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EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC: A Real Penny, Married to a Real Sheldon, Discusses 'The Big Bang Theory'
May 10, 2012  | By TVWW Guest Contributor  | 8 comments
[Our latest EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC guest columnist, Emily Steinway, writes about a subject she knows quite well: The Big Bang Theory. Her husband, she says, IS Sheldon Cooper, which makes her sort of a Penny... -- DB]

Everybody's a Critic Guest Columnist
Emily Steinway

A Real Penny:
I am a normal, average American female. I grew up in a small town. I work at a place that is comparable in skill level to The Cheesecake Factory: I am a document review attorney.

At 18, I met a guy who was rather odd, but brilliant. He was cute and helped me with my college homework. He was funny and always coming up with interesting ideas. I just figured big city people were a little strange.

More than a decade later, I can say with certainty I was wrong. Big city people aren't strange. The guy I met at 18, he was strange. Or, should I say, is strange.

I married the equivalent of The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper.

A Real Sheldon: My husband has a Ph.D from a top California university. I have heard other Ph.D's call him a genius. He is really good at whatever it is he does.

The running joke in my family - and a popular topic of discussion at any Christmas gathering - is that the government pays people like my husband to look at fruit flies. When I don't want to tell people my husband studies fruit flies, I tell them he works in drosophila neurobiology. It makes it sound as though he does something important. Most people have no idea what a drosophila is.

He has worked at some fancy biology places. I used to think the well-dressed people I saw at these places were the people in charge. Then I learned that they are the security guards. The people wearing weird, dorky clothing are much higher on the chain of command.

The aforementioned is merely normal geek scientist stuff. My husband takes it to an all-new level, even among other dorks. He has some tics that would make Sheldon Cooper look almost normal.

My husband has taught biology classes at a top university in a worn out tee shirt that has a huge image of Elmo (from Sesame Street) on the front and back. The caption says, "Hug Me!" Heaven forbid any of his students actually hug him. That type of physical contact might cause him to have a panic attack. At the very least he'd talk incessantly talk about the encounter for a few years.

My Sheldon only wears brown sandals with grey socks. It would be a tragedy beyond measure if they ever stop making those particular sandals. (He has a dozen brand-new pairs tucked away in his closet, just in case.) I can confirm that solid grey socks aren't sold just anywhere. If JCPenney decides to shake things up and adds stripes to their socks, we are in trouble.

I can tell you which stores sell the superhero shirts that Sheldon wears on the show. I bought my husband the same shirts long before The Big Bang Theory came into being.

He uses the same password for everything. It's the password that was assigned to him when he started college at 17. He has shared this password with all sorts of people. He feels this is only fair because then it is as easy for them to hack into his stuff as, well, vice versa...

All the mini blinds in our house must be turned a certain direction at night so aliens can't see us. This will hinder their ability to abduct us.

What We Think About The Big Bang Theory: We love The Big Bang Theory. Our big screen TV has my husband's latest programming creation on one side and The Big Bang Theory playing on the other. (We found the TV on Craigslist. My husband wrote a program that automatically emailed anyone who used the words "free" and "TV" in the same posting. His OCD relationship with money would never allow us to actually buy a TV.)

As I''ve already mentioned, I'm not exactly a professor at Caltech. My day job does not qualify me to judge the accuracy of the science on the show. (But I'm sure Blossom has that covered, anyway.) My expertise lies in determining how accurately the show portrays extremely bright scientists with Asperger's syndrome and/or anxiety problems. After all, I have a lot of first-hand experience dealing with that sort of crazy.

The show (and Jim Parsons, the Emmy-winning actor portraying Sheldon), has been evasive about what, if any, special condition Sheldon may have. In my opinion, though, had Sheldon's mother followed up with that specialist, Sheldon totally would have been diagnosed. While people may have a problem laughing at Sheldon's stunts, and that his friends call him crazy, if he was diagnosed with a mental disorder, I don't see the problem. I refer to my husband's behavior as crazy on a regular basis. He is also the smartest, nicest person I have ever met.

For the most part, The Big Bang Theory does an awesome, accurate job with its portrayal of a crazy genius. So where does The Big Bang Theory miss the target?

The episode in which Sheldon makes an origami crane, for one, stands out like a sore thumb. Give me a break. Origami has some sort of nicotine-like effect on people like Sheldon. My husband has spent innumerable hours folding scraps of paper. The best Sheldon could do was a crane? Even I can make a crane (out of a napkin no less). Cranes aren't even functional.

My husband has presented me with intricate origami boxes for my birthday. Empty boxes. Made out of computer paper because he is too cheap to buy actual origami paper. The first time I received such a gift, and I asked why the gift box was empty, my husband stared at me in disbelief. Apparently the boxes were in the style of some famous (a relative term) master Japanese paper-folder and it took my husband hours and hours to create them.

It took me a few years to learn to say "thank you" when I get an empty box as a gift. Of course, he has also learned that putting something shiny in the box - like a tiara - improves my reaction tremendously.

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Thanks for your story!
I'm also married to an odd person so I can relate.
He's really book smart but very odd.
May 17, 2016   |  Reply
I too am married to Sheldon Cooper. He is also a college professor and very brilliant. My husband is very nice but can be very annoying at times because he is typically only interested and focused on topics that interest him. I believe that Sheldon displays a variety of several types of developmental and personality disorders. A few that come to mind are Aspergers, OCD, OCPD and possibly BCP.
Sep 24, 2014   |  Reply
I too am a Penny somewhat.
Sep 24, 2014
Paulette Clay
Are Sheldon and Penny married in real life?
Dec 5, 2013   |  Reply
I'm showing this to every Shenny shipper I know. :D Thank you so much for this article!
Jan 2, 2013   |  Reply
Hi! I'm late to your article but wanted to thank you for writing it and sharing your story! It makes me very happy knowing that there is a real life Penny and Sheldon together somewhere in the world. :)
Jun 14, 2012   |  Reply
Hey, Emily -- Congratulations on a great guest column! Loved it. --EG
May 14, 2012   |  Reply
Target and Old Navy also sell vintage-style shirts.
May 13, 2012   |  Reply
Emily Steinway
It looks awesome! The superman shirt Shelden is wearing in the picture is from Walmart. I bought my husband the same one several years ago.
May 12, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Emily, just wanted to add my thanks as well. Loved your story -- and glad we found a shirt to match!
May 15, 2012
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