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Geek Love

Check out Nerds at Heart for a chance to meet local smart, savvy singles.
Monday Jan 19, 2009.     By Stacy Warden
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Julia Borcherts and Bathsheba Birman
photo: courtesy of Nerds at Heart
They're not just the founders, they're nerds, too.
How exactly do you know if you're a nerd? If you're a 70th-level Night Elf Druid, you're probably a nerd. If you make jokes framed in stoichiometry equations, you're definitely a nerd. According to Nerds at Heart founders Bathsheba Birman and Julia Borcherts, "if you think you are, you probably are." And thanks to these two self-proclaimed nerds, plenty of local Chicagoans don't just think it; they own it. Birman and Borcherts formed Nerds at Heart in July 2006 in an attempt to break away from the typical speed-dating scene. Since hosting their first event at Guthries Tavern, the ladies have generated quite a following and continue to host monthly events, including "Dating for Nerds" and "Dating for Queer Nerds," at local low-key hangouts.

The goal of each event is to provide a low-pressure way for smart singles to meet in a comfortable environment. Birman says that it's easy for her and Borcherts to pick the nerd-friendly places, since the ladies are part of their own target audience. "In a lot of ways, we're the un-dating event," says Birman. "There is no age range and there are no litmus tests." In fact, the majority of folks who attend the Dating for Nerds events are just regular-looking guys and gals interested in nerdy pursuits from anime to anthropology. "We get some stereotypical 'Revenge of the Nerds' types and we consider them our brethren, but most of our attendees truly are nerds at heart."

So what exactly can you expect at one of these "un-date" nights? Well, for one, you get a complimentary cocktail to help take the edge off, and then there's a round of board games and trivia quizzes. And even if you don't end up going home with the nerd of your dreams, you still have the chance to score with ticket giveaways and geeky prizes like library action figures, switchblade pocket combs and Nancy Drew Books. Past events have included tickets to brain-teasing events like "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and copies of Joel Derfner's Gay Haiku, for all the GLBT nerds. This month promises even more exciting giveaways with the chance to win tickets to musicals like "Xanadu" and the Tony Award-winning "Miss Saigon."

He's a winner!
photo: Courtesy of Nerds at Heart
Even if you don't leave with a number, you'll probably get a prize.

With just two and a half years under its belt, Nerds at Heart has already seen success with three hetero engagements and two long-term lesbian couples, including one lesbian marriage. "We hope to score invites to as many of the weddings as possible," says Birman.

Events are $20 in advance (sign up at or $25 at the door. If you haven't already found your Valentine, make a saving throw against shyness and join Birman and Borcherts as they host their Second Annual Love Fest at Holiday Club on February 12. The event is open to both straight and queer singles and, in addition to the regular lineup of board games, cocktails and giveaways, it will include sappy love songs in the tradition of Journey and Air Supply and a drag performance called "Baking with Bertha," in which Bertha will offer tips on baking and love and leads a version of the Dating Game.


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