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Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Dirty" secrets

I have a dirty, rotten secret. I first recall being punished for it when I was 6 or 7, even though I didn't realize it was a secret until I was 10 or 11. However, I was then able to look back and see that it was there at least as far back as age 3. I had to hide it all through high school and beyond, and even now have only been able to disclose it safely to a select few. However, I have decided that at my age, the time has come to quit hiding.

You see, the secret that women especially must hide is intelligence. Men may flaunt it and everyone swoonss. Women, however, don't get dates, don't get friends, are seen as pushy, and are even seen as threatening when they interview for jobs - unless, of course, they choose to go into basically academic fields. Sure, teaching and research have their perks, but they are not and never have been for me.

One of my earliest memories is going to a theme park when I was about 3. There were sandwich boards taler than me reading, "No rain checks." I asked my mother was that meant. She asked where I heard that, and I pointed out the boards. People around stared at me.

A few months later, my brother started first grade. (Kindergarten was optional back then, and parents had to pay for it.) I told my mother that it was unfair that he got to go to school and I didn't. when he couldn't even read yet!

By high school, of course, I realized that being smart wasn't cool. The teachers, most of them at least, thought it was great to have a bright, engaged student. The other students, however, especially those who were used to being the shining star in their own circles, didn't appreciate having competition. I did a pretty good job of blending in as "smart, but not too smart" until the SATs. The smart-and-rich clique (which I was not part of) were comparing scores. "I got a 980!" "I got 1020!" I tried to sneak by, but to no avail. First I tried to say I'd left it in my locker, then that I didn't recall my score. Finally, I told them what I got, and that clique - which finally had been including me to a degree - cut me off completely.

I actually even joined Mensa for a couple of years in college, one year in my hometown and one year in another town. I quit after that because frankly, it was boring. I mean, look at it numerically. They accept the top 2%. That means one person in fifty is eligible. Four out of my graduating class. That's not all that exclusive. Not that I care about that, but I only met 2-3 interesting people in all the Mensa folk I met, and all of those were old enough to be my parents. The rest of the people were either snobs of just plain boring or simply wanted to party, not that differently from all the wasted druggies I'd also met in college. Why pay money to meet even more folks like that?

About this time, I became disillusioned with a lot of things in life. I dropped out of school and entered the labor market. One of the first jobs I applied for had an aptitude test. The guy interviewing me said, "Your're way over qualified. You could have MY job!" I didn't get hired. The next job was the same. I quit applying for jobs that required brains.

Smart women have trouble dating. Men are intimidated by smarter women, and smart men seem worried that smart women might be smarter than they are (which, of course, is sometimes true!) Hopefully, this isn't true for the current generation. Friendships can be difficult, because even other women don't always understand us.

After leaving college, I got married and had kids. I love my kids, and of course, they are all brilliant. However, none are quite as smart as I am. I've never let on, but I think they know. I think one feels competitive about that, because she was always the smartest in her class too, yet she always acts like she has something to prove in that area. However, she never has been able to relate to me, even though the others do.

My story does have a happy ... not ending, but conclusion. I returned to school - twice. Once while the kids were still very small and once while the kids were in high school and college, I went back to college for an associates and then a backelors degree. Since I quit worrying about how my peers feel about my success, I was able to surpass my own expectations at each.

Even at work, I do not hide what I know (except when people discuss politics and other off-work topics, up to a point) and will go so far as to tell certain ones that they should have listened to me to begin with when they ask me a question, do not listen, and then find out I was right all along. I don't make a big deal about it, unless it happens over and over with the same person in a short time.

Anyway, this post wasn't about bragging. It was about how even good things turn into dirty little secrets when the people who possess them receive negative rather than positive feedback for it for long enough.