Help! Two Single Guys Want To Know If They Are Bad Men. I've Got Answers.
And we have a first for the Calm Down advice column!
Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends! By which, I mean, of course, the recurring feature “Advice? I’ll Give You Some Advice! But You Might Not Like It!” Our first entry today comes courtesy of Brianna Flores and is a question someone submitted to Slate. Our second entry is the first question I have ever tackled that was submitted to me specifically. If you would like to submit the second question original to Calm Down, please email me! The contact information is at the bottom.
Uh Oh, The Chick I Have Been Sleeping With For A Year Is Apparently Smarter Than Me
I am a straight man in my 30s who has been friends with benefits with “Alice” for over a year. It’s been a good, safe pandemic arrangement; Alice is fun, cute, and it’s been nice to find someone I really enjoy hanging out with and enjoy sex with and is on the same page about not being in a relationship. Uncomplicated, is what it has been, I guess, until recently.
Alice has mentioned before that she writes, and recently shared that she’d sold a story for a little bit of money, and received an honorable mention in a contest. I got a weird feeling I couldn’t place. Alice directed me to some of her work, and I read it, and ended up searching and finding a lot of more of it. She’s really, really talented, much more than I had ever stopped to consider, and I don’t know why it bothers me to find story after story that she’s written. I scribble a bit, mostly stray thoughts and RPG game worldbuilding and character stuff, but I had never thought of publishing. It shouldn’t bother me that Alice has, or that her stuff is frankly so much better than I could ever dream of producing. But it has. I am jealous and intimidated and don’t know what to do. The cute lady I eat pizza with and watch movies with and fool around with is now … someone who has done something I never could and is, let’s face it, likely smarter than I am. I mean, I had never thought she was dumb by any stretch of the imagination before, and have always thought her to be intelligent and really witty and capable of having a good argument or discussion over lots of topics, but this seems different, like the proof is solid and obvious that I don’t compare. Is there any going back from this?
— Jealous FWB
OK, buddy. Let’s be real for a second.
I have dated quite a lot in my life. I have also slept with many more women who I didn’t date and sort of just had one-two-three night stands. Setting aside the women I really never knew well enough to say anything about, I have definitely dated or had extended dalliances with women who were less capable than me in certain fields or less knowledgeable about certain subjects, but I do not think I have ever either had a fling or dated a woman who was less intelligent than me. Like, given my circumstances or education or profession, those women would have been just as capable as me in my own best fields.
This isn’t an IQ game, ok? If you have a 100 IQ or you have a 130 IQ, for all intents and purposes that are relevant in life, you have the same god-given capacity.
I don’t consider myself a terribly smart person—and maybe you do. And maybe you’re right. Maybe you have a 160 IQ and you went to MIT and invented a robot that cures cancer and you can count cards in Vegas. But you’re probably not right. You’re probably in the same average intelligence bucket that myself and 7 out of 10 people you meet on the street are in.
I have, however, dated and been in extended relationships with women I am certain are smarter than me. Maybe their minds worked differently so I was still “wittier” or whatever, but they clearly had more processing power than I do.
Thousands of years of gender norms tell us that this should be some sacrilege. But the past was terrible and everything that went on then was idiotic and this is no different.
Dating someone smarter than you is wonderful.
(It might not be wonderful in every case! Intelligence is different than personality and maybe their intelligence manifests itself in a way that makes them insufferable.)
But in general, it is wonderful. Because of those same social norms I criticized, smart women are overwhelmingly not insufferable in the way that smart men can be. Society never told them that it is the natural order of things that they be smarter than their male partners. Society told us that. (Less so now, but for thousands of years, etc…)
Dating a smart, unpretentious person who doesn’t put you down is Heaven. They will make you think about things you haven’t thought about. They will better you. Their intelligence will raise the aggregate intelligence of the team. And that’s what a couple is: a team.
It sounds like this woman you’ve been dating is exactly who I am describing. She never made you read her writing. She never forced her own abilities in your face.
You—belatedly—have discovered a side of her that is good; a part of her that is a gift. You should have expressed enough interest in her life to have discovered it earlier.
If I were her, I probably would have stopped sucking your dick when, after a few months, you kept just not being terribly curious about my career and interests. But maybe she had an absent father or whatever and you’ve lucked into someone better than you who probably has some self-esteem problems.
This is an advice column so my advice to you is this: don’t fuck this up.
Why do you feel weird about the fact that she is so smart?
Well, maybe it’s because you’re a prick lol.
Maybe not! Maybe it’s because you feel guilty for being so dismissive of her until now. Or maybe because you have implicit gender biases which you inherited and lay mostly dormant in the back of your mind. We all have implicit biases and they don’t make you a prick. But, it must be said, there is a chance you are just a prick who wants to be the smartest person in the room.
If that is it, then you should go to an Outwards Bound program or something and get bullied until you grow the fuck up.
If it’s the implicit bias thing or the feeling guilty thing, then you should count your lucky stars that those flaws in you haven’t led to the dissolution of this relationship.
Slate, in their response to you, suggests that perhaps you are made uncomfortable because until now you have never considered this woman more than a plaything. Slate further suggests you consider that she also thinks of you as a plaything.
Maybe both or either of those things are true. But a plaything or a fuck buddy or whatever you want to call it is another way of describing the 2nd act of 50% of romcoms. It’s the casualness inherent to the beginning of a romance. But romances either die a plaything or live long enough to become something more.
Here is the part where I tell you something good.
You read her writing because you are realizing that this is maybe something more.
And the really good news is: you’re too fucking stupid to have gotten to that point without subtle prompting from her, which means she also is thinking of this as potentially something more.
You are both thinking about maybe making this a real thing.
This is a moment, friend.
This is an important juncture. It’s not the last one you’ll ever have, but it is a big one. This affair ends…or it doesn’t—and it evolves.
The pandemic is over. You no longer have a global disruption to help you out. You either turn back towards land or take your paddle and row towards the horizon.
You probably won’t ever get to the horizon. They tend to move away the closer you get, but the journey is the fun part. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to move in together and then get engaged and then get married in Ireland on horseback and then have babies and move to West Egg and have brunch every day. Those things probably won’t happen. You’ll probably break up for some dumb reason neither of you has thought of yet. The boat will capsize and you’ll be forced back to the port of beginnings, where sailors trade stories of false starts and regret.
But maybe not. And what she knows that you don’t because she is smarter than you is this: maybes are what make life worth living.
After crosses and losses,
Why Does The Woman Of My Dreams Think I Am Such A Shmuck?
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