By: Shirley Clawson

So you've found yourself attracted to a computer nerd. (Sorry techies; that IS what those of us that exist in the real world call you.) Spousal units and significant others (collectively referred to herein as "SO's") who have long endured the idiosyncrasies of their techie mates have banded together to provide the unsuspecting "future significant other" a peek at existence with:
THE TECHIE. But first, a couple of disclaimers: All persons and events portrayed in this article are real and any resemblance to actual people or incidents is entirely intentional. Techies portrayed herein are of the male variety but male SO's have confirmed that they experience the same phenomenon in relation to their female techies.

To properly co-exist with a techie, you must first understand three basic premises on which his view of the world is based:

  1. There is a proper order in the universe. Computers come first; significant others somewhere thereafter.
  2. Programmers, while reluctantly admitting (subsequent to intense pressure) that they are not God, are however, equal to God.
  3. Computer illiterate people are complete morons.
These three premises result in techies having a drastically different way of thinking as compared to the average person. This unique approach to life will be exhibited on a daily basis in many subtle ways:
==============  =====================    =========================
Ideal Vacation	   Tahiti		 Las Vegas --  during Comdex

Shopping Trip	   New wardrobe		 Computer bookstore

Eating Out	   Chez Romantic	 Vending machine at the office

Fun Weekend     Picnic in the mountains	 Non-stop programming

6 A.M		Romantic sunrise	 Late night of programming

People over     Friends, Conversation	 Victims to view  
for Dinner		                 latest software developments

Tax Time	Call an accountant	 Order a tax package for SO

Looking at      Casual browsing	         Select model, Close deal
Stereo Equipment	

Share           50/50			 Refrain from complaining that
Housework			         Pepsi isn't restocked

Spending more   Interactive Learning     Set up Barbies next to computer
time with Children

Reason to cash  Child's Education	 This years BMW's look good
out Investments

It is true that techies rarely subscribe to GQ magazine but, in all fairness, let's dispense with the slide-rule, taped glasses, white, button-down shirt stereotype. They no longer wear slide-rules; laptops are in. Taped glasses - well, ok, sometimes. White shirts have been replaced by t-shirts and flowered Hawaiian atrocities. "Dressing up" for a special occasion entails putting on jeans and a wrinkled shirt with a collar. If you happen to be domestically inclined, don't bother ironing shirts (or if you're not, feeling guilty about NOT ironing them) because pressed shirts are simply not a priority in a Techie's life and neither he nor any of his contemporaries will notice that the shirt he's wearing looks like it's been trapped between his mattress and box springs for a year.

Material possessions are of vital importance to the techie. Of paramount importance is: THE CAR. The cost of this is directly proportional to the size of: THE EGO. There are two types of vehicles owned by techies: 1966 Station wagons with deteriorating wood on the sides OR the most expensive vehicle income will allow. (Neither category would be caught dead, however, driving a car with a Mary Kay bumper sticker attached.). Single techies can be identified by their dumpy apartments, frayed clothing and impeccably maintained Ferraris.

Techies with vehicles in the second category assemble their machines for the annual Testosterone 500. Grown men gather at an area race track, spend 90 percent of the day walking around bragging about their car to anyone who will listen and devote the balance of the time tearing around on a track hoping they won't kill themselves. What we are witnessing is NOT simply a car race, but rather a battle of the egos. This same group of techies has also mastered the art of maneuvering discussion of THE CAR into every conversation.

The home computer system is another source of competition. Our family of four (techie, SO, 8 and 2 year old) is the proud owner of six computers, seven monitors, three laser printers, two dot matrix printers, two scanners, two optical disk drives, a CD ROM drive, and four boxes of cables that "might come in handy someday". Most appalling of all is that the 2 year old is limited to a 286 with an EGA! HORRORS! Special effort is made to explain to visiting techies that we are in the process of upgrading her system.

Other elaborate electronic devices run a close second to the "home computer competition". Techies must always have the latest and the best of any electronic device on the market and they MUST be the first in their group to own one. We have established true superiority with our home PBX phone system with the capacity to handle 10 incoming lines, conference calls, 45 auto-dial numbers and, best of all, music on hold. Oh, and our answering machine has voice mail capabilities, can receive fax transmissions and makes dinner.

As you've probably already noticed, dating a techie has special challenges and rewards. Although your social hours are restricted to 11:00 p.m. - 3:0 a.m., you do have the opportunity to meet other SO's who, like you, are hanging around the office waiting for "just one more compile". A techie's estimate of "15 more minutes" generally means they will appear an hour or two later having absolutely no clue that more than 15 minutes has passed.

If you do manage to convince your techie to take a vacation, plan on his inspecting the computer system at every hotel, gas station, restaurant, car rental agency and airline. Expect him to make suggestions for improvements to busboys, valets, maids and waiters, none of whom have the remotest interest in their establishment's computer system, much less any influence in this arena. Keep in mind also that no matter where you go, techies will find eahc other. The first trip I, my sweetie and his portable computer took togethe was to Europe. I was one of the lucky few to be dating a man who owned one of the first portable computers manufactured, which of course automatically entitled us to first class service everywhere. He no sooner had placed the computer on the airline tray table than six fellow techies leaped to his side to discuss the merits of the computer. Personal conversation with my traveling companion totalled ten minutes out of a six hour flight.

Lunching with a group of techies is comparable to being dropped into a remote village in central Albania, with one major difference: Sign language is completely useless. They are speaking a foreign language and they are completely oblivious to this fact. My suggestion: Don't bother going. No one will notice that you were there anyway, including your techie.

Parties dominated by techies are truly exciting experiences. Techies have never developed the art of smalltalk (their computers don't require this attribute) so don't expect to see a techie talking to a non-techie. If a techie was forced to bring his SO, he will feel obligated, however, to forego technical discussions for at least the first ten minutes.

If you are unfortunate enough to be an SO with a "real job", you will encounter additional difficulties. The techie cannot fathom anyone going to work earlier than 10:00 a.m. He will tell you to simply inform your boss that you won't be starting until then.

Techies are very well read. They devour books and articles on such exciting topics as memory management, VXD's and debugging but give them a book on relationships and watch the panic spread across their faces. Mention a couples workshop you think both of you should attend and watch those deadlines move up.

At some point in their relationship, the SO must reveal to the techie that a romantic holiday does not entail bringing along a portable computer, stacks of computer magazines and a trunkload of listings. They will be expected to spend an entire weekend without their computer! If you make it through this traumatic experience, a marriage or move-in-together proposal may be in the air. Expect any proposal to be very practical. Important issues such as what kind of dog you will get, how much money will be allotted to ego-related purchases, and how much space will be allocated for the special, hands-off place for his computers in your future home must be settled before a techie will even consider a permanent relationship.(Critical tip: This allotted space will double in size within six months, often spewing out into other areas of your home if you have not planned ahead.) Your wedding date will be arranged around development conferences, COMDEX and technical crises.

If, at some point in your relationship, you decide to have children, you will have to fit baby-making in between compiles. If you do manage to conceive, take a few photographs of your techie to tape over the baby's crib so your child will recognize your techie's face as well as his back.

On a personal level, the techie is very supportive of his significant other When I decided to diet, my techie stood by me and agreed to diet with me; a long as he didn't have to give up Pepsi and Twinkies. When I determined that I needed a new look, he promised not to laugh when I came back with a new hairdo and agreed to unlimited funding for purchases made at lingerie shops.

The techie is also an accomplished gift-giver. Just last month, for my birthday, my techie gave me a Bug Zapper. (You know, one of those things that vaporizes the bugs flying around on your patio.) It seems he "heard me mention that we should get one." Guess he missed the references to the diamond necklace and pearl earrings. Last Christmas I was the proud recipient of a portable toolkit -- it's a beaut.

Well, I'd better close now. I'm due for my 10:43 appointment to review the 1991 COMDEX floor plan with you-know-who. Never a dull moment.....

Biography: The author is married to a techie who denies exhibiting any of the aforementioned behavior and feigned ignorance when asked if he noticed these characteristics in any of his fellow techies.

(c) Copyright 1991 by Shirley Clawson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED