I was in Grade 10 when I decided to ask out a guy from English class.
He was tall, dark, and as close to handsome as you got in the group of band geeks I hung out with. So one day when we were waiting for the bell to end class, I approached him and said, “I was just wondering if you wanted to go to a movie sometime.”
He turned to look behind him, then turned back and with eyes wide, asked, “Me?”
“Yeah?” I said, suddenly less sure of my plan.
“Um….um….” he stalled, opening and closing his mouth like a fish.
“Oh. You can think about it and tell me later,” I said, my heart sinking. He looked hugely relieved.
“Ok, cool,” he said. Just then, the bell rang and he literally turned tail and sprinted down the hall to get away from me.
Just in case I hadn’t got the message, he ran away from me after each class for the next month.
When I came home crying and asked my mom why boys didn’t like me, she said, “Boys are just intimidated by your intelligence.” Of course, being 14, my immediate reaction was to wish to God that I wasn’t smart. If she’d said it was because of my clothes, that could’ve been fixed, but I couldn’t not be smart! I was sure I was going to be alone forever.
And I wasn’t the only one hearing the message. “My grandma used to say, ‘Guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,’” recalled one friend.
Another remembered seeing a matchmaker who told her she was an “extremely difficult case…because [she's] so successful at such a young age.”
The smart girl myth is perpetuated in pop culture and fashion. A few years ago Abercrombie and Fitch were forced to pull a line of shirts with slogans like “With These, Who Needs Brains?” (written across the chest).
And online dating coaches like Evan Mark Katz keep doling out advice like this:
This doesn’t mean you should play dumb…It might mean, however, turning off some of the things that make you “successful” at work. This is a bitter pill to swallow…Still, it doesn’t change the fact that “hard-driving, opinionated, and meticulous” are not on most men’s lists of ideal feminine traits.
But Christine Whelan, author of Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women found that women with graduate degrees or top salaries were more likely to marry than others. And even if the myth were true, why would a smart woman want to date someone who wanted them to be stupid?
So what do you do when you’re bombarded with messages that say you have to be dumb to get a date, and you have to get a date or else?
Guardian columnist Barbara Ellen’s advice is to “enjoy being fab and brilliant, hold out for the guys who’ll appreciate it and tell the ‘lower 2 percentile’ that, sadly, you never mastered the international language of Thick.”
And in my favourite response, John Green agrees, stating: “The venn diagram of guys who don’t like smart girls and guys you don’t want to date is a circle”:
So, girls with glasses, stay strong, and stay smart.