How many nerds does it take to make a happy couple?
Most of you have probably heard of me from my recent success on Jeopardy! and have probably concluded from that success that I am a huge nerd and any woman who would marry me must be as well.
This is an accurate conclusion. My wife Eliza Blair ’07 and I not only graduated from Swarthmore, one of the nerdiest of the small liberal arts colleges (a very nerdy American institution), but we were both active members of SWIL, the Swarthmore Warders of Imaginative Literature, the ancestor organization of today’s Psi Phi, the Swarthmore club that serves as a haven for nerds—in other words, we were the nerdiest of the nerdiest among nerds.
We were technically “nonmembers” of SWIL—SWIL defined itself such that everyone in the world who hadn’t joined SWIL was a “member” while those who did became “nonmembers” by being “dismembered” and having a limb ceremonially (through pantomime) removed. This was neither the silliest nor the most gratuitously difficult-to-explain tradition in SWIL.
Perhaps the best known of these crazy traditions is the massive all-campus live-action role-playing event—the Pterodactyl Hunt (which still takes place to this day). We both played many different fantasy monsters in the hunt—Eliza’s most memorable turn was as the Werewolf (though she looked a bit more like Peter Criss’ “Cat Man” character in the rock band KISS). I donned wings and a beak made of newspaper to play the Phoenix, whose job was to provide journalistic documentation of the hunt.
Eliza eventually rose through the ranks to become one of SWIL’s co-presidents, charged with keeping whatever order she could over our inherently disorderly bunch of social misfits, whereas I was SWIL’s resident troublemaker and gadfly, intent on stoking chaos, discord, and drama wherever I found it. (That trait also incidentally led to my graduating two years late from Swarthmore.) This ideological opposition made us at first bitter enemies, then somehow bizarrely led to our falling in love.
Really, I blame the Dungeons and Dragons campaign we were in. Our characters started dating before we did—when my character, a killer robot struggling to develop a conscience, was assigned to watch over the dead body of her character, a shapeshifter afflicted with mental illness, while it was being resurrected by dark magic.
That’s the kind of experience that creates a lasting bond—a bond that has now outlasted both our careers at Swarthmore College, the original incarnation of SWIL, now reborn as Psi Phi, and has now lasted well into my career as a viral Internet celebrity. Here’s hoping it lasts many more years filled with science fiction novels, mash-ups, light-saber duels, trivia games, and cats.