Ferdinand Bardimu notes that even God doesn’t like nerds-
Commenter Raddark talks about his own experience in a dysfunctional family, which I will tie in later-
My sister goes to the San Diego Comic Con every year, for all three days. This year she is bummed because although she got a three-day pass early, she was not able to into the preview Thursday night. She has gone to the New York Comic Con also, although I don’t know if she is going to do that every year. She has thought about but decided against going to the DragonCon in Atlanta.
The briefing on my sister-
-Very intelligent, good student, got a 750 on the math portion of the SATs.
-Never a feminine girl, teenager or adult. Given to dressing weirdly like those people who get makeovers on “What Not To Wear”.
-Despite her intelligence did not pursue science, math, or engineering, as she was fascinated with music and celebrities. Got a degree in “communications”. Interned at a music magazine that failed quickly. Obsessively followed a few bands. Worked in medical billing for some years. Now has worked for many years, first part-time now full-time, for a governmental environmental program.
-Has had one boyfriend years ago (she is now in her late 40’s.) Did not have sex with him, has never had sex.
My sister was never abused, never bullied, and had a normal childhood other than being a nerd. She is ultimately a miserable failure though. She never had a career anywhere near her potential, never has been successfully involved with men, and is miserable. (She is not a lesbian- she tends to obsess sexually over young Latino guys.) She is pretty unhappy about being single, childless, and relatively poor, with no real future. She would still like to find some guy but given what she wants and what she could get at her level of attractiveness, I doubt that will happen.
I don’t know what “grerp” or Susan Walsh would make of all this. My sister has a variety of problems that tend toward the female, rather than the nerd. These would be unrealistic expectations, an excessive interest in celebrities, and a generally passive view of life. I am more interested in those that are specifically nerd-like, involving lack of appropriate socialization.
My sister was never encouraged or expected to be feminine. That’s not surprising since she comes from a social segment, educated Irish Catholics, were femininity and sexuality are discouraged. My mother was not terribly feminine or sexy and our maiden aunt was pretty butch. Among Irish Catholics of the old type bright boys and girls were often encouraged to become priests and nuns. I remember our mother had her take a “modeling” class once when she was about 14- I think she may have been concerned about my sister’s lack of interest in feminine clothing and grooming.
Well, what does being attractive and well-groomed have to do with getting laid? Ugly, poorly dressed girls get laid all the time. Unfortunately my sister took the religious proscription against premarital sex literally. And her standards were too high. If you’re a Mormon or an orthodox Jew, you have a religious proscription against premarital sex, but you have a dating pool of coreligionists who follow it also whom you can date and marry. Unfortunately very few Catholics actually follow this teaching, and virtually no socially normal ones.
My sister could have gone to CalTech and had lots of nerds to choose from. They would likely have been as sexually reluctant as her, and she could have made something work. They would have tolerated her aggressive streak and lack of femininity. But she choose to go places where her problems weren’t going to be overlooked.
Raddark has a much different story, but with some similar elements- a dysfunctional family and dysfunctional religious beliefs.
I think coming from a dysfunctional family is not, in itself, that bad. Kids are capable of observing adults’ behavior and judging whether it is a good idea or not. People of course model a lot but they can also decide for themselves a lot.
Religions are different and have different effects on people. If you alone believe something crazy, you’re a nut. If a bunch of other people believe the same thing, you’re religious. A religion can be pretty demanding but if it provides its followers with a social and economic context they will be OK, the examples of Mormons and orthodox Jews being an example. They have social networks, will see to it their members get married, and will help each other out with jobs and business. A Mormon taken out of his community will be able to function better than an orthodox Jew taken out of his community, since they are much closer to the American mainstream, but they don’t have a need to leave. The Amish would be similar to the Orthodox- they are a distinct, separate culture, speak their own language, and shun those who leave the group.
Evangelical Christians try, to an extent, to imitate these groups. They have large social churches with singles groups and pay at least lip service to helping their members economically. But it doesn’t work nearly as well for them- they are not insulate from the mainstream culture and generally follow its mores, and the many “devout Christian” single mothers you find shows. An evangelical woman can probably hold onto her virginity until marriage if she is hot and not trying to marry up, but I think the statistics on this don’t show any more chaste behavior than the population as a whole.
Catholics are yet worse on this. The priests are very strict and yet hardly anyone listens to them, not surprisingly since many of them don’t follow their own rules. Those who do tend to go nuts.
I read a book many years ago by an atheist Jewish psychiatrist about religion and mental illness. He said the worst religions for mental illness were Catholics and Baptists. These are the people who trying the hardest to apply the requirements of Christianity, as literally interpreted from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mainline Protestants and liberal Jews (probably not by coincidence groups that are socially and economically higher) have much the same precepts but don’t feel obligated to apply them literally in their personal lives. Imagine you are a woman and get raped, and the first thing your coreligionists tell you is that you must forgive the rapist, or you are going to hell yourself? Not exactly a recipe for happiness and mental health is it?
I’m not familiar in detail with Buddhism, Raddark’s childhood religion. I believe it has the same basic concepts as liberal Christianity- don’t want anything, always submit to other people, even if they are bad, never hate anyone, never think bad thoughts about anyone. Who is able to do this? Most people, if they really try, go crazy. My mother went crazy doing it.
My sister has been going to a therapist for some time- she has government health insurance and can go indefinitely- and I think she feels a lot better. As a practical matter I think most psychology, pop psychology, self-help, and the like is of little real help. If I can figure out something that really helps I’ll let you know.