Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stupid Girl Tricks

There's a meme going around of an Isaac Asimov quotation: “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” Well, you don't say, Dr. A... and it casts me back to a point in my life when I did something that I've thankfully outgrown: engaged in something I didn't really care about in order to impress someone else.

Science fiction and horror are not my 'thing', as far as reading tastes go. I loved the original Frank Herbert Dune series because it was a synthetic history, much along the lines of of Tolkien, although neither as thorough nor as deep. However, being a teenage girl and already pigeonholed by my peers as a nerd, it didn't do me any particular social harm to pick up reading Asimov as well- especially because a handful of my male friends were big fans, specifically Hopkins and a guy I'll call Dr. X, who is now a research chemist (for X, I also read Stephen King's 1980s horror novels, and stopped in college with It). My rationale was that it gave us something in common to talk about.

I liked Asimov's Robots and Foundation well enough, I suppose, but I'm sufficiently weird that I really preferred his non-fiction. I could debate the nuances of Foundation through the entire series. I could hold my own about the Laws of Robotics. I was also the only girl in any circle of my acquaintance, up through and including college, who a) knew or b) cared about any of that. I was not, however, the first girl in the history of the female sex to take up a hobby because it might catch the attention of a specific boy...I just did it as nerdily as possible. It also never crossed my mind that my being better versed (and therefore able to bludgeon all-comers in debate) on both Tolkien and Lewis than the boys might alienate the ones I was trying to attract. Oops. They want you to be smart, but not smarter than them...

What finally cured me of it, for good and all, was Bill. Bill was the last time I attempted to change myself for a boy- that involved going home between my sophomore and junior years of college and joining one of those medically-supervised fasting diets where you consume 600 calories a day. Yeah, I lost 80lbs.; yeah, boys followed me home from class to ask me out; yeah, I started blacking out in class and had to be picked up off the sidewalk by two pledges from Bill's fraternity and walked to the dorm in a stupor...and finally, my hair fall out by the handsful. When Bill found a yet-thinner girl, who was in a sorority and therefore more socially acceptable among his frat brothers (except the president, who he didn't realize was my cousin until it was too late), I came totally unstrung.

Yes, I dropped my basket. Was he worth it? No, save the fact that I came out on the other side rather more self-aware. Here's the thing: if the person you're seeing isn't seeing you for the right reasons (they love you just as you are, Bridget Jones), attempting to alter yourself to cling to them via superficial means is not going to help. At some point, there will be an epiphany on one part or the other, and *poof*...the illusion evaporates. I don't regret what I learned from both the painful (starving myself only to be rejected anyway) and the silly (reading things that slightly bored me), I just don't waste my time on it anymore. I have my own life. I have my own career. If people don't like me, eh, so what. I have better things to do than worry about their opinions...

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