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Brilliant But Weird

Thursday, August 8, 2013
How can  I best exploit Seraphic's obvious crush on me?
I am sick in bed, so to cheer myself up I will tell you all that I watched the first two episodes of Benedict Cumberbatch's "Sherlock" last night and when I woke up this morning I discovered I had a crush on the title character. A completely fictional and actor-dependent entity has a hold over my imagination. Alas!

I'll tell you why it is. It is because Sherlock is brilliant but weird--which is to say, my type. As types go, it is not a good one to have. Brilliant men figure out your weaknesses relatively quickly, and weird ones behave in unexpected and often anti-social ways. How I wish my type was as simple as "bookish blond."

At this point you will naturally think, "But what of the delightful, funny and good Benedict Ambrose you have married, who protects you from any self-destructive desire on your part to get involved with brilliant but weird men?"

Yes, there is B.A., and thank heavens for him. However I am reasonably sure I fell in love with B.A. because he did such a good imitation of brilliant but weird. Naturally I had googled him, and a former student had said online that  B.A. could take on ten wannabe philosophers at once and reduce them to ashes, so that meant brilliant. And then there was the constant playing of lute music, the manic grin and the proposing after ten days thing, which indicated weird. Also there was the photographic evidence that he spent his undergraduate days disguised as Lytton Strachey, a very weird person to resemble if you are as fond of women as B.A. is.  And then there are the puns. 

Someone or other decided that puns are the lowest form of humour, but each pun is a sort of simple riddle from which the hearer catches the double-meaning, notes how the pun overturns his expectations and reacts with laughs or groans. The pun creates a two-second carnival of nonsense. Brilliant but weird men are ringmasters in their own carnivals of nonsense. 

Because he is addicted both to puns and to serious reading, Benedict Ambrose will never bore me. Last week we had one of our very rare screaming fights, and it was about the nation-state. I have certainly had screaming fights with boring boyfriends, but they were never about the nation-state or anything particularly interesting. 

But happily B.A. is not actually weird. Brilliant but weird men don't usually have many friends, which I have discovered from dating brilliant but weird men, and B.A. has many friends. They tend to be clever, laugh at his puns and indulge in serious reading. Neither he nor his pals are sociopaths, which reminds me of an amusing exchange in "Sherlock" when a police officer calls Sherlock a psychopath, and Sherlock says "I'm not a psychopath, Anderson. I'm a high-functioning sociopath." I can't tell you how refreshing it was to hear one of them admit it. Serious catharsis here. 

It was a great breakthrough to realize that I became interested in men only when they showed evidence of being brilliant and weird, and my spiritual director thought this knowledge would be a great protection, but actually it is as much a protection against brilliant-and-weird as the knowledge that you have the measles protects you against the measles. If you're attracted to weirdos, knowing that you're attracted to weirdos doesn't automatically stop you from being attracted to weirdos. However, I suppose the knowledge prompts you to make an emergency appointment with your spiritual director when you meet a new one. 

I remember once only noticing a young man for the first time because he kept telling me I looked like a model. As I did not in the least look like a model, that was pretty weird. Also he had given up a brilliant career to become a male religious, and it is exceedingly weird for male religious to tell women we look like models. A young male religious telling a serious-minded female that she looks like a model is probably the psychological equivalent of a Pick Up Artist in a bar telling a glamour girl she looks like a dirty little snowflake. It's the shock value, and whether it is intended or unintended, it works on women like me.

It occurs to me, as I lie in bed writing,  for writing is an even better pain-killer than reading, that my friend Lily would point out that I too am brilliant but weird, as if this had anything to do with anything. Sadly, I am not brilliant at anything that makes great pots of money; I am just a moderately good conversationalist who is great at editing academic papers on a variety of subjects in a way that makes them  more comprehensible and less maddening for poor profs to read. I may be slightly weird, of course. 

But I don't think any quality of weirdness has ever helped me attract a man; keeping it under wraps has been the best policy. When B.A. fell in love with me I was demurely clad in a sky-blue shift dress and pearls, my mad hair tied tightly in a bun and my tendency to make frank and abrupt remarks silenced by an awful head-cold. I often think how lucky it is that I came down with that terrible cold, and that I brought a dress and pearls with me to Scotland. You must always bring a nice dress whenever you travel to see people; you never know if you might not be invited to a dinner party.