Friday, September 9, 2011

An(other?) Honest Confession.

On more than one occasion (and especially by blunt or close friends) I have been engaged in discussing why I act dumber than I am or why I say things that make me seem dumber than I am.  I have been met with the observation that I "dumb [myself] down" and then asked why do I do that.  Usually I give a semi-honest answer: it makes me more approachable/likable. 

I've had problems with "peer relations" for as long as I can remember. I just found my 1st and 2nd grade report cards today. My 2nd grade teacher says of me:
"Christine is a very bright student who has a lot of enthusiasm for learning. She actively participates in group discussions. She works wonderfully independently, but can occasionally be critical towards others when working in a group."

Why am I not surprised? Not much has changed in the past ...math calculating noises... (what year was I in 2nd grade? Oh, geez, has it really been?) ...20 years. At least I'm consistent. The grading system was thus: C = commendable, G = good, S = satisfactory, and N = needs improvement. Needless to say I received at least a C/C+ in everything.

Except the following 3 areas (which shouldn't surprise anyone): Peer relationships, physical education, and music. Now, my lack of skills in physical education and music shouldn't surprise anyone. But what I want to bring attention to is that the lowest grade I received (even of those 3) was in "Peer Relationships."

Honestly, if I had to truly answer why I so often dumb myself down and make myself the "victim" in a crowd, it is because I know that it is really hard to like me.

Don't get me wrong. I know my good traits:
1. I'm loyal to a fault

2. I will personally cut out and give half my liver for a friend

3. I remember every little detail about each of my friends and use those to be the most thoughtful person I know

4. I never/rarely say "no," and 

5. I am really really good at giving great objective advice. 

However, I also know my bad traits:
1. I'm ridiculously stubborn and convinced I am always right

2. I'm the most singularly selfish person I know

3. I'm honest to the level of tactlessness

4. I'm super impatient, and

5. I'm keenly aware of just how smart I am (especially in comparison to the individuals around me).
There. I said it. Here comes the faux pas: I KNOW that I am smart. One of the biggest taboos, it would seem, in our culture.

And herein lies why I feel the need to dumb myself down. Smart people are deemed unapproachable and need some redeeming factor to make them more palatable. Usually an intelligent person who is also well-liked will have one or more of the following traits: niceness, humility, friendliness, and/or wisdom.

Although I am a good person, it turns out that I am not particularly good at being a nice person. And it turns out that I'm neither particularly humble nor wise. Neither am I known for my warmth and friendliness. Actually, I can be downright cold and awkward around strangers. Hmm... so out of the several likable traits an intelligent person must have, I possess... ZERO.

Therefore, I feel the need to dumb myself down. People love the friend they can always make fun of, right? I need to feel a niche and there it is. Someone you can make fun of is approachable, non-threatening. And since I'm so full of myself, I can take all the ribbing thrown at me. The ability to take a good jab is somewhat under-appreciated in my view. I had some more thoughts, but it's already 2am and tonight I was supposed to start setting my internal clock for starting work in a week.

Here you have it, dear readers. In my experience, intelligence alone, is too strong and raw for most people to handle. I'd say intelligence is best-served as a mixed drink; the best mixers being niceness, humility, friendliness, and wisdom. I dumb myself down because I'm not particularly nice, humble, friendly, or wise. My dumbing down is like pineapple juice, a blunt but effective mask for the bitter taste it's meant to hide.

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