If my single life were a rom-com, I would have been the quirky sidekick who never got the hot guy.
I've always been "the smart one." I get really excited for things like NPR's "Science Friday" and when Charlie Rose has a fascinating guest. I have a terminal degree, have taught college, and once on a date I casually used the word "symbiosis" in a conversation right before I launched into a detailed discussion about plate tectonics and subduction zones.
On top of all that, I look like the stereotypical sexy librarian, glasses and all, which I have owned and feel is a positive attribute. So you'd think that with all these brains and the fact that I look halfway cute, and can confidently talk about literature, politics, history and seismic activity, that I would have had men falling all over me, right? Yeah, no.
I have a notoriously poor record with men. My pre-married dating history sounds like a Shakespearean tragedy. If my single life were a romantic comedy, I would have been the quirky sidekick who never got the hot guy.
Once men went out with me a few times, they'd usually dump me for some chick they met at the gym who worked as the shot girl in a nightclub for a living, and then they'd tell me they wanted to stay friends because I was "interesting."
My mom always said that men were intimidated by me because they realized they had to "bring it" a little more to impress me. My intellect presented more of a challenge. I wasn't "easy" like the Fun Girls and being around me required more of an effort.
That's why I decided to conduct an experiment. I decided to dumb myself down, to pretend to be a little more of a "Fun Girl" to see if I would attract more men.
Before I met my husband, I was a regular on a popular online dating site, so my first step was to remove all signs of intelligence from my profile and add more sexy pictures. I kept my descriptions brief and as cliché as possibly without making myself gag.
Yes, I even said that I loved long walks on the beach and some nonsense about spontaneous travel. I deleted the whole section about how much I loved books and science, and within an hour my inbox was filled with messages, whereas before I was lucky if I got one message per day. My experiment was working already.
I responded only to college educated professionals — your standard, clean-cut types that my mom approved of. I wondered if smart men (the kind I liked) really preferred dumb women, so in emails I used a lot of smiley faces and kept my responses short and cutesy. On the phone, I made sure to giggle and not to expound or have strong opinions on anything.
The result? I could have gone on three dates a day. That's how many men asked to meet me in person.
I also noticed that before, my dates would usually offer to meet over coffee but now men suddenly wanted to take me out for drinks and were quite insistent that alcohol be involved in our dates.
In person I bit my tongue, smiled and said "ohmygodwowthatissoamazing" way too much. I feigned ignorance on current events, culture, and pretty much everything, and what I realized was that the men I was dating seemed to get off on "teaching" a woman, showing her the ways of the world, and exposing her to supposedly new things, thus creating a dynamic where the man is in a superior position and the woman is clearly subordinate and relying on the man for guidance and information.
Except, no. Not to mention, three quarters of these dudes had no idea what they were even talking about. Plus, they all seemed intent on getting me drunk, which wasn't happening because I was too smart for that.
Many second and third dates were offered, and I began to notice a new and interesting phenomenon. The men who liked me because they thought I wasn't smart quickly proved to be insecure jerks. They made sexist comments, spoke critically of others, began to act jealous, and revealed that they were all control freaks who had no interest in being challenged on anything.
Bizarrely, several of them outright asked me if I'd had cosmetic surgery and if I'd be willing to go under the knife (uh, no). Oh, and they were still trying to get me drunk, which a male friend explained to me was because they were trying to get a fast-pass to sex.
Mission immediately aborted.
It's not that men like dumb women. What's actually going on here is that a large percentage of men want to have a good time with a woman (which includes sex) without having to do a lot of work. These guys aren't looking for wives. They want a woman on their own terms and they want her superficially, so they can use her as an object to feel better about themselves.
It's less about intelligence than it is about disposability. Plus, they don't want their egos challenged. Good riddance to them. Sure, I could get a lot more dates if I dumbed myself down, but they sure weren't with quality men, so what was the point?
Disheartened, I went off the dating site, and a couple months later I met the man who would become my husband. On our first date I was completely and utterly myself. We skipped the small talk and went right for the big important topics. We debated. We shared equally, because we both had different areas of expertise, and we even laughed because we had similar dry senses of humor.
"I like you because you have opinions and passions that are your own," he told me. "I like that you can show me new things, and that I can talk to you about so many different topics."
That's what a man should say at the end of a date, so I married him.