This story is over 5 years old.

Girl News

Girls and Being Smart

I don’t have a thesis about why this is, but I do know that a lot of bad shit can be avoided if you keep fifty bucks in your shoe and Plan B and Gravol in your underwear drawer.

Guy, I used to be so smart. I was one of those problem children, with a mouth you wanted to smack for all of the “Yes buts.” (I mean, I also liked Barbies and Lincoln Logs and had a cool haircut, so I could hang out, too.) I used to pitch a tent in the living room where I was occupied “finding myself” with Nietzsche instead of watching cartoons, which is just what you get when you deny your kid TV, I guess. I was definitely at risk of off-the-rails high nerdery, but then my parents pulled me out of the “gifted” stream because I couldn’t really add, subtract, or not ride my bike into a parked car and fly over it onto a nearby sidewalk because I was “dreaming.”


Way later, after grades and grades of intellectual agony and almost/basically failing tenth grade math but for the grace of Jah/getting a full percentage point for spelling my name properly on the exam (!!!), a kindly doctor wrote me up as “statistically significant” for being soooo dumb at some things (like three-part puzzles) in proximity to being soooo smart at others (like identifying a line of Goethe).

What it does to a person to be told they are very smart when they know, objectively, that they are mostly/in all important ways very dumb (by this time I’d already fallen for several gays and dropped out of high school), is unwrap a latent, childish obsession of definition: how smart am I compared to this, how dumb am I compared to that; what is smart, what am me. Like that. It would be like solitary confinement all the time if it weren’t cushioned by Gchat and pals and every single book and eventually just forgetting that I was ever supposed to be something else.


Don’t matter. Mine was huge then I got a lot, lot, lot high for a whole human era and now I call the airport “the plane station” about half the time. Oh, also? I can’t hardly wait until 1995-babies find out how much stupider they are than their mom told them! Bwahahahahaha.


Maybe you knew how to use it when you used it, Hot Shots! Part Deux, but you definitely can’t give me even a dust-light etymology or definition when that word is hoisted out of its party context and put in front of you like a ninth-grade pop quiz. So probably stop using them if you shouldn’t use them. (When I do not know a word I make up a word, which is just fine. “It’s fiiiine,” she whispered into Jocelyn’s baby-bunny ear. “They’ll never knooooow.”)



I tell you what, while the “are women as funny as men” question sort of stumbles drunkishly toward eternity, the general idea that women are as smart, at least, as men is kind of… resting. I mean, individually you know that the majority of all people including you and me maintain some question marks about that, about Hillary, about your mom and your dad, but in rational moments we seem to have gotten comfy with female intelligence in a nice way.

TWITTER Ack! The worst thing about fucking Twitter are these girls (yes, I am Othering you, eat a dick; yes, I am sexist-ly sexualizing you while I Other you) who manipulate the specific strictures of a tweet or Facebook post to suggest something about their own breadth and body of knowledge that in fact does not exist. Like: a little, practiced flurry of opacities preceding a link to a story about, like, the IMF. YOU DON’T KNOW FUCKING SHIT ABOUT THE IMF. Which is fine; it’s fine not to know. But if you don’t know something and pretend that you do (except in the case of having to impress a guy you really like when you are sub-18 and collapse in shame right after you nod through a convo about Louis de Bernières) you are at risk of being taken into custody. Piece of Shit Girl Jail is full of those chicks with message tees and low-riding sweatpants and Kanye West shutter shade sunglasses, a few years older, limping in circles.



Were girls ever ashamed of their trashy music and books and movies and TV shows? I feel like we were supposed to be but I also have a whole memory palace—like, a smaller, less impressive memory palace behind the pool, for guests—filled only with pre-teen visions of the various neon pinks and reflective silver zebra stripe of Danielle Steele softcovers, from backyards and beaches and summer camp and Christmas stockings. Now we’re so proud of trash that it’s acceptable to simultaneously make fun of and consume the same stuff, thereby elevating the lesser trash to non-trash status, thereby making actual art and literature something distant and unapproachable. If you want proof of this go to the big-box bookstore and touch your most intricate nail-art finger to the covers of the books on display at the first table and realize that most people take Fifty Shades of Grey the fuck seriously.


While there is a small pocket of occasional, if-it’s-there pot smokers (Do you drink a lot, but are scared of cocaine? This is probably you), there are two dominant groups of pot smokers that can actually be understood and classified primarily based on their intelligence: super-dummies and super-smarties. This is especially apparent in high school when you have the dudes who have been swinging off the lowest rung of Getting It since junior kindergarten and the mathletes with bad sweaters hiding out at the smoking pit with some soggy blunts.


That said, down the line you’ll find that the real junkies are secret outliers from every social and academic strata of your graduating class; drugs other than pot seem more egalitarian that way.


Convinced that a network TV girl with doll-eyes and tree limbs whose fait accompli on her WB show (was it on the WB? Hm) is getting into Harvard was a significant turning point for girl culture. Rory and Lorelai Gilmore are pillars, heroes of fiction that leave (the hysterically hypocritical and totally annoying and truly emblematic of nothing worth emblemizing) Holden Caulfield in the dust. I mean, now we have Rihanna in Battleship so let’s not get too psyched, but we can just be happy that it ever even happened. Rorrrrrrry.


I don’t have a thesis about why this is, but I do know that a lot of bad shit can be avoided if you keep fifty bucks in your shoe and Plan B and Gravol in your underwear drawer and an extra phone charger in your bag. I feel pretty mellow today because, I dunno, it’s Friday and raining, so I’ll spare you the mommy-finger in that hurty spot between your shoulder and your boob. Just, take care of some stuff before you begin your degenerate travels into the dark, wet world tonight.


Only date boys who are way dumber than you, but really into executing pranks (not just thinking them up and not doing it! That’s for smart, boring guys!) and having boners at inappropriate times and, as it follows, acting on them. (Powder room at an early, quiet dinner party is where this guy will get a boner.) Young, dumb, full of ejaculate. That’s Type 1. Type 2 is a guy who is smarter than you, or as smart but in different directions, because you’ll never have to feel that pit-of-coal in the center of your beating heart, which is what grows there when you date lames just because they have money or are appropriate in some way. Dating a guy who is noticeably, markedly smarter than you means you will wake up before him and just lie there staring at him, willing him to wake up too, so you can hear what he has to say, which will be gold. Recommended.



An additional problem of intelligence for girls is that it’s usually paired, like an antipodal buddy, with insecurity. SUWWPWIIIISE! Of course it is. And a really smart girl who is also really insecure is more likely to grow into a baby-diva, one of those tornado-people who not only suck all of the air out of the room but re-expel it in a misty stinkbomb of their favorite gum and some Grey Goose and the stressy cortisol that works through their body’s processes and pools like liquid tin in their mouth, OR. This kind of girl will encounter some Event (getting an F, stealing a yacht with her Yalie boyfriend, encountering someone at work who is better at it than her) and just collapse, and then reorganize her ambitions and expectations for herself into something super-manageable and normal so she can spend the rest of her life getting over that initial trauma. Is that judgey? Maybe? I mean, I do feel judgmental about making this second choice but also I understand the compulsion to hold your mom’s hand while you cocoon in a single bed in her house for a long, long while.


Active, measurable, useable intelligence is ultimately private, or a semi-private deal between you and whatever you want to do with it. (You guys have secret little you-only late-night book clubs, and notebooks full of tiny scrawl with complex makeup theories and detailed 80s hardcore scene fan-fic, right?) Working hard enough on something, thinking hard enough, so that you make discoveries related to your actual job/yourself/the new Japandroids is kind of the point of caring about things, the point of having “interests,” the point of having avoided the banalities of normie life that wait like those yellow-eyed Little Mermaid eels (eels?) around every corner, sent to corral you back into not giving a shit about doing or knowing anything interesting. Also, not feeling out your own intelligence, and letting it rot like the old candy factory in my hometown (seriously; I’m from the Ontario version of whatever city Pawnee is better than) is a common bullshit that girls do. They become angry, pissy, small-minded (small-minded = caring about boys that don’t like you back, as a for instance) cunts just because they haven’t found a good place to flex their thinkings, yet. You know what I mean, those fucking cunts with nothing to do. There’s no currency in that, or shouldn’t be. Girls are so often underassigned because it’s easier that way. I mean, guys too, but I could give a shit.


I love my Wonder Boys, the ones shot through with needing to know everything all at once. I dream of them; I breathe them in; there is no one I would rather go to the beach with at night for swims and tokes and talks than one of them. When official, academic, creative intelligence affixes itself to humor, to cool so slick you can slip-and-slide on it all day, to a communicable sense of possibility and funs, it’s everything. If, though, a really big brain and all that comes with it includes a sincere desire to be kind, giving, and generous—for that fat, full ego to fall back a little for someone else’s benefit—it’s almost definitely going to be done by a smartypants girl, not a guy, at least not one of the smartest or most fun of those guys. What! Come on, I’m right.

Previously - Girls and the Rules

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateCarraway