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Your Intellectual Equal

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Someone has wondered if women can be happy marrying someone who is not their intellectual equal. My first thought is, "Of course. You can be terribly happy married to a man much smarter than you. All you have to do is admit that he is smarter from time to time and use the fruits of his intelligence to buy more shoes."

However, I know deep down that's not the issue. Possibly it has not occurred to my gentle readers that men can be smarter than you, or that you will be allowed to live if you admit that one or two might be. What you're worried about is whether you will be bored if you marry a man who did not go to one of the Top 50 American Colleges or one of the colleges ranked rather near your college.  And if so, you had better ask yourself if you are worried about intelligence or class.

I don't know how it happened, but the USA has managed to create two class systems, one based on money and one based on the rankings of its private colleges. American Catholics managed to get around the second one temporarily by creating their own colleges, but now Notre Dame, Boston College, et alia are in the private college rankings, too. Ah, Mammon! Ah, Worldly Honour! Remove that crucifix? Yessir! Right way, SIR!

Amusingly (but understandably), some Americans exaggerate the glory of their Alma Mater. At BC I was constantly diverted by students standing up at meetings to whine, "As a Top 15 School, BC should...", "As a Top 10 School, BC should...", "As the Catholic Harvard, BC should...." Puh-leeze.

Canada does not have a class system based on where you go for your post-secondary education because almost all of our universities are state-funded (although they do lap up the foreign student fees from such American students who hope having gone to McGill [for example] will impress future employers). Therefore, Canadians take only a cursory and friendly interest in where other Canadians went to university, if they did.

Meanwhile, I was in university for a very long time and can tell you that there are a lot of people there who are as dumb as rocks, and others who are as lazy as sloths, and still others who are absolute whizzes in their field, but not very clever about people or at all rooted in reality. Meanwhile, far from us all becoming glamorous intellectuals, doctors and lawyers, a frightening number flail about in entrance-level pink-collar office jobs (men, too)  before we return to education, chastened, for professional training.

Many a time I have envied the smart and pretty owners of beauty salons, who finished high school at 16 or so, went to beauty school, worked while taking business courses, started their own businesses and are growing increasingly wealthy.  I think they are tremendously clever. Indeed, I think any tradesman who got out of school ASAP and got himself professional training and then his own business is tremendously clever.

Of course, such a man may or may not be interested in theology, philosophy, the opera, or any of those other things that are popularly considered symbols of intelligence or class. He might watch a lot of television or even prefer to eat supper in front of the television. Yikes.  On the other hand, he might be a real-life version of Ronnie in Moonstruck: sweatily working in the family bakery by day and going to the opera at night. A girl can dream, and Italians of all kinds love the opera, so why not?

Really, the important thing is that you not marry a man who bores you or is mean to you or disgusts you with his social manners. (And so-called upper-class manners can be just as disgusting as so-called working-class manners to a so-called middle-class person.)  Many of us deep down want a man who is rather like our dads and our brothers because those are the sort of men around whom we are most comfortable. I know a brilliant Ph.D. who married a plumber, and it just so happens that she comes from a line of plumbers herself. Her dad was a plumber, her grandfather was a plumber, and now her husband is a plumber. I don't know her husband well enough to know if he has any intellectual interests, but he certainly has a good job and his own house, and he makes my brainy friend very happy. He must be rather clever.

What you don't want to do is get married and then torture yourself with the thought that you are yoked for life to somebody dumb. It wouldn't be so great for the guy, either, to be stuck with a woman who inwardly sneered at him all day or worse. Either you must get over yourself or you must break up with your not-as-smart-as-you man before you start treating him with contempt. One of the secrets of a happy marriage is the woman telling the man over and over again (in whatever locally acceptable way) how wonderful and clever he is. If you don't think you can do that easily and without choking, don't marry him.

Update: Margaret Thatcher nee Roberts took a second-class degree at Oxford and  married a man who left school at 18 to work in his family's paint business. (Her father owned a business, too--a grocery shop.) The Thatchers were a very happy couple. She became Prime Minister. He didn't. Still, you'll notice she was known as MRS Thatcher until her husband was made a baronet.
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