“Mt. Vernon is not nerdy!” insisted my friend Susan B. when she first heard about the concept of Nerd Trips. Apparently, not everyone is comfortable with the idea that somewhere they’ve visited has been labeled as nerdy. Susan grew up in Washington, D.C. and visited Mt. Vernon nearly every year, often on a school field trip.
Her declaration was the first salvo in what I call “the Great Nerd Debate.” What exactly makes something nerdy?
When I first thought about the Nerd Trips blog, I thought I might get feedback from people who thought the idea of visting presidential homes or historic sites was lame. (I have met people who think a trip to a museum is pure torture). However, I never anticipated the reaction I would get from some close friends who seemed to be defensive about the idea that they themselves have interests others might think are nerdy.
As I wrote in the “About Nerd Trips” post, I know some people think I’m nerdy and I’m okay with that. But, I was surprised at the huge discussion that erupted when the Nerd Trips topic first came up with some friends of mine.
Since the concept behind Nerd Trips began with presidential homes, my friend Rob suggested that popular presidents, such as Washington or Lincoln, would not be nerdy, however the homes of “less popular” presidents, say Buchanan or Polk, would be nerdy. But my mom and I visited Lincoln’s boyhood home near Santa Claus, Indiana. Is that nerdy?
I grew up in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. – the motherlode of presidential sites. You don’t have to go far to visit something presidential. But to seek out a presidential site several states away (even for a “high profile” president such as Lincoln) I suspect, would smack a lot of people as nerdy. (We actually picked up Lincoln’s boyhood home as part of a “bonus nerd trip,” we didn’t know it would be nearby a family reunion in Indiana. We discovered it when we were already there – more on that in a later blog).
My other friend and college roommate, Susan S., also grew up in Northern Virginia. She said that when she was in school, her class went to a colonial tavern where everyone dressed up in period costumes. She said the whole class loved it! Really? I suspect there were several boys in the class who would have preferred to be out on a soccer field. (In fact, one of my criteria for deciding whether something is a Nerd Trip is whether an average child would want to be there. Generally, there are not a lot of kids interested in Nerd Trip destinations). I asked my friends if we weren’t a little too “East Coast-centric,” where we are just used to having school field trips and family outings to these sites.
So what do you think Nerd Nation? What makes something nerdy? Are some presidents less nerdy than others? Are we all just defensive when something we liked gets labeled as being somewhat negative? Is being nerdy even negative? Do we just need validation that we are, in some part, a little bit cool?
As a footnote, Susan B, whose comment first sparked the heated discussion, came around to the Nerd Trip idea. A few months after the Great Nerd Debate, we worked in a Nerd Trip during our annual Girls’ Weekend. Susan said she had forgotten that she had even started the Great Nerd Debate. She was on board for the Nerd Trip to the President Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, VA, and even wanted her picture with the Nerd Trips sign!