Is Your Mate a Dormant Nerd?

IN RECENT years, some nerds have come into their own—starting rock bands, holding down lucrative tech jobs, and convincing a few gullible people that wearing white socks with black shoes is not an appalling fashion blunder worthy of harsh punishment.

But greater social acceptance doesn't mean a woman wants to find her once-normal man suddenly honking like a giant goose when he laughs, or poking her chest with his pocket protector, or consulting his plastic digital wristwatch so as not to miss Revenge of the Nerds on cable. Yet, according to the experts, that's exactly what some unfortunate women can expect to discover one day.

In light of the danger, we asked renowned psychologist Elaine M. Fogler—President and Founder of the EMF College of Elaines at Ithaca—to weigh in on the matter.

"What is most disturbing about the Dormant Nerd," began Dr. Fogler, "is his initially normal behavior. He has friends, he can play a sport or two, he even does fairly well in the company of women."

"Then seemingly out of the blue," she continued, "his deeply nerdic tendencies open full flower, and overnight a woman has got quite a dork on her hands."

We asked Dr. Fogler if a blood test was available to identify the devastating dormancy.

"I'm afraid not," she replied, adding, "nor have we yet discovered a genetic marker. But there's no need to despair!" Dr. Fogler insisted. "Over many years of clinical observation, we've compiled a very reliable set of indicators that predict with high accuracy whether a man will 'Go Nerd,' as we say."

The following warning signs are excerpted from Dr. Fogler's acclaimed Dormant Nerd Identification Inventory. The good doctor has kindly allowed us to reprint a portion of her Inventory, and has even provided commentary following each warning sign.

Laughing out loud during Happy Days reruns

Dr. Fogler: Whereas normal people recognize this 70s sitcom as just one more means of documenting the migration of Ron Howard's hairline, Dormant Nerds sit glued before their television sets, chuckling like ninnies. They are also known to mutter phrases such as, "That's the Fonz—hey Fonzie!" and to hum along with the Happy Days theme.

Sprinkling salt on pizza

Dr. Fogler: Don't try ignoring this very big elephant in the room. And don't think you can curb your potential nerd's need to sprinkle by ordering pepperoni or anchovy to salt things up. That might work for awhile, but eventually the sprinkling will resume. Besides, it is my firm belief that a woman should hold out for the pizza toppings she REALLY wants. Compromise on pizza, and you'll compromise on anything. Can you say, "white socks with black shoes"?

The insistent telling of knock-knock jokes

Dr. Fogler: Nerds, put simply, are really children with body hair. Their infantile behaviors quickly grow irritating to most women. After all, did you sign on for babysitting duty? No, you certainly did not. If you are goaded into saying "Who's there?" more than once a day, I'd first try gently changing the subject. If that doesn't work, engage your potential nerd in your own knock-knock joke, which ends with "Dead meat YOU."

The use of soap on a rope

Dr. Fogler: The consensus is clear: there is simply no other way for a normal man to lather up in the shower except by rubbing an unfettered bar of soap briskly across his body. Once a man has attached a rope to that soap and dangled it around his neck, he is really hung. That is, I mean to say he has really hung himself. He is hanged. You might as well take a bat to him, for he is the pinata of men. A probable nerd swinging in the wind. I guess I've made my point.

Ownership of one or more kazoos

Dr. Fogler: I've saved the worst for last. The discovery of even one kazoo in your mate's possession pretty much cinches that he has "Gone Nerd." You do not need to confirm any of the remaining items listed in our Inventory. Indeed, the Kazoo Warning Sign has just been nominated for the American Psychological Association's prestigious "Mother of All Warning Signs" award. If you harbor any remaining doubts, I leave you with one simple question: have you ever heard the theme from Happy Days played on a kazoo?