13 September 2006

I think too much

My department at work is the communications department. There are only six of us - five writers and a manager. Because of the nature of our work, we tend to be a bit intellectual - well-read, curious, educated.

By some fluke of office planning, we are an island of smart in a sea of people who process paperwork or make rote phone calls. It is truly Office Space.

As we left work today, Rachel and I were arguing about existentialism (how it came up is a long story). She brought up Sartre. I mentioned Kafka.

Then I noticed the bitch-girl from a few cubes over (honestly - she has a constant expression like she has been eating lemons) was looking at us as if we were talking ducks.

It reminded me of the time this physical therapist was encouraging me to exercise more and trying to figure out ways to get me to do it.

"What about your friends? Can't you get together with your friends and go for a run or play volleyball?" he asked, clearly envisioning his kind of friends, not mine.

"Dude," I answered. "We're intellectuals. We argue for exercise."

It took me decades to embrace my inner smart kid. I was in denial about being smarter than the average bear - I just thought most everyone else was hiding their intellect really, really well. Proclaiming intelligence always seemed so uppity and presumptious. Even now I am stressing about how to write this so I don't seem like a big jerk.

But you know that you're one of the smart ones, don't you?

Read Linkateria and make Mama happy.


super des said...

Ha ha ha. Thaat happens with me sometimes at work, but not nearly as "smart." That's why I don't talk to anyone at work.

jcpxkyvu said...

I've had a few moments like that. I was once with a group of ruffians on a wilderness lake. They were all alpha males: a race car driver, an ex-fighter pilot, a couple bouncers, etc. And the ex-fighter pilot mentioned an obscure plane that he flew...and I started chatting with him about it. My bf said that the alphas' jaws were agape.

And later, he asked, "How did you know that?"

And I said I once read a book about fighter planes, because I once read a book about nearly everthing, and that I hadn't forgotten what I read, because I don't forget what I read.

So, yeah, I'm a nerd. The sort of girl that once made the pretty blondes point and whisper and giggle in passsing.

I once had a friend say, "I'm glad I'm not you. Your mind never gets to rest."

That's true.

Loved your post, BTW. Nerds, unite!!!

It's just a pity that we nerds can't cluster and when a pretty blonde passes, twitter and whisper and giggle, for the revenge of the nerds! Alas, we'll be preoccupied with existentialism or fighter planes or some such muck and we'll never realize our ancient revenge, however obliquely. Heck, even if we stay focused, we still couldn't do it. We're nerds: gentlefolk.

madge said...

Mwah ha ha! Get together and play volleyball? Ha ha ha! That's a good one...

Carolie said...

Yes. And I'm having a difficult time, in a land of smart people. I don't speak the same language as the smart ones, and the people within my sphere who do share my language tend not to be particularly intelligent.

I'm learning Japanese as fast as I can.

Suzanne said...

"We argue for exercise." Suebob, this is the most brilliant phrase ever. I so so so so love it. I must find one way per day to use it, with of course, credit to you. Oh man.

I grew up in a community where the "cool" kids at school were smart. No one hid it. Being in an enrichment class was nothing to be ashamed of; being left out was. (Needless to say, I was not included for, in my opinion, class reasons. I was also most uncool, but that's probably not why i was not included.)

Anyway, it always makes me sad when I hear that people as great as you struggled to hide your superior intellect and wit. I'm so glad that you share your gifts with the world now!

Holly Capote said...

Up above, "jcpxkyvu" is Holly Capote. Typical nerd dinginess, writing the super secret codeword for my name.

Rhea said...

"Office Space" is one of my favorite movies. How many people live that movie every day? Millions and millions...

ToastedSuzy said...

Holly! I love you for writing the super secret code word instead of your name!

That is the coolest thing that's happened all day!

Intelligence, especially during the past six years, has consistently been associated with elitism and lack of common sense. George Bush is in office because the "intelligentsia" is always telling "common folk" how stupid they are for. . .voting for Bush, for instance.

I think the "factinista" need to take some responsibility fot the state of affairs, because they can be pretty fucking smug and snotty at times, can't they? (and narrow-minded) but then, the "intellectual elite" are not the ones who made Paris Hilton a fucking star.

Being intelligent is not only nerdy. It is offensive to people. I have offended students by asking them if they know this or that about history or about literature or about current events. "No!" they say, sourly, as if the very idea that they would take an interest in such things is an assault on their character.

It is frightening and sad, and I don't know what to do about it other than what I'm doing.

I do think, though, that as much as possible we should make the distinction between "intelligence" and "education." Because the "intellectual elite," in the minds of people who utter the phrase, is not comprised of people who are merely smart. It is comprised people who are college-educate, people who, in other words, have had access (financially) to a college education. Therefore the "elitism" of the group excludes people who are un-degreed but brilliant and, most damagingly, people who are not given access to a college education because of poverty and racism, a society that consistently tells them they are stupid and an absolutely retarded public school system that does everything it can to make sure that they are. This is what the people who use the phrase "intellectual elitism" mean--and we can all see the irony, I'm sure.

But to combat it, we must, as often as possible, acknowledge and take advantage different types of wisdom. The wisdom of the philosophy professor, the wisdom of the ancients, and the wisdom of the waitress working third shift after she gets done with first shift at the tortilla fluffing factory. etc.

And, of course, we must make a conscious effort to not insult the people whose minds we hope to change or broaden in some way.

It's hard, to do this, because stupidity makes people mean--and, I think, vice versa.

I can't think of a spiffy way to close this message, so I'm just gonna stop.


jennifer starfall said...

i read some message board thing (i don't even remember how i got there or where i was) where someone wondered what language is spoken in australia. i said, out loud, in my office, "how could anyone NOT know what language is spoken in australia?!"

the bitch-girl in my office got all steamed up and was very proud to loudly point out that she had no idea what language is spoken in australia.

i almost quit.

vidxss Capote said...

Toasted Suzy wrote: "Holly! I love you for writing the super secret code word instead of your name!

That is the coolest thing that's happened all day!"

That made me laugh, girl!

When I taught, my female colleagues would intercept me before I reached my classroom. They'd button my buttons, wipe toothpaste from lips, and pick lint from lapel, while I stood and sighed.

I was pitiful. Still am. I live in my la-la head.

Holly Capote (and note how I signed in, just for few, Pumpkin!)

Holly Capote said...

One more thing, and totally off-topic: I have a book release party tonight. I'm a little nervous, but there will be likker and we all know that nothing's quicker.

Heather B. said...

Last week I made an off hand comment about Mysticism -like in a funny joking kind of way - to a friend of mine and it went downhill from there.

Which I suppose is a bit of a stretch, but that's how I feel at times; too intellegent. But then I revert back to discussions of wines and purses and how to win at beer pong and everything is all good.

Kristin said...

I wasn't kosher with my whopping brain for a long time. It didn't go with the punk rock image I told myself I had. Then I turned six. I've learned to let it ALL out, just go BLAAAH with all of my polysyllabic words and weird questions about the nature of things. Doing it in a performance art style is more fun for me and it seems to be more approachable for the average citizen. They like happy/funny more than smart and it's a great way to live. Think Robin Williams versus Ann Colter. Both are smart, but only one is a bitch.

super des said...

Kristin - I'm with you. People see me and my purple hair, they judge me, then I hold intelligent conversations (not with them of course) and their heads explode. It's a pretty good system.

Holly Capote said...

super des,

I don't expect less from purple-haired people. I expect more. With the snazzy advertising of purple hair, one better have a brain that can back it up.



Kristin said...

Des ~ Vive le you!

SUEB0B said...

I am gratified to see that so many others can relate.

Holly - I knew it was you even with the super secret code - your use of colons gave you away.

Madge - yep, that's what he said. As if that was normal or something.

Carolie - I don't envy you, having to master the trickiness of Japanese.

Suzanne - as an outsider, I think one of the coolest things about being Jewish is not having to apologize for how smart you are.

Rhea - I do, I do!

TS - I agree - there are many types of intelligence and we should honor all of them. Kelly Slater has a type of physical intelligence that leaves me in awe.

Jennifer - next time, ask her what kind of money they use in Hawaii.

Heather B - good coping skills. Sometimes I can maintain, other times not. The other day at work I admitted that I had never seen a horror movie. You would think I had said that I was a Satanist.

Kristin - "whopping brain" is a great phrase. Your posts certainly prove that you are ok with it.

Des - I agree with Holly. Bright plumage = smarty.

Dawn said...

Yesterday I let a "Soylent green in People" reference fly...and fall flat. No one understood what I was talking about...in A graduate level class.


We smart ones are only funny to ourselves...

gandhi rules said...

I'm smart different than you. I don't argue existentialism, I'm not sure I know what it is. I guess my smart isn't so sure that it's a topic it would be interested in arguing. I'm more like a bad salesman. I don't care if you buy it or not.
But I've always liked the name Kafka and when people say it the little voice in my head whispers it back several times to really get it's taste in my mouth. 'Kaffffkkaaaaa' It tastes like red oil paint.

meno said...

I think we need to have a secret handshake so that we can recognize each other on the streets and use 4 syllable words with impunity.

Kristin said...

Meno~ I was with you on that, but then I realized noooooo. No, it would deprive me of the special joy of discovery, the i.d.-epiphany when you're talking with someone and your faces light up with recognition. "It's a smartgirl!" So if you do devise a secret handshake, don't let me in on it. But please don't kick me out of the smartgirl club because I don't know it! Who will I talk to?!

Lisa said...

I'm glad your lots, lots smarter than the average bear. You're lots of fun to read!

Now, whenever I see Office Space, I'm going to think of you!

Mom101 said...

Oh no wonder I love you. Anytime a friend says, "hey, wanna catch a sunday yoga class with me?" I'm like, "but Sunday? That's crossword puzzle day!" I'd much rather exercise wit than deltoids any day.

So what's the punchline on lemon sucker anyway - did she race to wikipedia to look up Kafka?

Holly Capote said...


you get to be in the smart girl club just by wanting it. Not all girls adore words and ideas. Sadly, many girls adore their reflection or gossip or preening or superfluous drama. So, if you wanna run, cerebrally speaking, with the brainy wolves, you just have to start running. The more you run, the leaner and faster, cerebrally speaking, you'll become.

Likewise, if you wanna laze, cerebrally speaking, with the reflection-gazing flamingos, you just have to strut down to the beach, stand in the sand, and try and catch your image in the water.

Hey, Suebob, I LOVE how you respond to us. You're such a sweet and civil hostess.

Damn. I shouldn't have written "hostess." Now I'm thinking cupcakes.

Gotta go.

SUEB0B said...

Mom 101 - Lemon sucker girl does not race to do anything. She sashays around, glancing derisively at everyone around her. Having her around is like being back in high school.

mothergoosemouse said...

"argue for exercise" - love it.

I guess I'm used to working with men, who almost always think they're smart (whether or not it's true), so I don't bother hiding what I know. The flip side, of course, is that I don't bother hiding what I DON'T know and ask plenty of questions without a shred of embarrassment.

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