July 29, 2008

SmartGIRL

I do not want this post to sound arrogant, but there are times when I wonder whether I am too smart to fall in reciprical love. Finding lasting love as a smart girl can be challenging, especially if you identify as heterosexual, which I do. I know there are smart women who have found love with men - I personally know smart women who have, but it's harder, and the more visibly intelligent a woman is, the harder it seems to be.

My guy friends have all told me that men are intimidated by smart women. During a break-up, a former boyfriend from many moons ago even told me I would never get married because I was too smart (he also thought the fact that I am a feminist wouldn't help things either, but that's a different story...). And so, the choice I make every time I see a handsome young man at a bar or happen to sit beside a charming guy at a friend's house party is either to be smart (ie. to be myself) or face the distinct possibility of being alone for the rest of my life. This is not a nice choice to make. Every time I meet a guy I like, I wonder if I should act a little less cerebral, but the truth always comes out somehow, because the truth is I do not want to suppress the truth. I am an academic whose intelligence is abstract and useless except when discussing metaphysics, the gender spectrum, the problems with the UN's Security council, or post-colonial literary theory. I like to talk about big ideas and have big debates, and if that weren't enough, the fact that I'm a graduate student outs me as a "smart girl" every time.

The other day, I was talking to my friend M, and told him that I was frustrated, because the very things that made him a catch and girl-magnet (his intelligence, his academic and professional success and his extra-curricular achievements), make me "intimidating." It's another classic double-standard; He's impressive; She's intimidating.

People tell me I will find someone to spend the rest of my life with, but how realistic is that? As a smart woman, if a man has to be smarter in order to feel comfortable with me, it could be hard to find a guy who is simultaneously smarter and still compatible. The pool is made that much smaller. Or, if I decided I wanted to find a guy who is less intelligent or equally intelligent but confident enough to be with an intellectual woman, that could take years! Every long-term relationship I have ever had has ended with my partner making some comment about how he feels intellectually insecure aroound me, or at least alluding to that fact.

I try not to be patronizing or condescending with boys. I also don't think being smart is the cat's pajamas, and I make that clear. People who are exceptionally kind of well-organized, or discaplined impress me far more than smart people, but unfortunately, most men aren't intimidated by a woman who can organize a closet, but large intellects will scare them, which is probably because patriarchy tells us girls aren't meant to be smarter than men, because girls aren't meant to do things that smart people are meant to do, like run corporations and countries or write influential political theory that changes the world. Women are meant to be quiet and pretty and nurturing. We're supposed to raise your kids to take over the world from our men when they're dead - we're not meant to compete with our men to run the world while they're alive.

There are times when I almost hold my tongue, momentarily stopping myself from making an interesting remark about Richard Nixon's skills in diplomacy or the sexism I sense in the media's portrayal of Hillary Clinton. But then I realize, if holding my tongue is what makes a boy like me - if holding my tongue is what it takes for him to notice how much fun at a party, and how nice, patient and compassionate I am, how stylishly I dress, how full my lips are, how my eyes twinkle when I get excited and how pleasantly curvy but healthy my figure is, well, then, I don't want him. I don't want a man who is so cowardly he can only love and edited version of me, because one day the smart part will reveal itself (it always does), and then we'll realize how I've deceived both him and myself.

Instead of lying to men about being smart, hoping they don't notice, I am honest with both them and myself; I am a smart girl who cannot change that about herself and doesn't want to - there is also a good chance, that, because of this, I will never find someone else to love me. This doesn't mean I will live like a nun for the rest of my life, but it means I may never marry. Conveniently, at least I'm smart enough to know that's not the end of the world....

1 comment:

Biscuit said...

Darling,

You are far too young to be worrying about this! Besides, next fall you have an entirely new continent full of men to explore. Furthermore, stop trying to find smart men in bars and house parties, that search is bound to be as fruitless as the one where you try to find meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.

B.