Why Geek Girls Shall Inherit The Earth

Illustration for article titled Why Geek Girls Shall Inherit The Earth

If you told 15-year-old me that once you graduate from high school, life becomes a movie where the geek girl achieves more than her tormentors, I doubt I would've believed you.


Don't get me wrong. I'd always wanted to believe in a world where your high school reunion is filled with the same people who were terrible to you for about eight years, and all you have to do is sit back and watch the parade of folks who have aged poorly and whose lives are pretty depressing in general.

While (as an adult) I certainly don't wish anyone a life filled with nothing but depression, as a kid I kind of wanted to believe in the fairy tale that was Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.

The strange thing is, based on everything I've seen (via the safety and anonymity of Facebook), that's scarily close to what actually happens to some of the worst bullies! And author Alexandra Robbins agrees.

In her new book, "The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School", Robbins says she believes "that social exclusion as a teenager can be one of the best indicators of future success":

"In schools, which are increasingly conformist, the things that make you different make you a target. In adulthood and outside of the school setting, the things that make you different make you interesting, fun, and often successful.

More specifically, I also researched the traits that people found most valuable in adults. The top qualities are: creativity, originality, free-thinking, vision, resilience, authenticity, self-awareness, integrity, candor, curiosity, love of learning, and courage.

Those are qualities that are far more likely to be found in school outsiders than in the popular kids."

And in case hearing the endless string of actors like Cameron Diaz who claim they were 'nerds' in high school isn't enough to convince you, Robbins would like to point out a (slightly more believable) example of a nerd girl who made it big:

Author JK Rowling, who has described herself as "a squat, bespectacled child who lived mostly in books and daydreams," was bullied in school because she was different.

"Her heroic wizards and witches, who have entranced millions of readers worldwide, "are plainly outcasts and comfortable with being so," she has said.

"Nothing is more unnerving to the truly conventional than the unashamed misfit!"

Robbins even categorizes herself as a former misfit (which makes sense, as it's unlikely that a former cheerleader —though there is certainly in-fighting in those cliques too!—would write a book on why nerds will one day get all the glory):

"The book isn't about me, but I wasn't in the popular crowd in school. I was a floater when I was a student. And a dork. And I'm proud to still be dorky!"


Robbins says she feels her years as an outcast have allowed her the ability to relate to different types of people, and if anything, she feels parents should "discourage your child from joining the popular crowd: to be popular does not mean to be liked. Today, popularity is a construct that measures only reputation and prestige. Popular students are more likely to be involved in aggression (whether physical or alternative - gossip, rumors, backstabbing, etc.), both as targets and aggressors. They're less likely to do well in school. They're more likely to feel pressure to conform and to engage in risky behavior. It can be dangerous for students to be in the popular crowd."

The author also suggests steering your nerdy child in the direction of an after-school activity they really enjoy, as it's very possible they'll form friendships with more like-minded individuals there:

"If a student gets involved with an activity he/she likes, then he/she will automatically meet people with similar tastes."


So nerd girls, make no mistake: JK Rowling, Alexandra Robbins, and Jezebel writer Lane Moore can pretty much confirm that even if you're currently sitting at your lunch table by yourself for the fifth consecutive day, even if it seems like it's a million miles and light-years away, once you walk out those doors at the end of senior year, you'll be holding more cards (even if they aren't specifically of the money or perfect job, etc. variety) than anyone.

And most of the time, they're really, really good cards.

Take that, Mean Girls! New book explains how today's high school losers are tomorrow's success stories [DailyMail]



Interesting that this article should pop up today, after I'd been thinking about this earlier this morning. I was very unpopular all through school; I was picked on for (choose one or more) wearing giant glasses, having braces, being tall and clumsy, doing well in school, wearing the "wrong" clothes, and not being pretty. Like the examples given in the article, I'm now successful in a really interesting career whereas most of my tormentors are not (thank you, Facebook), but ever since hitting adulthood I've also become socially popular as well. I'm involved in a lot of diverse activities and I seem to attract large numbers of friends wherever I go - so basically the opposite of my childhood and teenage social life.

It makes me wonder why this is... do adults look for different qualities in a potential friend than do kids? Have my experiences as a picked-on kid somehow changed me into someone more appealing? Or do kids just suck? Curious whether any other Jezzies have had this experience...