My Wife Has Noticed That I Am A Nerd

August 14, 2004 | 22 comments
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I have been reading Wallace Stegner’s wonderful novel Crossing to Safety this afternoon. The book tells the story of a friendship between two academic couples. It is beautifully written, with more than its share of gently wise observations about friendship and the academy. I understand why it was so tremendously popular among our friends in Cambridge. Definitely worth a read.

The book contains the following snippet of dialogue, which I just read. A young graduate student has just driven four hours from Boston to the the cabin of his girl friend’s family in Vermont or New Hampshire. After sheepishly admitting that he forgot to pack anything, the assertive girl friend says:

    “. . . You must have brought something. Books? I never saw you without a green bag of books.” To her mother she says, “He reads everywhere — in the subway, between the acts at plays, at intermissions in Symphony Hall, on picnics, on dates.”

In her copy of the book, which I am reading, my wife heavily underlined the last sentence and wrote “Nate!” in the margin.

Thinking about it, I realize that I actually do take books with me on dates and that I did the same thing before we were married. (Might this explain my BYU dating career?) In my defence, however, I hasten to add that I don’t actually read the books while my date is around. On the other hand, it is nice to have something to do if she goes to the bathroom, etc. Besides, what if we were in a car accident on the way home, and I had to sit waiting for the ambulence to arrive to take my unconscious date to the hospital. I mean, you would want something to do wouldn’t you?

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22 Responses to My Wife Has Noticed That I Am A Nerd

  1. Julie in Austin on August 14, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    Gee, I’ll probably get in trouble with my union for letting the word out on this one, but one of the best parts of my job is getting to read all day.

    Child on playground–read on bench.

    Child wandering around campus attacking crab apples–nose in book.

    Child in tub working on Advanced Hydrology midterm–read in hallway (to keep book dry).

    Child watching APA-approved amount of TV–etc.

  2. Kaimi on August 14, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    My wife is laughing at this post. I take books everywhere. (Or magazines, law review articles, etc). I always have to have something to read on me. Mardell thinks it’s quite funny.

  3. Rusty on August 14, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    Gee, I pegged you guys as GameBoy people.

  4. sid aka Ronin on August 14, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    I take book s with me everywhere, so that probably acounts for why I am still single!!! :):) LOL
    But, all kidding aside, having a book at hand allows me to be busy, and keeps my temprin check when I am at the hospital or elsewhere, forced to wait for an appt. Though, I have taken a magazine on a date, never a book, i am not that much of a nerd!!!!LOl

  5. Yeechang Lee on August 15, 2004 at 12:37 am

    I literally can’t stand or sit to wait for more than a minute or so without something to read. So, I always keep magazines, a newspaper, and books in my bag. (But at least I can say I’ve never tried reading while on a date, even if I have my bag with me at the time; conversation is usually more interesting.

  6. danithew on August 15, 2004 at 1:47 am

    Keep it up Nate! :)

    My parents, my sister and my wife have all given me the evil-eye for pulling out a book or magazine to read just about anytime and anywhere I go — including family gatherings and get-togethers. They say they’ll cure me… but it ain’t worked yet. My favorite thing to do when I’m at someone else’s place is to see what books they have on the shelf. And I’m always disappointd when I get into a house and they don’t have any books for me to glance at. :)

  7. LoneWriter on August 15, 2004 at 10:46 am

    I also have been reading my entire life (I think I was born with a book in my hands). Nowadays, I keep lots of reading material in my Palm, so people just think I am checking my calendar or something. I try not to read on dates, but have a real hard time eating a meal without some kind of reading material.

    My son sells used books on the Internet. He has a warehouse with hundreds of thousands of books, just across the street from where I work. Any time I drop over there, I nearly go into a panic attack seeing all those books that should be read!

  8. Shawn B on August 15, 2004 at 11:11 am

    This post reminds me of something a favorite law professor said by way of self-explanation: “my wife tells me that everything I am interested in is by definition boring.”

    Add my name to the list of proud everywhere-book-carrying, by-definition-boring nerds!

  9. sid on August 15, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    It is indeed cool to be a a book-reading nerd. the next purchase for me has to be a set of quality Scriptures that I can carry around – the previous set I had just fell apart, and my regular set is too big to carry around. Do y’all know if anyone besides Deseret Books sells the premium version of the Quads?

  10. Bryce I on August 15, 2004 at 5:40 pm

    My proudest moment as a dad so far: When my 6-year old girl learned how to read on the potty.

    /only exaggerating a little bit

  11. Jared on August 15, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    One of my all-time favorite memories of Nate was our law school graduation where he and I and some other LDS students sat together.

    The ceremonies involved a lot of standing around waiting to march so Nate naturally took out a book and started to read. People gave him a few odd looks and more than one of us kidded him when we saw that he was reading Dworkin (or Hart or one of those guys). I kidded him myself, but I’ll now admit that I wish I had brought something to read myself; we waited an awful long time.

  12. Jared on August 15, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    One of my all-time favorite memories of Nate was our law school graduation where he and I and some other LDS students sat together.

    The ceremonies involved a lot of standing around waiting to march so Nate naturally took out a book and started to read. People gave him a few odd looks and more than one of us kidded him when we saw that he was reading Dworkin (or Hart or one of those guys). I kidded him myself, but I’ll now admit that I wish I had brought something to read myself; we waited an awful long time.

  13. Weston C on August 15, 2004 at 8:15 pm

    Ha! This has been a habit of mine for a long time — probably interrupted only by the habit of bringing a guitar along to many places, as an equal and perhaps more social distraction. I think of these things as a part of the important art of waiting gracefully.

    Not to denigrate punctuality as a virtue, one which I need to refine, but I think graceful waiting, as its flip side, can contribute an underestimated amount to general grace of interaction.

    Come to think of it, I don’t know that Paul mentioned punctuality in I Cor 13, but patience is there. :)

  14. Weston C on August 15, 2004 at 8:17 pm

    Ha! This has been a habit of mine for a long time — probably interrupted only by the habit of bringing a guitar along to many places, as an equal and perhaps more social distraction. I think of these things as a part of the important art of waiting gracefully.

    Not to denigrate punctuality as a virtue, one which I need to refine, but I think graceful waiting, as its flip side, can contribute an underestimated amount to general grace of interaction.

    Come to think of it, I don’t know that Paul mentioned punctuality in I Cor 13, but patience is there. :)

  15. Weston C on August 15, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    Of course, redundancy is usually an engineering virtue, not a narrative one. Sorry for the double.

  16. Silus Grok on August 15, 2004 at 9:57 pm

    (My word, Weston… you’re everywhere!)

  17. Kaimi on August 16, 2004 at 12:09 am

    As I recall, Jared, I took Gordon S. Wood’s Creation of the American Republic to my law school graduation. It came in handy. My family thought it was a little strange.

  18. Davis Bell on August 16, 2004 at 2:16 am

    Yeah, me too! Me too!

  19. JWL on August 16, 2004 at 11:59 am

    You all have some good company. It was said that Theodore Roosevelt (with the possible exception of Madison the highest IQ US President) read so constantly that he would even keep a book to read between greeting guests on the receiving line at formal White House receptions.

  20. Melissa on August 16, 2004 at 12:06 pm

    I have a similar reputation, Nate.

    Three weeks ago I was asked on a date to Six Flags. My date politely asked me not to bring a book because he said he wanted to talk to me on the way rather than having me read. Whoops, I guess word had gotten out! I felt apologetic and sheepish that he even felt he had to ask me.

    Two weeks ago I was asked on a date to the Zoo. I was chagrined to have this date make the same request: please Melissa, leave your books at home. I did so but found myself bored when he went to the bathroom and back to the car for his water bottle. He returned to find me doing yoga by the elephants because I had already read everything in sight–the zoo brochure, the little blurb about elephant diet and habitation, and there just wasn’t anything else to do. I hate to waste time.

    I guess carrying books around at Church has given me quite a reputation that I have to work to overcome. Now my friends are going to say no books and no yoga either ! :)

    Most recently as I sat waiting for a Temple recommend interview I was, you guessed it, reading. A guy from my ward arrived for his own interview and asked me if he could borrow something to read since I had a bulging bag full of books and he hadn’t brought any “activity”

    What did I have in my bag to offer him?

    Seyla Benhabib’s Situating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics.

    Richard John Neuhaus’ The Naked Public Square (this book sounds racy but it is about democracy and religion)

    Susan Moller Okin’s Justice, Gender and the Family

    Lucinda Peach’s Legislating Morality: Pluralism and Religions Identity in Lawmaking

    and

    Ronald Thiemann’s Religion in the Public Square

    I learned quickly that even the *kinds* of books I carry can get me in trouble. I sat there sincerely wishing that I had a book like Crossing to Safety with me instead—a great book despite what my lit crit friends think. I guess it could have been worse though. After all I didn’t have Rushdie’s Satanic Verses with me. I’m glad I had left it home at the last minute!

    So, what book did my friend choose…..?

    Well, I’m learning. We ended up talking instead.

  21. danithew on August 16, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Melissa,

    That was an impressive comment. I think you take seriousness about reading and a love for books to a whole new level. I’ve done some comparable things in my life and gotten some slack for it. When I was growing up I can remember trying to read while riding a bicycle. After all, I could pedal and even steer a little just using my legs.

    Maybe you should bring a few more pedestrian and popular “safety books” with you in case someone asks you for a book to borrow. A Grisham paperback doesn’t necessarily take up too much space and might be just the thing.

  22. Janelle on August 17, 2004 at 6:20 pm

    I wonder if there’s an official name for this “book as a third arm” disorder…

    I recently tried to break my husband of this bad habit. Unfortunately, when we got locked out of our apartment a month ago my plan backfired. Not wanting to pay $500 for an emergency locksmith (I have learned a few lessons living here) I suggested we take the train out to my parent’s house in Connecticut where we have a spare key. My husband’s response? “We can’t do that! I don’t have anything to read on the train!”

    He really has a way cutting to the heart of a problem, doesn’t he?

    Moral of the story: I no longer whine when he reads through the previews at the movies.