On Being Smart
" You are TOO smart!"
Someone very dear to me said it once.
Before there's an outcry of 'what a conceited girl' against such a confession let me add that this wasn't a compliment but an admonishment. It was said as a part of a monologue, theorizing all my many faults starting with my stubborn nature to the cause of my apparent singlehood. When she was done, I wanted to assure her that I am not. Smart, that is. Then I wanted to know what her definition of 'smart' was. I also wanted to ask why she thought 'being smart' was such a bad thing. In the end, I said nothing. Sometimes I feel its easier to prove your stand to strangers you don't care about than to people you love and who claim to love you back.
I've never forgotten the scolding though mainly because it wasn't the first time I was on the receiving end of such an admonishment and hence never stopped analyzing it either.
Like most negative comments I think it arose from her own false belief that 'I didn't think she is smart', which is perhaps based on her definition of smart - i.e. getting good grades in school, a moderate knowledge of surroundings and ability to reason.
What makes it even more interesting is that, by her definition, she IS smart girl herself. Which brings me to my theory that ' everyone is smart- about something or other'.
Some about money, some arts, some in science, some about taking care of the needy (children, animals, elderly, sick) while some are smart about makeup that makes them look stunning every time no matter what they wear. Its undeniable that if you are smart about something you'll, perhaps, not be smart about other things. What adds the comparative adjective to 'smart' is, my belief, an attitude.
As a simplistic example:
If you are well-read and know that write well yourself, you are smart.
If You are well-read and make the attempt at writing a book that makes even two people think that you write well, you are smarter (to your readers) than the person who knows that he/she writes well.
There is also the matter of 'choice' that plays into someone appearing smarter.
People, generally, choose to be smart about something and not about others.
Take the example of 'World issues'. Its out there- in print, on television, on the net. Some people choose to find out more while some choose the 'ignorance is bliss' attitude.
Just because someone isn't aware of the current ruling party of Palestine, doesn't mean they are not smart. Its their choice of not making themselves aware of the news that may appear to be 'not very smart'.
The flip side to all of this is the 'I know I am smarter than you because I belong to such and such profession' attitude which doesn't make anyone appear very smart. Yet we do it all the time.
"Engineers rule the world"
"The not so smart ones pick Family medicine"
"How smart do you have to be to pour coffee?"
All such remarks seem to arise from the misguided notion that your way of making money is somehow an indicator of your smartness.
In my own community I find it incredible; the length Bengali people will go, to associate themselves to a 'profession' that they think is socially accepted as 'smart', sometimes compromising their intrigity (lying about their degrees) and personal happiness("my parents want me to become a so-and-so"). And such unfounded opinions about 'smart' professions exist that, it boggles the mind.
A popular story of my father that I grew up on used to refer to his university days when he and his engineering friends mocked the medical students about their pre-exam all-nighters memorizing anatomy, pharmacology etc. "Memorization is not intelligence" was his favourite phrase thus beginning our rare arguments. Come to think of it, it might be the sole reason why I never wanted to study engineering and became exceptionally good a memorizing school work. But I was also exceptionally good in math and hence paraded as the 'not pretty but smart' second daughter. All the while my father happily encouraged my childhood dream of studying medicine. It took the man more than a decade to concede that
a) not everyone can memorize
b) being just good at memorizing is not the only thing to becoming a doctor
c) engineers are NOT the smartest people that ever walked the world
Unfortunately such egotistic views are still upheld by many current engineering students - its also one of the numerous qualities that make them such bad dates for non-engineers. But that's the topic for another post.
In the end, its not that I don't think that there aren't any 'smarter' people. There are.
Someone like Einstein perhaps- a good combo of left and right brain. A romantic scientist. Not smartest ofcourse, or he might have had the foresight to not to hand his theories to government of a country at war. But that's neither here nor there.
So where am I going with this longwinded rant?
Perhaps to find ways to prepare myself against any future accusations or even compliments beginning with " You are a smart one- convince my child to do this thing that I think is good for them". I want to refuse such pre-conceived generalizations.
Having said that, I rather die than appear dumb on purpose and stop learning something new just to get someone to like me.