Monday, January 31, 2005

Desperate to be Housewives?


Though I have any number of believable explanations for why I’m still single in this two by two world, the fact that I’m a smarty-pants was never one of the patented excuses I regularly trotted out. Until now.
Now I’ve read about the study conducted by four top British universities that concludes that for women, being intelligent is about as sexy as a head full of curlers and a face full of complexion creme. It’s a turn off… a no-no… a quality better left as secret as your ability to chew your own toenails or your addiction to peanut butter and head cheese sandwiches. Ick. Yuk. Gag. Keep it to yourself.
In spite of the feminist movement, laws designed to legislate equality, and the ratings success of the Mary Tyler Moore show, it appears men still prefer to marry women whose IQ score hovers significantly south of their own. The study actually detailed a 40% drop in marital prospects for every 16 point rise in feminine smartitude; and if that weren’t bad enough, the polar opposite was true for men. It seems their chances for getting spliced soared by 35% for a corresponding 16 point rise in their Intelligence Quotient. And the more successful the man, the more likely they were to be married than the more modest earners at a difference of a full 8%. (Though how successful those marriages might be and on whose terms figured no where in the report.)
But the implication is impossible to ignore: according to studies, the majority of men desire a relationship with an intellectual inferior – an inferior who presumably won’t show them up in everything from power, to earning potential, to doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. In ink.
Typical.
I’m too bright to be a bride.
But perhaps – just perhaps – the study failed to take into account another significant factor: in their race to the finish line of academic publication, one wonders if the scientists checked to see if there was any correlation between being an intelligent female and an aversion to the wedded (for the sake of being wedded) state. In other words, were they assuming a population of lonely brainy broads, or did they for a moment consider that some of these chicks might have used their IQ points to suss out the fact that delightful as Bride’s magazine and classic fairy tales might make marriage appear, that the reality might not always be as glowing or glamorous. And that many a woman on studied reflection might conclude that marriage – particularly to a man who given his druthers would prefer a dumber edition – just didn’t compute.
Was it smart women's chances that were dropping as their IQ's rose - or was it their desire to be married that hit the skids?
It’s a brain teaser alright. And not the sort you’ll find on the puzzles page of your daily paper…
But maybe it’s more than that – and maybe intelligence is only one of the component parts. And maybe the message that has been blasted for as long and as loud as it has – that without a husband, a woman is incomplete – is fast becoming irrelevant. From my viewpoint, society still questions a single woman of a certain age, but it’s less, and less insistent. No matter how hard the media and the movies continue to push outdated fantasies of maids snagging millionaires and powerful men pursuing moronic models, a lot of smart women, I’m here to report, are happily single.
Speaking as someone who’s lived mostly alone for most of my adult life, the notion of trading all this – autonomy, privacy, being the Queen of EVERYTHING – for an immediate loss of autonomy, privacy, and being Queen of EVERYTHING seems like a pretty poor bargain. And I wonder if what you lose on the swings you really do make up on the roundabouts. I wonder.
There was a time when I assumed marriage was in my future – just a very far distant future I couldn’t quite imagine – but one receives so many messages from infancy to onset of puberty and beyond that the married state was the only True Path, that the assumption was as much a part of my makeup as, well, my makeup.
But as the years rolled by and the fiancés came and went, the real learning was that the desire, far from becoming greater, was definitely on the wane. I realized that there were plenty of men – even really good men – just not plenty of really great men who would make me want to give up my life to share theirs.
But children. This is the sticking point and the only one I can now see (as my childbearing years do a slow fade) that would make sense of having to share a bed and bathroom. For me, since I always assumed everything I wanted would always be there, and that the natural laws just didn’t apply (I thought this – and to be honest, I still sort of do) and since unlike some women you hear about, I’ve yet to experience the ticking of the biological clock – the physical and emotional necessity of giving birth – I was always happy to wait and simply include other people’s children in my life. And now that I’m here, possibly on the other side of that dream, I’m still not tortured by what might have been, or the fear that my old age will be lonely, empty and childless. I imagine that if I keep doing what I’m already doing – which is to make genuine friends with children separate and apart from their parents and maintain those friendships – I can pretty much continue to write my own ticket surrogate child-wise.
So what does intelligence have to do with any of this? Maybe just being smart enough (emotionally) to know that you’ll survive being single (and still having gorgeous relationships… on your own terms) and being insightful enough to know for sure that being with a man who resented your brain, and therefore so much of what made you, you - would be true torture.
Maybe it’s not about the men who aren’t marrying the bright women – maybe it’s about the bright women who aren’t marrying the men.
Don’t get me wrong – I know many happy marriages; the interesting thing is, in my unorthodox and highly non-scientific study (my opinion), the best ones are with the smartest women – and the men who adore that about them.
I love men, and even as I write all this, I’m not for a moment suggesting I couldn’t or wouldn’t still get married and burrow in and sink into a state of profound wedded bliss – I even hope so; just that I’m still holding out for someone who loves me mostly for my mind.
Though, to be honest, I’m just dumb enough to want my ass to come a close second.

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