Thursday, 8 August 2013

Brilliant But Weird

How can  I best exploit Seraphic's obvious crush on me?
I am sick in bed, so to cheer myself up I will tell you all that I watched the first two episodes of Benedict Cumberbatch's "Sherlock" last night and when I woke up this morning I discovered I had a crush on the title character. A completely fictional and actor-dependent entity has a hold over my imagination. Alas!

I'll tell you why it is. It is because Sherlock is brilliant but weird--which is to say, my type. As types go, it is not a good one to have. Brilliant men figure out your weaknesses relatively quickly, and weird ones behave in unexpected and often anti-social ways. How I wish my type was as simple as "bookish blond."

At this point you will naturally think, "But what of the delightful, funny and good Benedict Ambrose you have married, who protects you from any self-destructive desire on your part to get involved with brilliant but weird men?"

Yes, there is B.A., and thank heavens for him. However I am reasonably sure I fell in love with B.A. because he did such a good imitation of brilliant but weird. Naturally I had googled him, and a former student had said online that  B.A. could take on ten wannabe philosophers at once and reduce them to ashes, so that meant brilliant. And then there was the constant playing of lute music, the manic grin and the proposing after ten days thing, which indicated weird. Also there was the photographic evidence that he spent his undergraduate days disguised as Lytton Strachey, a very weird person to resemble if you are as fond of women as B.A. is.  And then there are the puns. 

Someone or other decided that puns are the lowest form of humour, but each pun is a sort of simple riddle from which the hearer catches the double-meaning, notes how the pun overturns his expectations and reacts with laughs or groans. The pun creates a two-second carnival of nonsense. Brilliant but weird men are ringmasters in their own carnivals of nonsense. 

Because he is addicted both to puns and to serious reading, Benedict Ambrose will never bore me. Last week we had one of our very rare screaming fights, and it was about the nation-state. I have certainly had screaming fights with boring boyfriends, but they were never about the nation-state or anything particularly interesting. 

But happily B.A. is not actually weird. Brilliant but weird men don't usually have many friends, which I have discovered from dating brilliant but weird men, and B.A. has many friends. They tend to be clever, laugh at his puns and indulge in serious reading. Neither he nor his pals are sociopaths, which reminds me of an amusing exchange in "Sherlock" when a police officer calls Sherlock a psychopath, and Sherlock says "I'm not a psychopath, Anderson. I'm a high-functioning sociopath." I can't tell you how refreshing it was to hear one of them admit it. Serious catharsis here. 

It was a great breakthrough to realize that I became interested in men only when they showed evidence of being brilliant and weird, and my spiritual director thought this knowledge would be a great protection, but actually it is as much a protection against brilliant-and-weird as the knowledge that you have the measles protects you against the measles. If you're attracted to weirdos, knowing that you're attracted to weirdos doesn't automatically stop you from being attracted to weirdos. However, I suppose the knowledge prompts you to make an emergency appointment with your spiritual director when you meet a new one. 

I remember once only noticing a young man for the first time because he kept telling me I looked like a model. As I did not in the least look like a model, that was pretty weird. Also he had given up a brilliant career to become a male religious, and it is exceedingly weird for male religious to tell women we look like models. A young male religious telling a serious-minded female that she looks like a model is probably the psychological equivalent of a Pick Up Artist in a bar telling a glamour girl she looks like a dirty little snowflake. It's the shock value, and whether it is intended or unintended, it works on women like me.

It occurs to me, as I lie in bed writing,  for writing is an even better pain-killer than reading, that my friend Lily would point out that I too am brilliant but weird, as if this had anything to do with anything. Sadly, I am not brilliant at anything that makes great pots of money; I am just a moderately good conversationalist who is great at editing academic papers on a variety of subjects in a way that makes them  more comprehensible and less maddening for poor profs to read. I may be slightly weird, of course. 

But I don't think any quality of weirdness has ever helped me attract a man; keeping it under wraps has been the best policy. When B.A. fell in love with me I was demurely clad in a sky-blue shift dress and pearls, my mad hair tied tightly in a bun and my tendency to make frank and abrupt remarks silenced by an awful head-cold. I often think how lucky it is that I came down with that terrible cold, and that I brought a dress and pearls with me to Scotland. You must always bring a nice dress whenever you travel to see people; you never know if you might not be invited to a dinner party.  

14 comments:

Roseograce said...

I love this lighthearted yet sincere post. :) Do feel better soon!

Sarah said...

Oh, I very much relate to this post in some ways. I also tend to fall for a combination of brilliant and weird, though my idea of attractively weird is different from yours. For instance, if a man told me I looked like a model, I would no longer think him brilliant, but an unimaginative flatterer.

But I also consider myself, while not "brilliant", above average intelligence, and I am definitely weird. I'm an INTP on the Meyers-Briggs personality scale, which is one of the "oddly developed types," and I fall on the high-functioning autism spectrum.

A year or so ago, I bemoaned to a male friend who I have grown up with that I felt passed over by men for women who are, to my mind, not as smart or as interesting. He told me that it's because I'm so different from other girls that guys just don't know what to do with me. They know how to interact with flirtatious, gregarious girls, but they can't figure me out.

But of the friends I have, they are people who know me and love me for the fact that I am so weird. Would I have more friends were I less weird? Probably. But the friendships I have are more genuine this way. Same goes for romances-- the guys who have fallen in love with me did so because they found me fascinating and different. That, too has backfired once or twice, but not always.

I just know that if I get married, it's going to have to be with someone weird and brilliant, because that's what I want, and he'll have to be weird and brilliant to want me. ;)

Anna said...

I have been known to refer to Mr. Cumberbatch as a "beautiful alien".

Woodbine said...

"Brilliant but weird men are ringmasters in their own carnivals of nonsense." This reminds me so much of my favourite Engkish class at the Abbey. I may remember this line forever.

Kate P said...

I know the expression "Let your freak flag fly" has a bit of a mixed connotation to it, but if you think about it, if you are anything other than yourself, will you attract people who will get on with you well and/or like you for you, for a lasting time?

RichieDynasty said...

My oh my. Sherlock is one of my favorite shows. Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal is exquisite! *melts* anyways. I can relate to this post! I don't know why but I tend to like guys who are brilliant but weird. But that is just it... is there a baseline to say that a person is just normal? I actually like guys who (like Sherlock) are observant and very intuitive. I must agree with with Woodbine "Brilliant but weird men are ringmasters in their own carnivals of nonsense." i like it. i like it a LOT. :)

Seraphic said...

Well, that is a very interesting debate, for one of the problems of being weird is that you might make other people uncomfortable or unhappy by your weirdness, and frighten them. And this is not conducive to making friends and influencing people--although you may attract weak people who admire your strength of character or have what we now carelessly call martyr complexes.

Some people who previously we would have called weird and fled, like transsexuals and transvestites, now combine their weirdness with political power (or their friends do it for them), which makes it harder to flee them or simply tell the truth about the nature of reality and the reality of nature.

I think there are still very useful social rules which one can learn and obey and come to enjoy, even if one is autistic or awkward or an introvert or an extrovert. In Scotland, for example, there persists a value in not drawing excessive attention to yourself.

I think knowing how to sit still and listen to people with attention and sympathy while hiding strong emotions and keeping your mouth closed on your personal dramas and tragedies is excellent knowledge for to have, particularly if you are a bit weird.

By the way, I wish to state for the record that my crush is not on Benedict Cumberbatch but on Sherlock Holmes as realized by Benedict Cumberbatch. This, I admit is not much more logical or sophisticated than my very early childhood crush on Speedy Gonzales.

Magdalen said...

Oh yes. Sherlock Holmes as portrayed by most people is a definite crush temptation... even Jonny Lee Miller in the American version.

Oh, and The Doctor from Doctor Who. Especially as portrayed by David Tennant. Brilliant? check. Weird? triple check.

Tumblr is in love with brilliant but weird in general, so I think it's common.

Athanasius lover said...

Magdalen, I totally agree about David Tennant's Doctor. I even have a life-sized cardboard cutout of him in my living room that my mom got me for Christmas last year! I usually don't like skinny guys or guys in suits, but Tennat pulls it off brilliantly.

Jackie said...

Aw, Seraphic, I hope you feel better soon. :(

Your final paragraph both resonated with me and made me a bit sad. I prefer to think of myself as "eccentric" in that I delight in absurdity and tales of outliers, as opposed to "weird." But it is true that I have learned to camouflage this with vintage clothes and fascinators and emoticons. :-D

I do sometimes wish, though, that we oddballs had some kind of secret handshake or insignia with which to identify ourselves to fellow brethren. *sigh*

Though I am so thrilled that you discovered BBC Sherlock-- one of my absolute faves! And season 2, in my opinion, gets even better. Cannot WAIT for season 3!

There is only one concern that I have with BBC Sherlock --besides some VERY strange fan fiction-- and that is seeing how people confuse TV with real life. Namely, seeing intellectualism (or those who perceive themselves as intellectuals) trump and scorn empathy and consideration for others. The Molly Hoopers of the world have brought far more joy and goodwill than I imagine the Sherlocks have.

Sherlock, for all his intellectual brilliance, might as well be blind, deaf and dumb in his inability to realize how his actions affect others. And because he is brilliant, this is all excused (or tolerated).

I see this behavior-- a kind of "get out of jail free card" based on intellectualism-- in real life from time to time. And it's not especially attractive IRL the way it is on the show, as you have noted! I'm glad you dodged all those bullets to wind up with BA! ;-)



Julia said...

A friend's mother told me once that she and her husband thought I looked like a model. A bit of a stretch, I think - I'm around the minimum height expected of models, however I think at the time I was slightly underweight, so that would have produced the beanpole effect. If a man ever said I looked like a model, I think I would be faintly suspicious of him, because this is not a comment I hear regularly.

This discussion about weirdness is interesting. I don't think I'd classify myself as 'weird' (whatever that even means), nor do I think I'm attracted to 'weird' men. However, my interest in and knowledge of a certain corner of the classical music repertoire might be weird to the general population. In my 'set', though, there are people who are way nerdier about it than I am.

Brilliance? The men I've found myself attracted to have tended to be quite talented at something or other.

Julia said...

Jackie, I think that vintage clothes and fascinators are great! My city has a bit of a vintage trend and there are quite a few good vintage boutiques. Students get pretty into it in a hipster sort of way, usually just using pieces here and there. But on campus some weeks ago, I spotted a group of about ten young people (men and women) dressed to the nines in what I think was a 1940s style. But since they were so polished, I'm thinking maybe they were doing a period play, film or TV show and using our old uni in some scenes. I didn't see any crew or anything so who knows what was happening. They looked amazing though.

Antigone in NYC said...

Yup, brilliant and weird is my type, too. Alas.

It may be an INFJ thing (fellow INFJ here). I'm guessing that BA is an ENFP or ENTP? Those types can be absolute catnip for us.

Seraphic said...

Jackie, you are right about the prejudice favouring "intellectualism".

Sherlock behaves so badly and is so insensitive to the feelings of others that it is funny--on television. It would not be funny in real life. He says things like, "Four people committed suicide but it's probably murder! Isn't it EXCITING?" He says exactly what he thinks, at it usually isn't very nice, and he doesn't care although at the same time he craves human companionship (hence dragging Dr Watson around). Oh, and shooting bullets in the wall? Would we date a man who shot up the wall of his rental flat because he was bored? I hope not. And most men that bored, selfish and insensitive are not committed celibates.

Loving classical music is not weird at all. It is just not part of the pop culture soup we swim in whenever we turn on the computer, television or most channels on the radio. Wearing vintage clothing is not weird either although it can really anger narrow-minded class warriors who honestly believe that a love of the past is evil.

What I mean by weird is behaviour that is not socially acceptable within one's own social milieu--or is at least rather daring or overturns expectations. Staring, for example, can get you a reputation for weirdness, especially if you have messy hair and argue for some arcane belief in tones of amazement that your company actually believes in evolution (or whatever). ("Modernists!")