Monday, June 29, 2009

Poor Mrs. Smarty Pants

I’ve had a hard time writing lately.

Ever since Father’s Day actually, when a group of us sat around the picnic table trying to define "intellectual." Someone had been telling a story about a woman none of us knew. He described her as an intellectual. Someone else picked up on that and ran with it: What makes someone an intellectual? Isn’t it more than simply being intelligent? Or well read? Everyone around the table that day could have been described as smart – some extremely smart – but we all agreed, none of us were intellectuals.

No one could quite say why. My husband described it as the difference between being athletic and being an athlete. Another person suggested that maybe it was like pornography – difficult sometimes to define, but you know it when you see it.

Someone then asked, Hey, how many of us are pseudo intellectuals? Several hands went up, including mine. I had unwittingly interpreted that to mean “intellectual wannabe” instead of “big fat poser.”

I came home and looked up Intellectual (n.) on, mainly interested in the subtleties that differentiate an intellectual from just someone who is super smart.

It said: “a person who places a high value on or pursues things of interest to the intellect or the more complex forms and fields of knowledge, as aesthetic or philosophical matters, esp. on an abstract and general level.”

And after that, I couldn’t write. In fact, I could barely even think. I felt so inadequate about my inability to be abstract and general. (Not to be confused, of course, with my highly refined talent for being cryptic and meaningless.)

I still have a lot to say. But I’m afraid no one needs to know any more about my gecko or my crickets, my coconut bra or my flailing tennis game.

I know people will email me privately, begging me to write further about the nuance to my backhand. And, you know, I’ll probably comply. But I’m just saying, it might be different around here from now on.

And then again, maybe it won’t.


  1. I think you're a great intellect. But then again, I fail that test miserably myself. Who cares? Let's just all be idiots together.

  2. At one point in my life I was surrounded by these intellectual types in the alternate universe of the visual arts. So I tried to be intellectual too, and failed miserably. From what I could see, all the theory & discussion only served to make them horribly depressed and unable to derive any joy or emotional satisfaction from making art at all. So I just went back to being dumb ol' me. Methinks excess pondering can lead to paralyzation (re: your difficulty writing recently). Life is short. Live your truth. It's all a process. Apologies to any conceptualists who might be reading this. I will now step off my soapbox.

  3. * Not to be confused, of course, with my highly refined talent for being cryptic and meaningless.)

    I guess this is why we are able to be friends, I also tarry in vague-ness, much to my husbands dismay.

  4. yeah...the relatively in-depth (stress on relatively) study of philosophy put a nice block on my writing fluidity. A lifetime of searching out and reading good writers did the rest of the damage. But what the fuck, who really cares? I've been functioning in the "cryptic and meaningless" mode for most of my life...guess there's no reason to stop now. By the way, it is interesting to see how people in the States seem to automatically recoil from the label "intellectual" (especially as applied to themselves). People here (in Spain, but in Europe in general) seem to be less self-conscious of it. Maybe that's why European "intellectuals" can be so annoying...or am I, after 20 years away, unable to get past my embedded American anti-intellecualism...?