Sticks and stones may break my bones, but you nerds will never have the upper body strength or motor skills to use them against me.

Nerd Pride is a beautiful oxymoron. And yes, it might be something of a clichéd idea now that nerds are more accepted in the mainstream, but I remain an adherent. ‘Cause although we nerds don’t have to hide in our parents’ dank basements anymore (though you’ll probably find the pale majority of us down there anyway), we’re still prone to extreme levels of shame. But we possibly … maybe … kind of … shouldn’t be?

I’m an ardent believer that everyone is nerdy about something. Nerdiness is really just a product of passion. Sports fan(atics)s, for example, are by definition zealous in their devotion, including the tracking of statistics and crunching of numbers. And historically, under whose purview have numbers and statistics and crunching fallen? That’s right—under yours. Nerd.

Still, it’s important to note that not all nerds are created equal. Of course sportier nerds have their own stigmata, but they’ll never reach brony-grade pariah-hood. And we shouldn’t confuse the classic nerdy jock with the new wave of Twitchy eSports enthusiast because despite broadcasting “sports” like billiards and poker, ESPN still refuses to let the gamier nerds of the world join its team. For my purposes though, I’m talking about—and to—the traditional, no-nonsense, no-non-World-of-Warcraft-plans-on-a-Friday-night kind of nerd. Homo sapiens rejectus. The noble outcast.

Finding happiness and success in high-functioning nerdery is all about taking ownership of your ignominy. When the villagers pelt you with sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes, you turn those tomatoes into a robust, yet delicately balanced marinara. It’s all about making your condition work for you, kid, and keeping things on the not-so-heavy side. Don’t get all indignant when you’re playing Legos with your nine-year-old nephew and he circumvents your entrenched muster of stormtroopers by taking his 74-Z speeder bike above its max altitude of 25 (scale) meters. Just give the little Rebel a pass on this one. He may not have the words to label any D-baggery as such, but his emotions will confirm that he’s not happy facing those flagrant levels of untenable pomposity. Just have fun with it, dude, is all I’m sayin’. Recognize that NO ONE outside of your loyal fellowship takes you seriously when you start ranting about how 8-bit is the last pure art form. Try to accept that this ridiculousness is a glorious part of our collective nerd-venture. Be genuine. The fact that you are so nerdy and have survived in spite of it is one of nature’s precious miracles. So don’t hide your lightsaber under a bushel. And be honest about your foibles. I can’t name more than five current non-NHL, non-NBA starters across all of professional sports. I can, however, rattle off a pretty accurate list of the top 25 Magic: The Gathering players in the world. I’m comfortable with that. Sure, I know by most standards it won’t make me the most interesting guy in the room, but it will keep me authentic. And it will ensure I’m home at a reasonable hour most evenings.

So maybe you’re the kind of nerd who watches A Game of Thrones, and maybe you’re the kind who read it for the first time way back in good old 1996. Or maybe—possibly, even—you’re both. One of a new breed of über-nerd. Someone who is pretty sure Ned Stark was only like 35-ish in the book, but is also pretty sure 50-ish Sean Bean is a total bad-A. Either way, you’re someone who is super cheesed at George for takin’ his friggin’ sweet time with errthang! And you’re someone who sees nerd not only as a pejorative, but as a declaration of independence, and a term of endearment, and, of course, a delicious crunchy candy.