“Any woman who counts on her face is a fool.” —
Zadie Smith, On Beauty
Not the first time I’ve heard a beautiful woman call herself “a nerd”!
As a matter of fact, I think it must be some sort of an insider saying of my clan — my half of the species capable of dusting off a compliment either due to its insincerity or whatever insecurity it has activated.
“Oh, you mean: this old thing?”
But she would say, “Yeah, I’m a nerd,” — and she would pout, do that thing with her eyelashes; flip her hair, shoot down your heart from behind its cascade; and thrust forward one of her magical hips. She would take a stand: “You have no idea! A complete. And total. Nerd.”
And doesn’t it make you want to die at her feet, like a sacrificial slave at the pyre compiled in her name? You goddess! You perfection.
Celebrities say that, and all the pretty actresses. Some stunners have testified to their once-upon-a-time addiction to knowledge as well. And I get it, but still I find myself doubting them ever so slightly.
But of course, of course! Brain and beauty — is one powerful combination, and I am a lifetime fan. (Just ask my girls. Or, just look at them, really.)
But by its very definition, it seems, beauty cannot be isolated. It shouldn’t be isolated because we all want a piece of it, so much. Oh, but it consoles us! It fools, even if just for the duration of being in its company. For just a little while, it disorients against the ugliness of our griefs. And somehow life begins seeming quite alright. And we all seem so much more deserving.
So, it would be so unfair, so odd, or mismatched when a beautiful thing claims to have been burdened by so much knowledge it makes her socially inept. Because theoretically, a beautiful person should be better equipped than the rest of us: Attracting attention with one’s mortal coil must come with a life-long skill, right? An advantage. A leg-up. An in. Otherwise: What’s the fucking point?
But last night — or at a painfully early hour of this morning — I heard myself say to a comrade, in my low-registered half-mumble half-whisper for which I blame the native tongue of my people:
“Sorry! I’m such a nerd. A complete. And total. Nerd.”
And then, I flipped my hair. Oh, you mean: this old thing?
Knowledge has been an addiction of mine for — what’s the expression? — “longer than I can remember”. Back in my childhood, I was a loner, perpetually hiding behind the book covers of all the heavy Russian dogs. Because while peaking from behind Nabokov’s spine, life seemed mellowed out by melancholy. And with Bulgakov — it was just a fucking trip! A joke! A comedy of the absurd. Leo Tolstoy intimidated right off the bat, even my own people; while Yesenin attracted conversations:
“Did you know he fucked around with Isadora Duncan?”
“They killed him in bar fight, with a knife. Like a dog!”
And Akhmatova: She always demanded for me to lower her stanzas, even if because I couldn’t take her any more, with all that sobering truth. And she ordered me to take in life, instead.
Adolescence would be spent behind the spines of other dogs, more foreign, more worldly; and much less in love with the Motha’land. But then came a day, on a bus ride to my father’s town, when I lowered a tome to catch a breath and found a pretty thing distorted in the window’s reflection, with nighttime behind it. From behind the cascade of my hair, I examined her; did that thing with my eyelashes — and then, I went back to reading.
Because it wouldn’t change a thing: I would still chase the big dogs and dust off the clumsy compliments from young boys and the drooling older gentlemen either due to their insincerity or whatever insecurity they would activate in me. And I would chase my dogs far enough to the edge of the continent. And when the big dogs jumped — I jumped right after them and swam to the other coast.
Years later, I still find myself addicted to my books. But more than that, I have perfected the addiction to fit more life into it: I am now addicted to learning. Any learning! All the life’s new things: show me, tell me, guide the way! And often pro bono, I grant my life the immediate curiosity so easily available from behind the spines of all the big dogs; and it, most of the time, pays it back –tenfold.
So, last night — or at a painfully early hour of this morning — I heard myself say to a comrade, in my low-registered half-mumble half-whisper for which I blame the native tongue of my people:
“Sorry! I’m such a nerd.”
I have been pacing my apartment — with all the big dogs lining-up its walls with their spines — and I have been sweating my ear against the phone while trying to explain the new curiosities of this year. The poor comrade could not have known that I’ve been laboring over my work for eleven hours already: that I had written for five and researched my media for the rest. That I have already played with a few other bloggers — other nerdy and, as I imagined, very beautiful girls taking a peak at life from behind the cascades of their hair and from behind the spines of their laptops in their own apartments, illuminated by nothing more than the light of the blogosphere. That I’ve had a day full of life already — and full of curiosities paid back to me tenfold; but after the town shut down, I still wanted more life. And I would find it — behind the spine of my laptop.
“Yeah. A complete. And total. Nerd,” I giggled. Or maybe I didn’t.
But I do remember flipping my hair and thinking how light it was — and how easy! — to grant my life the immediate curiosities so easily available from behind the spine of my laptop. And even though most of the hours of my learning have been spent in solitude — in isolation so typical for a nerd — everything seemed so much fuller:
Of light and lightness.
And of purpose whose source of enlightenment was not only knowledge — but gratitude itself, paid back to me, tenfold.