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Dating geeks for dummies
Iíve suddenly realized that compared to my girlfriend, I no longer seem quite so geeky
BY JOE LAVIN

I recently came to the disturbing conclusion that I am dating a geek.

Actually, thatís not the disturbing part. I love it that Jody is a geek. Whatís disturbing is that suddenly, in comparison to her, I no longer seem quite so geeky.

When we first met, Jody was the one who would call me with computer questions. But that was three years ago, and since then, her computer skills have increased exponentially. Last year, she even enrolled in a yearlong training program in database administration. She recently became certified as a DBA in both Microsoft and Oracle. I would tell you more about what she does, but I canít. I know that a database administrator administrates databases for a living, but sadly, thatís about the extent of my knowledge.

Our roles have completely reversed. Now, Iím the one who calls Jody with computer questions, and sometimes, if Iím lucky, I understand what sheís talking about when she answers them. Usually, I find all this quite charming, but also a little disarming. After all, I used to be the geek in the relationship.

The signs have been mounting for months now. There was, for example, the night I asked Jody what she was thinking about just before she fell asleep. Her sleepy response: "The desktop." Apparently, she had dozed off and started dreaming about all the ways she could rearrange her computerís desktop.

Thatís not the only time sheís talked about computers in her sleep. Once, she woke up and promptly announced, "Well, itís because e-mail has become so much more prevalent these days." What is "it," you wonder? I wish I knew. Jody fell back to sleep before I could ask.

And then there was the time she started to repeat a joke one of her classmates had told her. She stopped short when she suddenly remembered that the punch line was in the form of an SQL statement. Yes, apparently you can tell a joke in SQL ó thatís a programming language, for the uninitiated. Who knew?

I have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable at first. I didnít want Jody to know that much more about computers than I did, so I began to fake it. She would tell me all about her schoolwork, and I would try desperately to convince her (and sometimes myself) that I knew what she was talking about.

In fact, I have a knack for knowing just enough about computers to bluff my way through most situations. This is especially handy at work, where part of my job is to provide occasional computer support and training. "Oh, yeah, I know about that," Iíll say, when I certainly donít. Usually, though, before the person realizes Iím bluffing, Iím able to solve the problem ó or at least make it look like I did.

But I help people do relatively simple things with computers. Itís easy to bluff someone who has just called you because heís afraid he might have "broken" his computer. Itís not so easy to bluff an Oracle DBA.

Eventually, I gave up trying. In a way, Iíve had to train myself not be the geek in my relationship with Jody. Sure, Iíve opened my computer and installed RAM. Once, long ago, I even installed an SCSI card, although I canít quite remember why, or what an SCSI card actually does. But thatís nothing compared to Jody, who is currently collecting components in order to build herself an extra computer. Sheís installing motherboards. My greatest technical accomplishment is learning how to make the Microsoft paperclip go away.

To be honest, I donít really mind anymore. Iím now comfortable enough that I can happily admit that I have no idea what Jodyís talking about. I also no longer bristle when she jokingly refers to me as "just a user."

Actually, itís nice to date a geek. For one thing, sheís become much easier to shop for. After all, what pseudo-geek such as myself wouldnít like to be able to give his girlfriend RAM as a Christmas present? Donít worry; I do get Jody romantic and non-geeky presents. But Iíve also given her several software packages, as well as a three-year-old computer on which she eventually installed Linux.

Occasionally, Iím tempted to learn more about computers in order to impress her. Perhaps thereís still time for me to catch up. That way, we could do geeky things together. You know, we could put on some romantic music. Buy some fine wine. Dim the lights. Light some candles. And then install Linux together on her computer.

"Oh, Joe, nobody installs Linux like you," she will purr, and we will then live happily ever after.

Then again, that might not work. I donít have much chance of catching up to her, and I doubt I would want to. I think Iíll just let Jody install the Linux herself, while I sit back and enjoy the wine. These days, Iím more than happy to let her be the geek, although I admit thereís a small part of me that would really love to know how to tell a joke in SQL.

Joe Lavin, who does know how to use e-mail, can be reached at joe@joelavin.com

Issue Date: July 11 - 18, 2002
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