The Geekologist: Your TARDIS Or Mine?

Editor’s note: Writer Zainab Chaudary is coming on board as a monthly columnist!

Look for her column, “The Geekologist” every third Wednesday of the month!


I speak six languages.

Well, to be fair, one of them is not so much a language as it is an entire shift in being and mannerisms. I imagine I look like some sort of alarmed bird, a goose maybe, or a duck: my eyes get super-wide, I gesticulate wildly with my arms the way startled waterfowl flap their wings. I frighten small children and twitchy adults. Words like TARDISHellmouth and “frak” escape my lips like gibberish.

I refer to it as “Geek-Speak,” though I’m sure it has other names like “Nerding Out” or “Fan-Girling.” Woe upon the unsuspecting friend who gets me started on a show I love,  an underrated sci-fi concept, or space exploration. By the end of my breathless explanation, they look doubtful of my sanity and  do a quick visual scan for the nearest exits.

Lately, it’s become more than just mild consternation for friends and family. It’s becoming a source of concern. “You’re scaring away the opposite sex with that stuff,” I’m told. “Stop posting weird Doctor Who memes on social networking sites, stop demanding that everyone watch Battlestar Galactica, and stop quoting Douglas Adams on your blog.”

If it’s not the nerd thing, it’s something else. It’s my open admission of rampant book addiction (that’s an understatement; words were transfused into my blood at an early age and now run inescapable curlicues through my veins). Or the  socially fatal disease of being a writer. The people who love me most tell to make no mention of these things to prospective dates. They are torn between encouraging me to be myself and worrying that being myself will lead to a partner-less existence.

I’m not the only person worried about these things. A lovely, successful friend in her early thirties is trying to decide whether or not to take on a leadership position at work. She is cognizant of the very real affect it will have on her marriageability index. On the one hand, she will be good in this position and she has the chance to make an impact. On the other hand, men shrink from her assertiveness and determination. Many are intimidated by what I see as her superpowers.

Yet another friend has achieved the Holy Grail of Pakistani-ness by becoming a doctor, only to constantly meet men who don’t want doctors as wives and mothers. A male friend would like nothing more than to go everywhere in life wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and the faded leather sandals that have accompanied him on so many foreign travels. To many women, however, these things make him invisible in the face of the Ray-Ban-wearing, Beemer-driving men in suits.

My curiosity, opinions, and my interests were encouraged as I was growing up, by my family and  friends.  The people who provided the love and support I fed off of have backed this intellectual streak for two decades. But, lately, the messages are mixed. I’ve been told that Muslim men find my intellectual curiosity intimidating. I’ve been told that I’m scaring prospective dates away when I gush about the books, nerd pursuits and sci-fi shows that I love.

As an exuberant but awkward nerd girl, I’m already terrible at love and romance. A friend of mine knows exactly which character in a book or film or television show I will relate to the most: “The bookish, strong, smart, independent, somewhat socially-awkward, terrible-at-love tomboy,” he’ll snicker. “Predictable.”

I do not need additional burdens.

I know that personal evolution consists of constantly attempting to purge the negative and cultivate the positive. I know that I need to work on my vulnerability and let people in without fearing the outcome. But I never once believed that all the things that I see as positives would be detrimental in my love life. So, I must choose who I want to be: the person the world wants to see or the person I really am. Perhaps I can be a mixture of both without compromising my true self. But that’s a delicate balancing act no one can keep up for long.

Here’s the thing: if we are each wholly unique pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the things that make us fit are our peaks, valleys and our rounded jutting curves. Sometimes, it seems like a piece finds a spot to click into, but upon closer examination, you find that something’s not entirely right.  The ridges don’t quite match up. If you keep that piece in that forced, precarious position, you’ll never be able to finish the puzzle. The other pieces are relying on it to be in its place elsewhere in the picture.

Similarly, the purpose of Muslim love is not to find a partner to mold into all the things you’ll hope they’ll be – it is to find the right partner, one whose flaws you can manage and whose realities you can embrace. And one who will do the same for you.

I’m going to let my nerd flag fly, people. I’ve built around myself a fortress of words and inside it I sit, enraptured by the doings of my imagination, engrossed in the stories on the pages, dreaming of something that will feel right. I search for the person who inspires me to be vulnerable, the person who won’t break down this fortress, but who will break in and break through, sit cross-legged across from me and share this life of imagination. Somewhere out there is the guy who can take me on as I am, who can let his geek flag fly alongside my nerd one and be content in our little corner of the human jigsaw puzzle.

Somewhere out there is that piece that fits just right. columnist Zainab Chaudary works in politics by day and as a writer by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets @TheMemorist

12 Comments on “The Geekologist: Your TARDIS Or Mine?”

  1. Elaine says:

    Beautifully said. Please continue to be your own beautiful self. Someone will come along who will count himself blessed that he found you.

  2. Peter says:

    If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you? – 1st Doctor

    • The Memorist says:

      The Doctor: [turns around] Do you know like we were sayin’? About the Earth revolving? [walks towards Rose] It’s like when you’re a kid. The first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standin’ still. [looks at Rose] I can feel it. [takes Rose’s hand] The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinnin’ at 1,000 miles an hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour, and I can feel it. We’re fallin’ through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go… [lets go of Rose’s hand] That’s who I am.

  3. Humaira says:

    I got all of those references. I pray you find someone who will love you just as you are. Inshallah :).

  4. ayeshk says:

    such a cute article! good luck and stay nerdy.

  5. rsh says:

    I’ve been on dating sites for years now, and this is by far the most attractive and interesting profile I’ve read. Admittedly many of the inferences made after observing the behavior of Muslim men are aptly inferred; in fact what I’ve seen of my gender, and cannot comprehend, is men in general (not just Muslim) are not often fans of strong, independent women. As smart, awkward and ambitious women themselves, my sisters personal lives in their early 20’s were often defined by the existential crisis brought on with ‘being the bridesmaid and never the bride’. A funny thing happened after that: we started having to attend “welcome back to single life” parties. The long and short lesson of that time was simple: a relationship or marriage for the sake of title or social expectation is absolutely, 100% worse than staying single and waiting for the right person who digs you just for being the absent-minded, hates-running, awkward, thinks-a-great-speech-can-change-a-generation, once-talked-about-pens-for-ten-minutes-out-of-nervousness-on-a-first-date, and seriously-considering-waiting-in-line-for-eight-hours-for-the-premiere-of-the-new-Star-Trek-movie, you.

    • The Memorist says:

      Correct! Being your pen-expostulating-wait-in-line-for-what-looks-to-be-the-awesomest-movie geek self is the easiest way to avoid returning to singledom. So much of the marriage angst that’s frustrating the community stems from our own inability to embrace our true selves and to expect the same honesty in return. But more than anything else….why doesn’t everybody just talk about pens? ‘Cuz you say “10 minutes about pens out of nervousness,” and I say “10 minutes about pens, followed by 20 minutes ranting about my stationery OCD on a NORMAL day.”

  6. Can completely agree with what u are saying in here.i live in Mumbai and my native is from the south of india. off late i have been involved in searching a groom for my sister and i must confess the kind of men i am coming across is really pathetic. I even find a lot of my cousins (men) views completely unacceptable about women and women working is concerned. its sad that even after so much education my community in my native place Calicut kerela are still in the 19th century. On the flip side i have couple of female muslim friends whom i talk to a whom i observe to understand how muslim girls think ( they actually are very different from the other girls who i interact with ) barring a couple of them the rest of them are completely happy staying back in the house once they are married and it actually worries me what kind of girl i m gonnu be with . i do expect someone whom i can have an intellectual conversation with and who is independatn……Any ways….May allah help u find the right person…all the best..:)

    • The Memorist says:

      Thanks for your kind words Ajmal! It’s a tough process for sure…I think we get hung up on details and minutiae for sure (will she work? what does he think? what does she think?), but it comes down to compatibility of intellect and of personality, and complete respect for the other’s equality in the relationship (that’s why I don’t call myself a feminist, but an equalist). Those are the things that get you through the disagreements and differing opinions. We all have them – no relationship is completely without argument, and I think sometimes we seek to obtain unrealistic guarantees for a harmonious life when the reality is that life is sometimes smooth sailing, sometimes choppy seas. I wish you and your sisters luck as well!

  7. […]’s resident geek goddess, Zainab Chaudary, or the passionate and beautiful, Ihssan Tahir, or the poetic lioness, Tanzila Ahmed – […]