Oooh la la. Never mind jumpers. Here is part of a letter touching on the most controversial topic known to this blog. Read and prepare to weep.
"It has occurred to me to write you about this for some time, and that is, the topic of intelligence and women's relationships with men...
I have observed amongst my friends that it seems as though women who are sharp, strong, and intelligent tend to be less sought after by men, taken on less dates, or tend to get into deep brainy conversations that may end in debate, but are less pursued romantically. On the other hand, my girl friends that play the 'ignorant" card, or the "damsel in distress" card, either because they actually are, or because they "dumb themselves down" around men, are strongly pursued and "a catch" with the men. I am wondering whether this has also been the case in your observation? If so, what can we learn from this?
I read an article somewhere months ago, which has been lingering in my mind about strong intelligent women feeling like they need to turn off their brains in a relationship with a man, so that he "doesn't get intimidated", "is attracted to her", "understands what he contributes to the relationship" (i.e. his mind?)
I am reminded of this humorous clip from British comedy, "Women Know Your Limits". If you haven't seen it, it is a scream. Do you think it's funny because it contains a kernel of truth to it?
I am writing not so you can publish the letter on your blog necessarily, but just to get your thoughts about women who are smart and how to navigate that. Of course, I would expect that smart men desire smart women (in theory), but when it's practically and concretely lived out, I see less of that happening. Perhaps it's also in the approach about how women are sharing their opinions and their brain; it can be done aggressively, brashly, and competitively, which could be a turn-off, or humbly, and from the heart. Just curious!!
Can't wait to hear what you think!"
What I think is that, among the general sisterhood of smart girls, there are Dumb Smart Girls and there are Smart Smart Girls.
Dumb Smart Girls use the same tactics they have always used to impress teachers and professors to impress potential suitors, even when these tactics have never worked on potential suitors before.
Smart Smart Girls understand that there is the world of the classroom and there is the world outside, that there is the law of the classroom and the law of the jungle. They adjust their behaviour accordingly.
Dumb Smart Girls talk too much. They talk and talk and talk and joke and banter and one-up men's jokes and get high on their own cleverness.
Smart Smart Girls watch, listen and ponder. They ask intelligent questions. They extend subtle flattery. They leave their interlocutors wanting more.
Dumb Smart Girls don't like other women because "women are boring and talk about dumb stuff like clothes and hair and recipes." At parties they talk only to men, even if all the other women are in the kitchen. It's like they're honorary men. How attractive!
Smart Smart Girls cultivate friendships with the kind of women men seem to be crazy about and learn from them. They ask them for advice on clothes and hair. They try out their recipes. Smart Smart Girls realize that whatever it is that makes men like these women might rub off on them.
Dumb Smart Girls show off how much they know.
Smart Smart Girls don't put all their intellectual goods in the shop window. Until there is a reason for a man to know that she is fluent in five European and one Asian language, a Smart Smart Girl keeps such information to herself.
Dumb Smart Girls prefer to believe that all attractive men prefer brains to looks and prefer to think of women as their intellectual equals, if not their intellectual superiors.
Smart Smart Girls see men for who they really are and not as who they might wish they were. Smart Smart Girls try to see men as naturalists see squirrels: as interesting beings quite unlike themselves, with predictable patterns of behaviour and curious mating rituals.
Dumb Smart Girls get drunk at parties and reveal what they know about men. For example, the last time I was drunk at a party, I revealed that my social life would have been a million times better if, from the age of six, I had said "Gosh, you're smart" at regular intervals to all the boys and men I knew.
Smart Smart Girls have more discipline and keep their mouths shut.
I do not believe women should "dumb down". But I do not believe women should "smart up". As awful as this sounds, and as much as men enjoy a good intellectual argument, many men connect intellectual argument with competition and masculinity. So if you argue like a man, gosh darn it, but the hottie you're arguing with might start thinking of you as a man. This is great at work, but not so great at the cocktail party.
I myself am a Dumb Smart Girl, and have been all my life. It took me a long time to learn not to talk so much. And I know that when I met my future husband, I didn't talk that much.
He knew me mostly from my "Still Seraphic" blog, and its perpetual cheery tone led him to dread, not that I was a formidable intellectual, but that I might have a squeaky voice.
As a matter of fact, I didn't have much of a voice at all because I had jet lag and mild culture shock and soon a very bad cold. B.A., who loves to talk, talked. I listened. And giggled. And the more I fell in love with B.A., the more I listened and giggled.
He fell in love with me when I was wearing a blue dress and white pearls, sitting on an IKEA couch in a Georgian townhouse, sipping a gin-and-tonic, tissue balled up in my other hand, listening intelligently to anecdotes about Oxford in the 1960s.
I was intelligent, presentable and looked like a younger version of Dame Emma Kirkby; compared to that--I firmly believe-- my M.A., my M.Div. and my Lonergan Studies diploma meant squat, interesting only in hindsight, because they belonged to me.
Men are who they are and not who you want them to be.
P.S. "Women Know Your Limits" is less funny after living in the UK for three years. That said, though, it is possibly the same spirit that keeps American traditionalist women in jumpers.