Albert, along with Madame Currie and Louis Pasteur were childhood heroes of mine. While other kids swooned over rock stars and movie idols, I’d spend hours in the stacks at my local library reading about scientists, their lives and the things they discovered.
When I was 10 my folks bought me a microscope and I examined everything I could under its mirrored lens. I collected butterfly wings, grasshopper legs, daisy petals and grew salt and sulphur crystals to study. I’d examine my specimens and draw sketches of my observations. I’d build things out of cardboard and shoe boxes like pin-hole cameras and periscopes. I wanted to be a doctor or scientist when I grew up but when I got to high school my guidance counsellor told me that girls were better at ‘the arts’ and wouldn’t let me sign up for classes in calculus, chemistry and physics.
With no encouragement to pursue my interests, I almost flunked out of grade 9. In the middle of grade 10 the teachers thought I might be a ‘special needs’ child so they had me tested. When I was called into the vice-principal’s office for the test results, I was met by the school psychologist and guidance counsellor. They all seemed mad at me. They said there was no reason for me to be doing so poorly in school. In intellegence, I had tested in the top 3 percent of the population so laziness was to blame fo my poor acedemic performance. I told them I was bored. Then they really got mad. To ensure that I wasn’t bored, they decided to increase my workload and so the next year I had to take both grade 11 and 12 classes at the same time. I had grade 11 english and history in the mornings and grade 12 english and history in the afternoon. The following year I was 15 years old and legally had to be in school until I was 16. They didn’t know what to do with me so they put me in grade 13 with kids who were so much older than me.
High school was a horrible experience for me. I had no friends. Kids my age shunned me and called me ‘the brain’ and the kids in my classes were older and didn’t want to hang around with a ‘baby’. If I had been a boy I could have found a place with the ‘nerds’ in the chess club but at my school, there was no social support for clever girls. So, to get along with the other kids, just so I’d have someone to talk with, I learned to play dumb. If ever there was a social outcast or geeky kid, it was me. I carry this social awkwardness to this day. People have said that I am aloof but I’m really very affectionate and can be funny. I’m simply an absent-minded, self-conscious geek.
Anyway, today I read that my hero Albert was quite the ladies’ man. Apparently, along with developing the theory of special relativity and winning the Nobel prize he also juggled six girlfriends. Atta boy!
People called him eccentric but look at him when he was younger. I can see how some women would see him as dreamy. While my infatuation with him has always been cerebral, he will now be, for me, a symbol of how geeky can also be sexy.