Friday, March 13, 2009

Do you have to be dumb to get a date?

Since my American man post drew such a - ahem - vocal response, I thought it best to put gender/relationship discussions on the back burner for a bit.

But then along came Dr. Alex Benzer (author of The Tao of Dating) with the firm pronouncement that smart people have the toughest time dating.

Why? Because their superior intelligence interrupts natural relationship behavior. His five main points:
1. Smart people spent more time on achievements than on relationships when growing up.

2. Smart people feel that they're entitled to love because of their achievements.

3. You don't feel like a fully-realized sexual being, and therefore don't act like one.

4. You're exceptionally talented at getting in the way of your own romantic success.

5. By virtue (or vice) of being smart, you eliminate most of the planet's inhabitants as a dating prospect.

I leave it to you to read his full points in the original article, but I thought a brief rebuttal was in order. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am operating under my personal belief that I am a "smart" person which, if you don't agree with, obviously shows that you are stupid and I am at least smarter than you.

Let the counterpoints begin ...

1. Truly smart people recognize that healthy, positive relationships are achievements too. Not all lessons or skill building take place in a vaccuum. In fact, most don't. So you can be a well-rounded individual in both active AND social skills simply by choosing at least one activity or two where interaction is involved. Examples: volunteering, intramural sports, worship services, community theater, etc.

2. Everyone is entitled to love. Love is blind, right? So just as someone who loves you for who you are doesn't see your weight gain, weird parents, or annoying habit of picking your teeth after dinner, he/she won't be judging you on your IQ. Here, I think Dr. Benzer nutshells it perfectly: "Your romantic success has nothing to do with your mental jewelry and everything to do with how you make the other person feel."

3. The right partner for you will think smart = sexy ... but only if you believe it first. Intelligence and sexuality are far from mutually exclusive. Truly smart people get this, which translates into self-awareness and confidence -- very sexy (not to mention enduring) qualities. This is a great help in relationships, because for folks destined to be your kindred spirits (friends and lovers alike), your ability to recognize and celebrate all aspects of your makeup will be a major draw.

4. EVERYONE is exceptionally talented at getting in the way of our own romantic success. Again, IQs have nothing to do with it. Somewhere along the way, we all started overanalyzing, overworrying, overcomplicating what used to be a natural, straightforward process. I don't care if you're Anna Karenina or Bridget Jones; everyone screws this up at some point or another, in all manners and by all means, so our intellectual elite shouldn't be counting themselves special in any way.

5. Define "smart" before you define your partner. Intelligence and compatibility comes in many ways and forms. So if "smart" people are discounting folks on one factor alone, are they really all that smart? I'm not advocating finding someone you can't talk to, or who doesn't "get" you. I'm simply saying that those essential fundamentals -- communication and understanding -- can come without a Mensa card attached.

Again, Dr. Benzer makes a good point: "The purpose of relationship (and perhaps all of life) is to practice the loving. No partner is going to be 100% perfect anyway, so learn to appreciate people for what they have to offer, not what they don't. And love them for that. That's what real loving is."

And that's exactly what the right person will do for you. Even if you're a big smarty pants.


  1. Anonymous3:30 PM

    I think Julia and Benzer both make good points, though I'm not really sure their arguments are in conflict... I think they are often simply talking about different things. Moreover, I think it's impossible to discuss these concepts in a gender-neutral fashion since men and women are afflicted by different problems in disproportionate numbers.

    I think #5 is the biggest problem for many women, certainly in an urban area. It's the rare woman who is consciously willing to date someone whom she perceives to be less intelligent and/or career-successful than herself. Sure, most men aren't interested in dating dumbies or bums either, but by and large, these factors aren't as high a priority for them. So it's definitely true that success for a woman is a double-edged sword, since it can make her more picky (which I believe is a larger factor explaining why so many successful woman have trouble dating, as opposed to the notion that men are intimidated by such success, though I suppose that can happen too.)

    I think numbers 1,3, and 4 are bigger problems for guys, though women have to watch out for them too. I mean, #1 and #3 are just fancy ways of saying that book-smart people don't necessarily have social skills, which we all know. I guess #4 is basically pointing out that smart=analytical which can come across as self-doubting which borders on un-confident, which is the kiss of death for a guy. I think women are willing to compromise on some things in their laundry lists, but not this, which in extreme cases explains why some women stay with abusers and even write letters to wife-murderers in jail. Not that men want to date mice, but confidence would not be on their top 5 list of things to look for.

    I think all these factors aren't as big a problem for women largely because women don't have to initiate most dating situations. Now, it's true that women do have give off signals of being receptive to guys, and, of course, women have to have the social skills to successfully stay in a relationship. But I don't think they're hosed as badly as similarly clueless guys, who would have trouble finding ways to get a first date to begin with, much less successfully "court" a woman.

    I'm not getting #2 at all, I'm afraid. First off, I don't think anyone is "entitled" to much of anything. Secondly, I don't think most people truly believe they're "entitled" to love either. I guess the closest thing I would agree with is that many people have the idea that "it will happen when you're not looking for it," which can happen of course, but it's a dangerous philosophy to cling to for too long. I think some folks believe that notion to the extent that they keep dating on the back burner, assuming love will happen by magic, until they wake up at age 30 or 35 and 40 and realize that, as with most things in this world, you sometimes have to focus and work for something to achieve it.

  2. Anonymous12:30 AM

    Aww, I really liked this post!

    I like to consider myself somewhat smart, or at least well read. When I first started dating, I thought I knew what I wanted: a handsome, successful, smart man that could take care of me and be my everything.

    With this idea in mind, I dated for the next two years at full throttle. Doctors, lawyers, business men. Unfortunately, all the men who I thought were eligible did not give me the palpitations that I thought I deserved.

    I then threw my whole list to the wind, and decided to start dating anyone and everyone. And you know what? It opened up another world for me. Blue collar workers sometimes turned out to be smarter than some of the lawyers I dated, not to mention a lot sexier! Clerical and food service job workers were approachable and usually had a lot else going on in their lives (be it music, art, or going back to school).

    By throwing away my list, I threw away years of what I thought I wanted, threw away judgment and opened closed doors. It was such an enlightening experience that helped me figure out what parts of a "smart" person that I needed. Did I really need them to be great at calculus, or could I deal with someone who's pretty good at algebra?

    I stopped looking for someone I could live with, and started looking for someone I couldn't live without. It was an experience that I am very grateful for going through.

    I know this seems very selfish and personal to comment with, but I felt it was pertinent to the blog entry. Maybe it's time for everyone to give a "no holds barred" approach to dating a try- the results my surprise you!

  3. Anonymous11:40 AM

    Even though I am known on this blog as the ever snarky columnist, I wish to put forth some serious thoughts and observations. I have come to notice that this is the 2nd or 3rd time you have blogged about dating, lack of dating, your single status, etc. As a man, I am truly concerned about this. People typically don't write about things like this unless it is bothering them. Did you read my comment in response to your Valentine's Day entry? Even though sarcastic, I was trying to prove a point. Here you are again reading a book by Doc Benzer. Last time you read a book by Guy Garcia. Why are you spending all of this time reading books instead of going out and meeting guys? You are the picture of the lonely girl in the library watching the college quarterback talk up the class floozy! You have just as much to offer(if not more!) than her! Don't let the long legs, short skirt, ample chest, and blonde hair intimidate you! (I am not being funny, I am attempting to illustrate my point.) You seriously need to stop being so "intelligent" all the time and just be YOU!!! All of my sarcastic comments on this blog have mostly revolved around one point. You talk and write in such a way that you come off as being "superior" or "high and mighty". (An inherited trait from "Pat"?) Stop the insanity with you! Be a little more "everyday" and "common" so regular guys can relate to you. I am not suggesting that you "dumb yourself down" just to settle for any Dick or Harry that comes along, but try to be a little more easy going and not so smart all the time. You may find that it could improve your chances at a relationship. Think about it. But don't think to long. Instead of thinking long, get fancied up and go out and start looking for those Dick's and Harry's! Until next time,,,,,,;)

  4. Hi MF! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Good point on it not being a rebuttal; it's more of a nuance or facet.

    I do think it can be discussed gender-neutrally (hence my approach), but you certainly raised valid, gender-specific points that I hope others respond to.

    I'll kick it off with a response to your last remark about entitlement ... I use "entitled" b/c 1) it was Benzer's original word and 2) I saw it as synonymous with "deserving."

    I believe everyone deserves the freedom and opportunity to love and be loved. And the more people realize and understand they deserve it, I think the more receptive and open they will be to others. Hope this helps clarify my position!

  5. Hi new Anonymous -- thank you so much for sharing your story! Illustrates my main points beautifully. I especially liked your statement, "I stopped looking for someone I could live with, and started looking for someone I couldn't live without." Do I have your permission to steal that? ;)

  6. Julia - Thanks for responding to this article. I thought it was pretty far-fetched myself, but couldn't quite come up with the succinct type of arguments/rebuttals you did. Honestly, I thought the article was an extended excuse and I have no use for excuses. If you want something, you go out and get it no matter how 'smart' you are. Anything else is a cop-out.

    As to the comments...MF, while you are certainty entitled to your opinion, your comment was riddled with all kinds of gender stereotypes which I think invalidated some of your points. In particular, your numerous assertions about what men and women 'want' out of a relationship and statement that women "don't have to initiate most dating situations" seemed problematic to me. The one thing I did appreciate about the original article was that it didn't attempt to separate smart women from smart men in their (perceived) ineptitude at getting a date.

    Anonymous 1 - GREAT story! You are so right about throwing out those limiting ideas and pursuing WHO you want not WHAT you want. I had a somewhat similar experience. For me, it was more about my politics and activism - I always thought I would be with a similarly activist, liberal guy. Once I finally let it go, I found a guy who is fantastic, though not necessarily on my same political wavelength :)

    Anonymous 2 - I don't want to speak for Julia here, but your comment was really, really insulting and degrading. If you had commented on my blog, I would have to say thanks, but NO THANKS for your condescending attitude and 'concern'. God knows us girls are just aching for a man to worry about us...ugh.

  7. Anonymous5:53 PM

    To the "snarky" anonymous poster:

    Personally, I think Julia's been single for awhile because most men, upon meeting her, assume that such a fantastic catch would naturally already be taken. Certainly that was my assumption. I mean, come on: beautiful, intelligent, funny, sweet... and SINGLE?! Around here, that's what we call "a total package."

    Your concern, such as it is, is appreciated, but rest assured, I have a feeling she may not be on the market much longer. And it's also not true that all she does is blog and read. Indeed, she is very social and is "out-and-about" more than the average person with her various activities.

    Finally, I would point out that only you have interpreted her post as a personal "complaint." If you re-read it, you'll see that she was only giving her own reflections on an article, i.e. her take on how accurate the piece was, and that she doesn't address her own dating life at all. It seems odd to me that when she blogs about other topics, you complain about how boring the blog has become, but when she blogs about male-female relationships, you assume she is making some sort of cry for help. I mean, it seems to me there's nothing she could write about that wouldn't result in some sort of moaning from your end, which again begs the question as to why you're on here at all.

  8. Anonymous10:14 PM

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  9. Anonymous10:25 PM

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  10. General note to all my readers, since I don't have formal guidelines here (yet): Ad hominem attacks are grounds for comment deletion here at IMS. It's ok to discuss and debate ideas, but please treat all commenters with respect. Thanks for helping to keep IMS am enjoyable place for all!

  11. Thanks again for the insightful post Julia (and for the excellent comment moderation)! This is a good reminder that perhaps I should develop my own commenting policy...
    By the way, for anyone who is interested, here is my blog :):

  12. Anonymous6:52 PM

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  13. Anonymous2:08 PM

    Hey there, Elisa...

    I guess you can characterize what I wrote as "gender stereotyping," but please understand that my views are based on observation, not pre-conceptions. I think most people would agree that men and women (on average, and with exceptions) simply approach many facets of dating from different angles. I think it's safe to say that very few men will wait for women to ask them out on dates, whereas most women (understandably) will wait to be asked out. This is not to say that women don't have ways of telegraphing their interest, via friendly emails, "are you doing anything fun this weekend," or flirting to some degree or another. But when it comes to "Hey, are you busy Friday the 13th, I've been wanting to check out X," most women (not all, by any means) wouldn't take it that far. As one woman put it to me regarding some guy she was tentatively interested in: "If he's not interested enough to ask me out, then I probably shouldn't be asking HIM out." And there's definitely a logic to this, again with the proviso that some women indeed have thicker skins and are willing to risk outright rejection. The difference, I think, is that men HAVE to have thick skins, otherwise they will be single and lonely forever. (This is not to say, obviously, that women don't get hurt via the dating process, just not in this part of the process anywhere near as much. BTW, none of this reflects what I WISH were the case, but I can't deny the differences that I've seen time and again with my own eyes.

  14. It's amazing what different life experiences do your perceptions MF.
    Pretty much all of my female friends (including me when I was still dating) have no problem asking out a guy they like. It's only 'rejection' when you have something invested I think. If the person doesn't have the sense to go out with you then he or she is missing out ;)