And Gutenberg Lived Here: Geek Humor And Me

As most of the people who read my blog know, I’m married to a mathematician.


That implies two things.


at every party if you want to talk to someone you have to circulate.


And two:

If you are a at a party,

unless you happen to be hosting it yourself,

everyone there will be a mathematician,

male or female,

and their partner will be…

ta da….

also a math teacher at the u,

a high school math teacher.

or even,

be still my heart,

a physics teacher.


Forget circulating.

In fact,

the only ones who stick together more than this happy crowd,

are psychiatrists.

For obvious reasons.


as a skin doctor once told me,

(at a party. His wife is a mathematician- he was circulating)-


Which I fully understand,

after he explained to me that perfect strangers at a party,

non-mathematician style,

having had a few, or more, drinks,

often have a bizarre tendency,

which he can personally attest to,

having been more than once in the situation,

to pull a haplessly circulating dermatologist into another room

and take off their (the strangers’)  clothes –

so he can tell them that black patch on their upper leg,

or more embarrasing areas,

isn’t skin cancer.

When all they,

the dermatologists,

really want is a few hours off with a few healthy people.

And since Mathematicians I have talked to claim this is no worse than what they experience

when dealing with non-mathematicians in a (relatively seldom happening non-math) social environment…

Not the clothes off-

just soul baring.

About bad math trips.

Or how they absolutely ADORE building twenty-sided figures out of old coat hangers and modeling clay,

but they never could understand why Cauchy built those cute little dog houses so wierd.


Say what?

By which I mean,

what exactly is this huge divide between mathematicians

and the rest of the world?


Aside from the kind, decent souls who just want to tie everyone into the conversation-

Bless you all-

a large percentage of the population of the world,

if you ask them why they have such trouble with mathematicians,

will tell you it is:

because they had such trouble with math in high school.



as I just wrote to Stu Melton, a comedian in NY city

who writes a great blog called A Comedian’s Notebook,

this week on math humor,

it has to do with the fact that:

if you see a male mathematician at the beach,

large slate or blackboard in one hand,

chalk in the other,

the only way they can work,

and why else would you be at a beach?

more women will come over to see what they are doing

than will surround the average muscle man.

A phenomenon known in the business as math transit.

And if you doubt it, check out the story of Marilyn Monroe and Einstein.

Math enablers: it isn’t their fault they are so desirable.

Just keep them surrounded by other mathematicians.

They’ll never take notice a strange female is a female as long as she is,

more importantly,

a mathematician.

And for those who still don’t understand:

Mathematicians are born with a particular, often genetically inheirited,

albeit it often skips a generation,

mathematical talent.

You have it or you don’t.

It colors how you see the world.

And if that talent is recognized early,

and trained from childhood on,

you get Sheldon Cooper.

Or a more harmless variation thereof.

But since I trained in comparative lit,

and with very talented lit people,

who also have a specific view of the world and how it functions-

a view that recognizes patterns, and structures, and linkages,

and who also fully believe that,

although there are many hard workers in the field,

the real gift of being able  to see where something is going,

literarily speaking,

at first read,

is also often genetically inherited,

(as is the staying power to read over 1000 pages per week)

which talents need to be trained early-

people like me often end up,

when married to someone like Harald,

in a relationship where-

if you work hard at making it work-

you first recognize that both of you see the world your own way,

and what that way is,

and then spend time,

if you are clever,

looking to build tolerance for each other’s standpoint.

And a recognition of the fact that you can learn a lot by seeing as your other half sees.

Just not, perhaps, permanently.

Or perhaps just not at the moment you want to see a new film by a master in your field,

and he wants to do math.

Ie one plus one is two and a half.

If the signs are right.

To give you an idea of what I mean,

A typical math joke:

If a mathematician stands in front of a room he sees is obviously empty,

and two people come out,

what does he think?

If two more go in,

the room will be empty.

I love that joke.

Because that is exactly the situation of living with a mathematician.

And his answer to that is:

Is this going to be another one of those things where you read the first five pages and tell me how the book ends?

Oh my yes.

The trick is to laugh.

copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved







2 thoughts on “And Gutenberg Lived Here: Geek Humor And Me

  1. Isn’t that what their owners say about St. Bernards. Just joking. I love our geek friends, and to those in other groups, I am also a geek. Or an artist, depending on what they do for a living.


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