Monday, February 13, 2006

Just The FAQs: So You're In Love With A Nerd (Week Of Lovin', Day 4)

The "Getting Your Significant Other to Read Comics" article is a cliché by now; they range from the self-deprecating to the self-absorbed, and all mostly suck. What there haven't been too many of are articles counseling comics outsiders who find themselves in love with a dyed-in-the-mylar nerd.

Never say that we at TTMA don't meet the needs of the marketplace.

Q: Okay, right up front: does he love his comics more than me?

A: On some Wednesdays, yes. But in that, he's no different from the car enthusiast, or the Cheesehead, or the model plane builder. Every guy (and girl, but I'll be arbitrarily using male nouns and pronouns to simplify things. Actually, that's a filthy lie; I'm using the male perspective because I'm a guy) has a hobby that takes up a portion of his time. Be glad this one doesn't involve taking his shirt off in public.

Q: What if he's into cosplay?

A: I stand woefully corrected. Just try to get him to stay within his gender and body type.

Q: So, how do I live with a nerd?

A: Well, if Ivy McCloud, Ann Busiek, and whoever it is Geoff Johns is married to can put up with it, you can. It's merely a matter of learning to live with some things, and beating the others out of him.

Q: Give me examples.

A: You give me examples.

Q: Okay. He's got a *lot* of comics. So many, in fact, that we don't have room for them all. How do I get him to get rid of some of them?

A: *Very* carefully. Where you see rotting paper and rusting staples, he sees cherished memories. Or not-so-cherished ones, if he did a lot of reading in the '90s. Regardless, he's attached to those comics, much like he was to his mother before leaving the womb. And cutting this cord is not going to be easy.

My best advice would be to start generally, with a discussion of "we need to get rid of some of this clutter." Prepare a short list in advance of things you are willing to part with, and ask him how he wants to contribute. Start by suggesting he consolidate some of his boxes to save space. Going through them, he may find some he doesn't really want anymore on his own. If he resists, though, you may have to get firm. A dirty trick you may have to resort to is saying, "Well, we've got room for the all the comics, or (insert other beloved possession, such as X-Box, here), but not both." To soften the blow, suggest he sell them on eBay (although you will have to monitor this activity, to make sure he doesn't use the money to buy more comics).

Also, be prepared to make an equivalent sacrifice. If your shoes take up as much room in the closet as his shortboxes, learn to do without.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES suggest he get rid of the entire collection. That's off the table, and grounds for a breakup right there. You saw how fast Nicholas Cage dropped Lisa Marie Presley, right? Don't make the same mistake she did in that marriage. While we're on the subject, don't make the mistake she did in her first marriage, either.

Q: Okay. What should I do if he tries to get me into some of his comics?

A: First, it's "when," not "if." It will happen. Second, don't blow this off. From his POV, this is a major discussion for the relationship, akin to you asking him if he wants kids. He's spent his whole life feeling unaccepted because of his hobbies; if you reject this out of hand, you're rejecting him. That being said, you're under no obligation to become as hardcore a nerd as he is. Hell, you don't even have to like comics. But you do at least owe it to him to try.

Now, if he's smart, he's not going to start you with the latest crossover megaseries. Instead, he's going to try certain "chick-approved" comics around, like Fables, Love and Rockets, Sandman, and so forth. What you need to do here is one-up him. Leave stuff *you* like to read lying around. Discuss literature and genres over dinner. Give him a thorough understanding of whatever it is you like to read. Then, if he's smart, he will go out and get it in comic form.

Q: What if he's not smart?

A: Then we're both wasting our time, darling. Anyway, when he gives you the suggested material, read it. Cover-to-cover. If it's a big GN, you can take your time, but do give it a fair shake. Decide, honestly, whether or not you like it, and whether or not you want more. Then report back.

Q: What if I decide comics just aren't my thing?

A: Be honest with him. Make it clear you're still supportive of it as his hobby. Then, just live with it at whatever level you're comfortable with. Offer to help arrange trades on the bookcase. If he's like me, and waits until there's a big stack of comics before bagging them, bag with him. And a temporary increase in the oral sex will soften the blow.

Q: You should be shot for that pun.

A: I know.

Q: He wants me to go to the comic store with him.

A: If he went to the poetry slam and pretended to like it, you're obligated for at least one trip. Suck it up. But do feel free to lay down some ground rules in advance, so he can make sure his geek buddies are on their best behavior. Again, some tit-for-tat is appropriate; he owes you a day at the craft fair, no bitching.

Q: He asked if I want to dress up as Supergirl/Wonder Woman/etc..

A: That's a level of individual comfort. Ask yourself two questions: Is the character at least the same hair color as you, and would you be hesitant if it were a cheerleader/nurse/librarian? Also, keep in mind, he'll owe you big. Relationships are about compromise, but they're also about IOUs.

Q: It's time for some of those character T-shirts to go.

A: It's all but impossible to get out red wine or spaghetti sauce. Accidents happen.

Q: Any last bits of advice?

A: Ultimately, it's about loving (or at least tolerating) his whole personality, geekiness included. The fact is, his nerdiness is probably inexorably tied to some of the reasons you love him in the first place. The danger with trying to change someone too much is that you'll change them into someone you're no longer interested in.

Q: You stole that from The Onion.

A: Guilty as charged.

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