Star Treatment
- He’s Open to Suggestions
- He’s a Gentleman
- He’s a Go-Go Gadget Guy
- He’ll Make You Laugh
- He Keeps the Right Company
- You Can Be Yourself
The classic Cosmopolitan magazine puts it like this (https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/news/a35653/reasons-nerdy-guys-are-the-best/):
1. They love to stay in and just chill.
2. They love “doing it” (sex).
3. Being passionate about things is adorable.
4. They make the best jokes.
5. They’re not superficial.
6. When they do suit up, they’re very impressive.
7. They make glasses look good.
8. They’re a secret weapon at pub trivia.
9. They don’t judge you for your nerd obsessions.
10. They know how to fix shit.
11. They’re more sensitive.
12. NO SPORTS.
13. They’re curious.
14. They’re not trying to impress anyone.
You get the idea.
Psychologist Katie Burns says it like this, in herway.net:
Before I go on about nerdy guys, here’s something that needs to be said: Not every girl dreams of a ripped bad boy on a motorcycle who’s going to sweep her off her feet.
Yeah, it sounds nice, but in reality, most of those smooth-talking, sexy, smirking guys end up being players unable to have a serious and committed relationship. If you’re looking for more than an initially promising but progressively underwhelming hookup (yes, that’s exactly how it goes 90% of the time), find yourself someone who’s interested in more than meets the eye, lives authentically and loves passionately; in other words, find yourself a nerdy man.
So many of these articles aimed at straight women (by straight women) have that cave-man aspect of “women weak; man take care of you” vibe that always creeps me out a little bit in our modern society because it sounds sexist to me; “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” (Irina Dunn), and I’ve always maintained that a huge part of homophobia has its roots in sexism, gender role expectations, and the toxic masculinity that gay men aren’t “man enough” because they don’t dominate women and treat them like submissive procreative objects who serve them. But then some women act like they’re always looking for a stable guy who will fend off the would-be attackers to the cave and protect the little damsel (or at least treat her like a queen and keep her in diamonds by having a geeky, techie, high-paying tech job while she really gets it from the pool boy). Those kinds of dependence dynamics don’t sound healthy to me, including the often (but not always) problematic gay relationships of the rich daddy with the twink with “expensive tastes”. I always advocate that relationships should be about having love in your life, and that issues of making a livelihood and providing for your short- and long-term financial security are another matter (which is why I often do career coaching to help guys stabilize their long-term financial outlook).
My point about making my case about why nerds make the best boyfriends for gay men has more to do with what I always say about relationships, which is to avoid matching up for the pitfalls of “cash, connections, and c—k” (my article on that, here) and form relationships based on sound emotional connection that can be enduring over time, over many phases of the human adult life span. Couples need support as they age from younger men to middle age and older men, in order to grow together and not just grow apart. As the great couples therapist and author, Esther Perel, LMFT, says, in her captivating Belgian accent, “We have many relationships in the same lifetime, including with the same person.”
While the ladies of Cosmo, etc. make good points about nerds as good boyfriends/partners/husbands, I’d like to add more, from a gay male perspective:
- They challenge the “conformity” pressure the gay community often has. When gay men have tended to all “look alike” from the 1970’s “clone” look to the modern “gym bunny”, nerds have always taken pride in proudly wearing what they want, especially things like graphic t-shirts with superhero logos (think of a gay version (if that’s not already redundant) of Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory”). Nerds don’t necessarily look to others to take their cue on what to wear or how to groom, but self-validate their own self-expression to celebrate who they are and what they’re interested in (pop culture, science fiction, cult movies, superheroes, funny sayings, or academic looks like glasses, suspenders, or bow ties).
- Nerds are often very sexy in being passionate about their interests. Ever heard a nerdy guy talking about something he’s interested in, like physics, Star Wars, Star Trek, or comics canon? Even when others don’t understand what they’re saying, it can be charming to see how “into it” they get.
- Nerds have sometimes had a hard life. Before they grow up to have likely lucrative careers in IT, finance, hard sciences, engineering, or academia, these can be the kids who were bullied because they weren’t “jocks” or were the victims of daring to fail to promote toxic masculinity. Even straight nerds can be perceived as gay because they are “derelict in their gender duty” to be athletic (how dare they!). Gay nerds as little boys might find solace in their nerd peers, straight or gay, who don’t put as much pressure on them to be gender-conforming in the toxically-masculine athletic way (although I realize not all athletic boys are straight or promote toxic masculinity; let’s just say they are “at risk”). Sometimes having gone through bullying or at least the experience of having to “defend” themselves for having dorky interests versus “socially acceptable” interests like sports can make these guys (straight or gay) more sensitive and have a certain depth of compassion because they know what’s it’s like to take shit for being who they are. Sometimes people who have had the roughest upbringings can become the most sensitive, generous, and compassionate adults, which seems to be the traits of nerds that both straight women and gay men are particularly attracted to.
- Nerds can be just plain smart. They might have had good educations (public or private), or maybe just made the most of the education they did have, but these are likely boys who were smart right out of the shoot, and a certain combination of Nature and Nurture ends up making a kid (and later adult) who can command school work, ace standardized tests, and master difficult material in college and the professions, being able to hear, understand, and apply difficult concepts that, let’s face it, go over the heads of ordinary mortals. Being that smart can often (although not always) make a boy/man able to see nuances, be empathetic to see different sides of the same issue, and be a good communicator, one of the key components of a sound relationship (along with Commitment and Compromise, the “Three C’s” of relationship success that I discuss in a previous article, here.) They can have critical thinking skills that lead to good conflict-negotiation skills. You can stop fighting long enough to sit down to make your group costume plans for Comic-Con well in advance.
- Being smart can be a component of a great sense of humor, being able to see and process irony, patterns, and figures of speech (nerds can really enjoy puns). Their humor can be part of just enjoying life throughout, with dorky passions that endure well past childhood (remember that the main buyers of comic books are adults). The same passion that can make them enthusiasts about their professional field or about their science fiction or fantasy hobbies can also fuel their adoration for you as a partner, which tends to endure a long time and they are overall less likely to toss you off for the latest model of twink that comes off the assembly line.
- Dating or partnering with a nerd can be a sign of approaching your life with boldness an bravery, challenging the idea of who you “should” be dating or marry. It also helps challenge the pressures to choose a mate based on appearance privilege elitism and the idea of the “trophy partner” that works for some gay men but not all. Making your choice of dates, boyfriends, partners, or husbands based on your own needs helps to stave off the pressures of society (just as you had to “buck” society in coming out and challenging heterosexist assumptions that everyone is, or “should be” heterosexual). Choosing the nerd partner challenges the what the late legendary gay therapist Michael Shernoff, LCSW, called, “the capitalistic notion of a partner as a possession” or status symbol like a big house or car when you don’t want that, you want whom you love.
- Having the nerd partner is very “adulting”. It forms the relationship based on shared values, enjoying seeing the world and all it has to offer, and committing to a stable lifestyle that helps plan for the long term after puppy love sex fades. Nerds are capable of the maturity of seeing things through like graduate degrees, research projects, and hobby projects like designing or building things. They naturally have a stability, maturity, and professionalism that just comes with the territory; you don’t get a PhD if you’re not more disciplined than the average person, by far. Nerd professions tend to just pay well, and provide for a stable income over time yet usually avoids the trappings of a superficial conspicuous wealth or “keeping up with the Joneses” elitism.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, these guys can be sexually skilled. The same passions that go into learning the history of the various “Robins” who served Batman can also go into their bedroom prowess. I’ve had some entertaining nights with guys who seemed like dorks at the bar but were animals (in a good way) once you got them home and behind closed doors; some of these guys really do become Superman when the horn-rimmed glasses come off. It’s the double-reward of both passion and the fact that it’s unexpected.
Even if dating or partnering with a nerd type doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, I would still recommend at least some foray into experimentation with it. It’s always healthy when you’re single to expand your options in dating. Try dating against your usual type once in a while. Explore challenging the neuroplasticity of the brain that’s involved with relating to people outside your immediate social peer group, or even clique. You will learn not only about others, other demographics, types, and outlooks on the universe, but also you will learn what gets evoked in yourself during the experience. Are you more relaxed? Are you feeling less pressure? Do you find yourself laughing? Are you entertained, validated, amused, or feeling good? What else can we ask for in a relationship than the “value-added” subjective experience of having fun when you’re enjoying your time away from the all-important work? Try all kinds of different things in dating. Different thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors might get you the different results that you’ve been really wanting in dating for a while now.
And if you would be interested in the professional services of a dorky guy like me as your gay counselor, therapist or coach, please let me know. Getting help for your individual challenges in dating (or relationship fulfillment) can help you get un-stuck in rewarding ways. You can work with me, as the Founder of GayTherapyLA.com, or with my associate clinicians; we would be happy to help. For more information on becoming a client, call/text my cell at 310-339-5778, or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com. You can see our reviews here.