This evening, I had a chance to catch up with my former boss. We try to get together every so often, but with the crazy year this has been, I haven’t seen her since my mom’s funeral, and we hadn’t had a chance to really talk since September of last year. It was good to catch up, share stories, and just spend time together.
One interesting thing that came up in our conversation was the use of big words. She had received feedback a while back that she has been mulling over ever since – that she uses words that are too big, and people don’t know them, and it seems really pretentious. She was reminded again of this when she used the word Neophyte and the person she was talking to asked her what that meant.
And she was chatting with me about trying to be more aware of the vocabulary she was using, and some level of embarassment that she was using a vocabulary that was too difficult, etc. Now, I know people who do use overly large words when they are not necessary, and that is pretentious. But she is not one of those people. She has a large vocabulary and chooses from it the most appropriate word to convey her meaning.
I told her that, to a certain extent, it is not she who needs to be embarassed, but the people who can’t keep up with her language. She doesn’t use obscure words. Neophyte is hardly a word reserved for the elite. And at some point, people should be embarassed that they don’t know words like that and, further, that they can’t figure out the meaning from context.
I relayed the story of Jamie Lee Curtis’s book and my wondering if parents really don’t use regular words with kids. She said she had relayed a conversation she’d had with her then-4-year-old son to a friend, who was shocked at the words she used because they were so big. She was surprised at the thought that she shouldn’t speak that way to her child. He would figure it out, right?
I then told her about the realization I’d had recently that one of the reasons I like the people with whom I am friends now is that they are all very intelligent. We think about things. We use big words. We talk about real stuff (or, we CAN if we want to). We all actually studied in college. And oddly, we all decided our intelligence was best put to use raising our children instead of working. I mean, I have a common thread of similar values and similar parenting styles, but I think what I really appreciate the most about my friends is that they’re all very smart.
This is going to seem to wander a bit, but I’ll bring it back, I promise.
In my life, most of my friends are also politically conservative. I do know many people who are politically liberal. Most of those people, I have a hard time relating to – in a way, I have a hard time respecting them. NOT because of their beliefs, but because of their inability to really explain them. It seems like they have not really thought it through very well, and I can’t respect that. (I am certain that there are just as many conservatives who are the same way. I just don’t know them well enough to know that about them. And today, I think I understand why.)
One of my friends, or really perhaps more of an acquaintence, since we rarely talk any more and I never see her, is as liberal as I am conservative. But I really respect her. I value her insight, her perspective. I like knowing what she thinks about political things. i’m likely to disagree. A lot. But here’s the thing – she is also, like many of the people I consider to be friends, highly intelligent. And she has thought about things and has reasons and thought processes, and there’s a logic to it for her. And she can explain it.
I know I sound like a huge snob here. But for many intelligent people, it’s hard to be friends with people who are less intelligent. It’s frustrating to a certain extent. And most intelligent people are also socially awkward, so it’s hard for us to be friends with people in general.
Looking around my circle, we’re all very social with each other…to a certain extent. But we all struggled in high school and college with fitting in, having friends. Most of us have a long history of preferring to enjoy the company of people older than us. And we all still struggle with social situations.
Want to know something funny? When I was still a member of Mensa, I never attended any functions. It was just so outside my comfort zone to show up some place where I didn’t know anyone, despite knowing that they were all probably just as uncomfortable as I was. (Plus, I’ve always felt a little inferior around other intelligent people, like I’m not really all that smart and they’re going to figure out that I’m just pretending. According to my mom, with a PhD in gifted education, this feeling is extraordinarily common among intelligent people. Apparently, we’re all very insecure in addition to being awkward.)
OK, so I hope I haven’t totally horrified you with my giant head. I’m actually quite proud of myself for being at a point in my life when I can just be up front with myself about being smart.
And my former boss, who I chatted with today, played a large role in getting me here. She is so, so smart. Very intelligent. And watching her function in her role at our company, seeing her at social functions knowing how uncomfortable they made her, made it easier for me to be comfortable in my own skin.