I once had an argument with my wife about how everyone has such high expectations for me. Just a few days ago I ran into it again: a friend of mine told me that she thought of all the people that had left my school, I would be the one that would have the least trouble finding a job. (Still unemployed, still no prospects).
I came across an article that would seem to explain why this ill-founded hope gets dumped on me. It explained that there are certain physical traits and behaviours that people naturally associate with high intelligence, even when other evidence (like my high rate of screw-uppery and train-wreck level social skills) contradicts it.
Here are some of the things on the list:
People generally associate intelligence with an individual that:
- Is tall. (6’ 1”. Average in Canada is 5’ 8.5”)
- Is thin. (Soaking wet after a turkey dinner, I weigh 160 lbs. See above height and do the math.)
- Wears glasses. (I only take them off when someone is about to hit me in face. Which is more often than you would think.)
- Speaks quickly. (I’m no auctioneer, but I can rattle off words faster than most.)
- Has a large vocabulary. (No normal person should ever know what pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is, or how to spell it and its plural (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconioses).)
- Holds strong opinions. (My attitude regarding dill pickles over crappy bread and butter ones is legendary.)
Note the wording: “associate intelligence.” It doesn’t mean that the person that has these traits actually is smart; it just means that other people will assume that he or she is more intelligent than the average. Someone could be a thunderously stupid clod, but if he has a 34” inseam and is near-sighted, everyone thinks he’s going cure cancer.
Politicians take advantage of this. Most US presidents have been taller than average (Abraham Lincoln was 6’ 4” when the national average was “tall for a midget”). George W. Bush is something around 5’ 9”, and he certainly isn’t about to break any stereotypes about dumb short people.
(Come to think of it, you could put the opposite of every item in the above list down and he would fit all of them. Is not tall. Is not thin. Does not wear glasses. Does not speak quickly. Does not have a large vocabulary (made-up words don’t count). He did hold a lot of strong opinions, but only when Dick Cheney let him.)
I’ve wandered off point again…
Right, people that look smart. But probably aren’t.
I know a lot of smart people. Really smart people. People with multiple university degrees, jobs that matter, lists of accolades and achievements (my wife and father-in-law are the two that leap most obviously to mind). It does them a disservice to assume that I should share their company because I can’t read road signs past thirty feet and I can reach the top shelf without going on my tiptoes.
So, I will be endeavouring to fix this. Starting today, I will be walking with a hunch, squinting instead of wearing glasses, taking downers to slow my speech, eating an enormous amount of trans-fats, and not using any words longer than a syllable. That should create lower expectations of me.
Or people will kill me when they assume I have become a George A. Romero zombie.