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Our Readers Are Nerds! (We Have Proof)

I've long harbored a suspicion that most of our floss readers (and certainly our staffers) are closet nerds, and as far as I'm concerned, this photo challenge proved it. Somehow, we tricked legions of you into opening those closets, finding the nerdiest slash most embarrassing photos you could find of yourselves, then emailing them to us so we could post them on the internet. (And on a modestly popular website, at that.) What were you thinking??

Naturally, we got tons of submissions. We can't post them all here, but we'll post the most acutely embarrassing shots and put the rest on our Flickr page. Let the humiliation begin!


Above: reader Matt writes "I don't know what to be more embarrassed about: the chubby belly, the pulled-up socks, the weird face I'm making or the Tron shirt." Taken at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida, circa 1985."

Reader Kay and her father tickle the ivories. "I still love music," she writes, "though I've since managed to cure my childhood exhibitionism."
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Reader Jenny went as french fries for Halloween. Judging from the hair: 1986ish?
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Shaya Lewin, age six, Cleveland, Ohio. "This may be the first time my mom let me dress myself."
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Reader Tina was a long way from puberty in this photo, but already excited about bras:
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Joe from Iowa sent in this picture of he and his brother ("deep in the 70s"), pretending to smoke and drink. Well, allegedly pretending.stubbies.jpg

Kathy writes: "This would be me upgrading a pre-windows era Tandy. Yes, I'm a girl. Yes, that's a Tandy." Nerd city, population: you!
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Chad about to be mauled by a deer at the petting zoo.
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Reader Kate doing a seductive dance with a mop on her head:
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Carrie's husband Steve doing an impersonation of his mother, years ago, while wearing her glasses. Definitely embarrassing, and vaguely Norman Bates-y to boot. Thanks, Carrie!
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Mental_Floss staffers
OK, we've humiliated our readers enough, now it's time to turn the lens on ourselves.

Bloggers Jason Plautz (left) and Brett Savage (right), dressed as an old lady and Batman's sidekick, respectively.
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Mental_Floss magazine editor-in-chief Neely Harris waterskiing with her teeth (left) and barking orders at the photographer (right). How this makes Neely look like anything other than a badass, I'm not certain.
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The many sides of Higgins. First, the scholar:
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... and the greaser. Higgins explains: "When I was six, I had a lot of denim clothes. I remember one day deciding to become a sort of greaser badass. I figured that I could bad-ify myself by wearing all denim, with striped bandanas randomly tied around my extremities, then adopting some kind of karate pose."
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Stacy was kind enough to send me this shot, which is awesomely nerdy in more ways than I can count. Between the glasses, the grandma, and the matching hot pink pants, hat and balloon ...
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... or the fact that they're standing right in front of a calendar, which reads:
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... an embarrassing year for kids everywhere, to be sure. Myself included:

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Yikes. Merry Christmas, kitty.

Below: writers David and Andréa, worshiping God (left) and the Lord of the Dance (right).
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Miss Cellania circa 1974:
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Many more on our Flickr page!

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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