Note: Having written this post and edited it, I’m anticipating some unkind comments. These will be deleted without hesitation. You have been warned.
It’s been a while, I know. I’ve been working through some stuff. Not depression stuff. Me stuff. Basically I’ve been trying to rewrite my story.
We are all a work in progess, you see, a product of the stories we have told ourselves over the course of our lives. Stories about who we are and what we do, and why we do it. Even when we are brought down by others’ cruel words, those words can only affect us if we tell ourselves a story about how they’re right.
I have written a rather bizarre, self-contradictory story wherein the main character (me) knows they are highly intelligent but also knows people don’t like people who are cleverer than they are, so has actively cultivated a slightly “dumb blonde” aura, mostly held together by judicious use of the word “yay”, myriad exclamation marks and the phrase “bounce bounce bounce”.
(I should probably clarify at this point that the yays and the bouncing are genuine. It’s just that they’re not the full story.)
Why do I do this?
Because I want people to like me.
I wrote a blog post a while back about how I got an A in French in my final year at university (and subsequently a First overall) by deciding to stop cruising on my reasonable fluency (gained age thirteen by a year in France, so the vocabulary was somewhat… immature). I decided to see how good my French could be if I actually worked at it.
Turns out, very good. Good enough to eventually be ranked in the top 5% of my year.
I got hate mail.
Well, not exactly hate mail, but a couple of angry comments only the lines of a/I shouldn’t have been able to regularly get Bs in a foreign language without really trying because some people only got Ds even though they worked their arses off, and b/if I was already fluent in French I obviously didn’t have to try that hard to get an A (I suspect that commenter had never studied a language beyond a basic level). I think that was when I realised people who otherwise liked me would hate me when they found out I was actually quite clever. I didn’t mention my intelligence again for a long time. Or my degree. Or my language skills. Or the eleven GCSEs. Even though these things are as much a part of me as my height and my hair colour and the mole under my jaw.
When I was a child my mother and grandmother (both highly intelligent women with strong personalities) couldn’t understand why I wasn’t top of the class in French. With summers spent in France, my level was far higher than anyone else’s.
(And yes, privileged, albeit often rather lonely, childhood. I went to private schools too, but only because they offered me enormous scholarships, and by “enormous” I mean “more than twice their usual maximum”. There are degrees of privilege, people.)
Anyway, back to the French class. I told them I was embarrassed by my higher level. They didn’t understand. But then they weren’t attending my school. Even at the age of nine or ten, I had already learnt that being different meant being hated, so I tried to hide it. Without success, I might add. I consistently got high marks and glowing reports. The bullying was equally consistent. All I wanted was to be liked, to have friends, to live happy. Instead I was extremely clever and desperately lonely.
Fast forward a decade or so and my abusive “best friend” constantly derided me for being “a geek”. Her favourite phrase was “You’re clever but you’re a fucking fool.” Translation: your intelligence means no one likes you because you’re not like them.
So the story I’ve been telling myself isn’t entirely fictional.
I want to be successful as a writer and artist, as in supporting myself purely through sales of my creative output and comfortably at that. I also want to be extremely rich, mostly because it seems like the best way to ensure the comfort and security of those I care about. The creative community I’m now privileged to be a part of is most supportive of these desires but in order to live purely on my art (written as well as drawn and painted) I will need fans from outside the community. My life has taught me that people who aren’t like me, don’t like me. They particularly don’t like people who are clever. Nor those who are rich, for that matter. May the gods forbid one be both.
And I’m thinking it’s time to stop caring. I’m a good person. Kind, compassionate, gentle. Money and success won’t change that. I’m also blessed with an IQ of 158 and some skills with words, languages (currently fluent in three, with bits and pieces of three more) and pencil, paper and paint. I deserve all the success and money that comes my way. I will no longer wait for the world to give me permission to take it.
After all, there are seven billion people on this planet. I can become a millionairess without being friends with all of them.
This is my story. It’s time to do it justice.