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doesn't reading chick lit and trashy magazines also show an interest and curiosity about people?


Good point, 6:43PM. And I read chick lit and trashy magazines from time to time myself, with relish. What I meant to say is that I'm puzzled that my smart housemate seems to read ONLY those things in her off-work hours, and explains that choice by saying that she doesn't want to think when she's not at work. That approach (not the reading matter) is what is the most foreign to me. But I didn't say that very well.

Carol Anne

My descent into "not being smart" is a one-hour-a-weekday dose of daytime television drama. Sure, it has very little socially redeeming value, but it's rest time. Also, my cats enjoy the opportunity to come and snuggle for an hour.

I have always had problems stemming from being one of the smartest kids in school -- and that was compounded by being in a very smart school. My high-school class (406 students) had 40 National Merit semifinalists, 36 of whom became finalists. The school had three Presidential Scholarship semifinalists, and I was one of them (there are only two finalists per state).

Since high school, I have worked hard to keep from intimidating people by overaweing them with my smarts. Once in a while, I slip. Sunday, for instance, some bright astrophysics and engineering students were at the marina, waiting for wind to come in so we sould sail a distance race. Tadpole and I were maintaining a lively conversation that included some physics and some statistics and some jokes about thermodynamics. Then I realized that the rest of the sailors had wandered off and started their own conversation.

I do sometimes worry about Tadpole. He's a very bright kid, and his school is not filled with geniuses the way mine was, so he sticks out more. He does at times get cocky, but I don't think it's too bad -- he has cultivated a circle of friends that includes both a lot of the smart ones (especially the ones who play in the orchestra) and also a lot of the academically average ones. He seems, in particular, to have a lot of friends on the swimming and track teams. (Thought just occurred to me ... potential crew for sailing ...)

Interesting that you point out that she reads chick lit and trashy magazines, as if that is the antithesis to being smart. Though she says she doesn't want to be smart at home, it's not something to turn on or off. Her talents and abilities are always with her (unless disease or injury causes some damage).

There are times when it's necessary to relax. Her "chick lit and trashy novels" are just a form of mind candy, that probably help her relax. She can partake of those activities without concentrating all of her efforts. It's a good thing.

Me, I prefer cartoons. My wife doesn't truly understand this (my father-in-law was shocked that someone with my education would sit and watch bugs bunny or the cartoon network after work). however, after spending the day trying to undertake sophisticated legal analysis (isn't that an oxymoron along the lines of airline food and military intelligence), it's nice to let the mind have a little rest.

I've been lucky to have met and to know a lot of smart people (some who are truly brilliant, though that phrase is often overused). What I've noticed is that being smart can encompass many different things. There are those who are "book smart." That is, they've done well academically. Then, there are those who did not have the academic talent, but are also very smart. Many of these friends are blue collar workers. However, they aren't just sitting around swilling beer after work. They too have a curiosity in the world, and an awareness as to what is going on around them (and provide hours of fascinating political conversation).


Interesting post -- especially because you don't write much about your housemate. Do you like her?


Yeah, that's what I've come to think too. I'm not sure how smart it is.


Part of the problem is that when "work" and "leisure time" mix too often, we have a natural desire to want to separate the two - sometimes to the extremes. I have friends who read military history for pleasure the same way other friends read chick lit. They are all equally bright and ambitious. I read the comics daily in the newspaper on the bus to work, unashamed that I'm not reading a) the front page of the New York Times nor b) the 9/11 Commission Report.

I think there is a general level of intelligence that, once you realize you are among, it no longer matters how you portray yourself to the rest of the world (i.e. you don't have to go around "proving it"). Acknowledge that all people have an area in which they are more accomplished than you, recognize that you are probably more competent than they on any number of levels, and do what you enjoy. Comfort with yourself is key. (And that what might be what that other blog writer meant about respect all people - not sure.)

Now, for some people, "what I enjoy" consists of putting down others for being intelligent, and as such those people are rarely surrounded by anyone of value, so I think life has a way of naturally evening itself out.

Whoops, let me clarify the last paragraph:

For some people, "what I enjoy" consists of putting down others who are or are not intelligent (based on what end of the scale they themselves believe they fall), and thus they attract certain hangers-on whose sole existence seems to be propping up the delusional beliefs of these people. To each his/her own. Just because everyone deserves respect doesn't mean he/she has to be your best friend, or even *a* friend.


I'm sorry, I can't hold my tongue (or should I say fingers) here. Carol Anne, I found your comment unbelievably smug and self congratulatory. You demonstrate perfectly the attitude of intellectual snobbery that Sherry sometimes writes about. Do you really think astrophysics and engineering students are intimidated by you and your child joking about thermodynamics?


Upper Case Bill (immediately above) is not lower case bill (me) a few posts above. Pretty cool name though.


Upper case Bill is either being very tongue in cheek or he didn't quite understand the intent of Carol Anne's comment. The Tech students were very much the center of the conversation and were not intimidated at all, but rather some other sailors, who didn't share a high-tech background, felt left out. That part of the comment wasn't intended to be smug but rather to show some awareness and perhaps ruefulness for leaving some folks out of the conversation.

Part of what happened might be familiar; some bright people feel socially isolated in their day-to-day lives, so they're especially excited when they get a chance to connect with other smarter-than-the-average-bear folks with whom they discover common interests. So, the conversation takes off in all sorts of exotic directions but becomes opaque to anyone present who doesn't have the particular knowledge needed to participate.

Here, the joy of bonding and connecting with one group of people was tempered by inability to bring some other friends along to enjoy the conversation.


Sorry to take up bandwidth here just to do the clarification thingy:

Maybe Carol Anne should have revised her subjects and pronouns to have said, "The students, Tadpole, and I were maintaining a lively conversation .... then I realized some other sailors' eyes had glazed over and they had left to start their own conversation."

Now I've put myself in danger by correcting an English instructor's post -- I may have to seek shelter from the Editorial Protection Program.

They say unidentified flying pronouns and indefinite subjects are responsible for just a bit too much misery and misunderstanding in the world.


Yikes, I proved my own lack of intelligence by not understanding the point about the conversation. However, I still stand by my assertion that the comment was incredibly self congratulatory. "Since high school, I've worked hard to avoid intimidating or overawing people with my smarts"??????? I just find it patently ridiculous for someone to think they are so intelligent that people are in awe of them.


I don't think it's necessarily awe, but some sets of skills and abilities do end up leaving out people who lack them. I'm horribly unathletic, to the point that I had to be re-taught how to catch a ball in a glove when I was recruited into a summer softball game. If I were in a group that decided en masse to do something requiring physical ability -- like going for a 3 mile jog -- I would be "overawed" in the sense that I would say, "Sorry, I don't think I can keep up" and admire those who could.


For me, it's action hour television and anything campy. Nothing like a little Cleopatra 2525 or Charmed to give the brain a rest!

Hal O'Brien

"I just find it patently ridiculous for someone to think they are so intelligent that people are in awe of them."

I am happy for you that you were never beaten up, at a minimum of once per week, while the administrators of your punishment told you, repeatedly, they were doing so because you were, "Too damned smart."

Some us weren't so lucky.

I wouldn't have chosen, "overawing." But both my body and my psyche bear enough scars to know exactly what she means. "Too much" intelligence is fiercely punished in this country, up until... Well, I'd say right up 'til college. And it has for decades (since the 1970s, at least).

I'd go further: I can think of a number of recent political candidates whose losses were almost certainly because a large percentage of Americans thought they were, "Too smart." If hiring the more stupid, less qualified person for the job (which is what an election is) isn't being, "overawed," what is?


Nice post; I've been thinking about similar issues lately, thanks.

and I also take Hal's (and similar) comments on board; I do believe in fact that this is exactly where the "smart matters more than anything" attitude comes from (yes, i'm quite familiar with both, if not actually getting physically beaten up, certainly awful treatment all through my childhood and adolescence). Defense.

but I have been coming to the same conclusions you have, Schehezerade; i figure it is among those things "which no longer serve."

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