Author Archives: Michelle Lim

Nerd Lust

“What’s your sine? It must be pi/2 because you’re the 1.”


Pick-up lines are a huge form with multiple genres within them. Pick-up lines are hardly ever used seriously–that is, to actually pick up dates. They’re told humorously, usually to highlight a clever play on words. The romantic message is used as a stock message along which to frame the wordplay, which is the real focus of a pick-up line joke. The combination of the two produces a corny and awkward and therefore funny effect. The nerdy pick-up line goes one step further to juggle an extra requirement–the incorporation of overly intellectual content. As nerd-dom is traditionally unsexy, this adds an extra level of amusement, not to mention cleverness. It’s a way for nerds to say, hey, we need lovin’ too.

Feng Shui

Informant: “Never have your back to the door. If you’re in a room and you’re organizing your room, you shouldn’t put a chair or like a couch where like the way you enter the room is behind you.”


My informant learned this principle from her mother and aunt, who are constantly reinforcing the principles of feng shui in their homes. When we first moved into our apartment, her mother insisted on evaluating the premises and informing our furniture placements. Neither of us objected; there is something about the way a room is arranged that definitely affects the way you feel in it, however inexplicably. Feng shui is concerned with ordering a space so as to optimize the ambiance and mental comfort within it–this is achieved by creating balance and harmony among its physical components. This particular principle considers your mental comfort by ensuring that you are never surprised from behind. Having your back to the door, you forfeit control and awareness of the portal which guides flow in and out of the room, and potentially allow yourself to be startled.

The Bell Witch is Photogenic

Informant: “So, my friends–have you guys seen An American Haunting?–okay, so it’s basically a story about the Bell Witch, and it’s based on a real story that took place in Tennessee, in a city that is the only city in the United States that’s certified haunted by the federal government. Basically everyone moved out of the city, it’s completely abandoned now. And there’s a legend that says that if you go there, um, and you’re around there at night, at 3 in the morning you’ll see the Bell Witch. So, uh, a friend of a friend went to that city with a few other guys and they were walking around taking photos and stuff, and they were going through the buildings and there’s all these satanic drawings on the walls of the buildings. At around 3 am, they uh, they’re still taking photos and they took a photo outside of the church. And one of the guys feels something on his arm, so then they’re like ‘nah man you’re just playing, you’re just joking around.’ And they go back, open the camera up, and look at the saved photos–and you can see the silhouette of a woman’s face right next to the guy’s shoulder. And he posted this photo on Facebook too. And I’ve seen the photo myself, like you can see the witch’s face. I’m dead serious. But it’s true, I’ve seen the photo.”

Pinning Ceremony: A Modern Pseudo-Engagement

Informant: “So pinning ceremonies are apparently, uh, a ‘Greek engagement’ is how she describes it. So if you are pretty sure you’re going to be engaged with your college sweetheart after you get out, you do this ritual ceremony in your respective [frat or sorority] houses, and like nobody’s supposed to know except for the head of your house and then they organize this like nighttime ritual where everyone who’s single has to like go and hold a candle–this is how she described it, I swear–and the guys have to all wear white and the girls have to all wear black. And the couple who’s, like, announcing their pseudo-engagement comes in and then everyone’s like ‘oh, that’s you!’ acting all surprised even though they know already. And then they pass a candle around, and then when it gets to them, the guy pins the girl with his fraternity letters.”


This is a practice that was described to my informant by a first-hand participant. This seems to hearken back to a supposed historical function of fraternities and sororities as a social environment for the grooming of marital relationships. It establishes any such relationship as part of the fabric of the respective houses, fixing the identity of the house and well as the other person into a permanent place in each other’s lives. It resists modern skepticism and criticism of early commitment to marriage, especially among the college educated, and chooses to embrace it.

Caught with your pants down

Informant: “I played golf in high school, and there’s all kinds of weird little things, like if you mess up your shot, sometimes people are like, ‘oh, take a Mulligan’ and that just means you can redo if you want, pretty much, for that shot. There’s another one, like, if you don’t hit it past–if you mess up your drive and you don’t hit past the front tees, then you have to walk with your pants down all the way to the flag.”