The fiasco began with a seemingly innocent question.
“So, what do you do for work?”
I found him intriguing and he could carry a conversation, make me laugh, even make me blush. Perhaps a bit brave from the glass of Chardonnay I’d just had, I divulged the details of my day-to-day. In the middle of hurriedly describing a fascinating coding technique I had been researching for dynamic data modeling – I work in data viz – he interrupted:
“So, you…make charts all day?”
This caught me off guard. Obviously I don’t spend 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 2000+ hours a year making pie charts. That would be as debilitating as it is silly. I retorted with a hesitant, “No, not at all” and attempted to tell him about my most recent project and the trouble I was having with coming up with a clever way to combine a few metrics to tell a story that was compelling to a particular client. I could almost feel his eyes glaze over as he took a generous gulp of his Guinness.
“That sounds too intense. What did you study in school again?”
I’d mentioned it previously; I studied math with a stats concentration – and economics as well, but I won’t get too technical lest his brain might explode. He laughed.
“Why? Why would you do that to yourself? I hate math. I feel like that’s something you sacrifice yourself for only if you’re looking to become a high school math teacher or a college lecturer at best.”
What? Ah, I see you’re a wise man on the topic! Another glass of wine please. And the check.
The overall mathematical skill set in this country as a whole is incredibly malnourished. You’re odd if you excel in or enjoy the subject; or even if you genuinely can get by with minimal effort. In high school, it was topic of conversation enough that I was in AP Calc as a sophomore. In college, it was topic of conversation enough that I committed to and stayed within the department through the entirety of my college career whilst my fellow students dropped like flies to various business school majors. Apparently, even in present day – ‘adulthood’ if you will – it is a topic of conversation.
“You’re too smart.”
I’ve heard that phrase from potential suitors (and general people I meet) too often. Too smart for what? Too smart in relation to whom? Too smart for you, perhaps? I am mediocre at best on the scale of intelligence. I excelled in high school, sure, but mostly I owe that to my sharp work ethic and organization. I never had an interest in being #1 on paper, to appease an outside party. I breezed through college at a state school with decent grades that left ample time for the ideal social life I wanted for myself. I graduated with two degrees and had the best 4 years of my life and I regret nothing! How many people can say that? I consider myself intelligent, of course, I have a set of skills and a constant drive to improve and learn and innovate – that I am proud of.
My only advice to anyone who considers having a similar conversation to the one above with either me or any other person for that matter is this: don’t. I – or should I speak in the inclusive ‘we’ – we will likely finish that second, perhaps third, glass of wine – perhaps it’s our third bourbon on the rocks, but who’s counting? – and you’ll never hear from us again. Which will leave you disheveled and confused no doubt and you’ll be cursing us women for being cruel and unaffectionate to a dashing, respectful fella like yourself.
So take my advice; don’t be foolish and say stupid sh*t like the aforementioned slew of atrocities. Instead, listen to what we have to say thoroughly and with an open mind. Absorb the passion that we radiate from our discussion of any topic, be it Lagrange multipliers, a novel we have just finished reading, how drunk we really were last Saturday with our girlfriends, or our intense feelings on how adorable baby bunnies eating carrots are (the videos have millions of likes, we aren’t the only ones). Do not dismiss us as something that’s too this or too that for you, because at best, you’ll simply lose the chance to connect with an interesting person.
And that’s all we’re really here for, isn’t it? To form a web of connections of various degrees with different people from different places – geographic, temporal, or arbitrary – in our lives and to deduce which ones are important enough to maintain and which can fade out when they’ve run their natural course.
Bottom line: don’t tell me I’m too smart. All that will relay to me is that you’re likely too dull for my liking anyway. I’ll be three drinks richer and you’ll be three drinks and a person poorer.