Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is That A Brain In Your Pocket........?

I have spent the past few days being perplexed by my friend and neighbour who I'll call 'John'. I call him 'John' primarily because that's his name. The state of perplexity is not altogether unfamiliar territory to me. I have a time-share there. When I go it's usually because of something that, at least initially, short-circuits the 'common sense' mechanism of my mental gear shifter.

It happened as benignly as possible with a friendly chat with John's wife Saturday morning. We discussed lawn care, neighbourhood 'news', and the upcoming 4th of July holiday. I ventured the observation that the past few times I'd been to their home, John seemed more subdued than usual. At this juncture I should probably point out a few things about John. He is a middle-aged man a few years my junior. He is a good-looking, well put together hard-working blue-collar guy. Good sense of humour and very clever. Good hearted and good natured for the most part except for an occasional bout of manic-depression. They have been my mother's very considerate neighbours for over twenty years and on my sporadic, brief visits home I would exchange pleasantries in passing. Since I have taken up residency we have all become much better acquainted. In response to my observation, Mrs John--without any hesitation or malice--shared that John was intimidated by my brain. I was dumbfounded--which I have to tell you is a wonder to behold since it occurs so rarely. "He's what!?" I stammered. She proceeded to remind me of a night more than a month past when they had come to our house for dinner. The TV was on in the living room while I was finishing up and setting the table. Jeopardy was on and apparently while I was folding the napkins and laying the silver etc... I correctly answered a wide variety of seemingly obscure questions without once looking at the screen or giving the subjects any great thought. Apparently this confirmed his sense of social inadequacy as well as intellectual deficiency. Lord Wellbourne went to universities. Lord Wellbourne had been a professor. Lord Wellbourne KNOWS stuff. It seems that John feels the need to police himself with what he says and the opinions he expresses. Therefore he doesn't voice anything he isn't positive I know very little about. Like the Red Sox, engines and electronics, and the logic behind wearing a heavy coat and shorts in December.

I'm not sure how to address the subject with him. Despite his bluster he's very sensitive. My Gentle Readers who know me personally can attest that I am not a snob where education is concerned. I don't think I'm a snob where much of anything else is concerned either. Well, except where stupidity is concerned. I don't like stupid. It dresses funny and smells bad. I'm rather hoping that the issue will just go away on its own. It makes me self-conscious. The man's not a moron by any stretch but I find myself paring down my conversation so as not to rub salt in a wound that he's self-inflicted.

Perhaps I should just embroider him a pillow that says: Diploma's Get You Through Doors But Cleverness Gets You Through Life. That's how I got here. College was great--no one ever told me to put a book down and clean my room. It's what I learned outside of the classroom that mattered. Earth is the largest campus and has the most amazing prospectus. The best part is that it also offers very affordable refresher courses. I signed up when I came back to Maine. I was happy to discover I hadn't forgotten more than I remembered. That's always a good thing.


  1. Well. You can't dumb yourself down, especially if you like answering Jeopardy questions. It's fun knowing stuff. But what John doesn't understand is that being Pleasant Company doesn't depend on Knowing Stuff.

    I have a friend who won't read some of the books I recommend to her because she doesn't like learning new words. She's always felt faintly inferior to anybody who has ever attended college, even if, like me, they left and didn't graduate. She has talents that I will never own.

    I wonder if that kind of thing is why I developed a truckdriver vocabulary. When I was sixteen I let loose with a word that an acquaintance later happily told somebody, "June doesn't look like she'd even know that word!"
    It lessens the intimidation, apparently.

  2. I think maybe you should try asking for his help on something, where he can be the teacher. I've often found it to work excellently with bosses, along with making them think you great idea was really theirs so it doesn't get put down.
    I only have a HS diploma and I never found you to be intimidating in all the years we shared a home. And you are the only scrabble player I like playing with!

  3. June--My humour and vocabulary run the gammut between vaudeville/gutter to Wilde/Wharton. In about 15 seconds flat. Sometimes at the same time. With auto-reverse. And gestures. I truly enjoy making people laugh--either by something clever or witty I say or by my own numbskullness. I have always appreciated the trait I have of never minding being the butt of my own jokes. I think John is unhappy for a variety of reasons and this is the latest manifestation. I'm sure something besides my Jeopardy skills will pop up and everything will be as it was.

    We should get together at a truckstop someday and curl people's eyebrows over coffee!

    Lady H.--Yes, you "only have a HS diploma" but you have scads of 'degrees' for creativity, artistry, and countless other talents that show themselves brilliantly at Canterbury Cottage. You are an energetic Renaissance woman who continually explores new things and whose interests and curiosity lead her to amazing results. You don't whine about what shouldawouldacoulda been. You're too wise for that and too busy to fret about it.

    Lordy how I miss our scrabble games at the kitchen table! Haven't played for over a year now.

  4. "...I find myself paring down my conversation so as not to rub salt in a wound that he's self-inflicted."

    self-inflicted is the key word there. Don't dumb yourself down to make someone else feel better about themselves. That is unacceptable! Just be your usual charming self and pretty soon he'll, as you phrase it, 'get over his cheap imported self'.