Dealbreaker: She's the Wrong Kind of Smart

I’m not saying I could carry on a romance with a disembodied head who told awesome Goethe jokes. But books have to be there.

In our Dealbreakers series, exes report on the habit, belief, or boxer brief that ended the affair.

When I was 21, my love of books ended my first post-college relationship. My girlfriend was flabbergasted as to why anyone would read anything that wasn’t required for class credit; I was offended that she dismissed my love of the printed word alongside her previous boyfriend’s obsession with video games. To really put this in nerd terms: If you’ve ever seen that iconic Twilight Zone episode in which Henry Bemis’ wife defaces his books in an effort to break his “habit” of reading, this was similar. She was oppressive to the bookish. And she liked Reba McEntire.

After the breakup, I elevated my criteria for girlfriend material to levels rivaling Hammurabi’s Code. The contents of a woman’s bookcase had to at least be on par with her physical profile. Dating websites always give you pictures first, intel second, but some of us are turned on by brains, too. I’m not saying I could carry on a romance with a disembodied head who told awesome Goethe jokes. Nor is the possession of panties depicting Poe poetry an automatic win for a woman. But books have to be there.

Straight guys are often asked if they are “ass men” or “boob guys,” if they like skinny or curvy, if they prefer a big rack or a small rack, bush or no bush. And though it’s fun to claim allegiance to one camp or the other, I think the true answer is that we like attractive women who will sleep with us. A woman’s interest in books is similar for me. Just as I have no physical “type,” I also don’t only date Murakami Chicks or Contemporary Memoir Girls or Girls Who Read Moby Dick Twice a Year. They all read, and they’re all smart. But I didn’t realize that a woman could be book smart without being smart about books until I dated Dr. Brain.

When we met, I was working at a combination bookstore/venue where one of my many roles was to introduce visiting authors. I was kind of like a book emcee, and I thought this made me cool. Dr. Brain, who came to sit in on one reading, thought this made me cool, too. So cool, in fact, that it made me hot. Over drinks after the reading, she told me so a few times.

Dr. Brain was a real brain scientist, meaning she had a Ph.D. in neuroscience and could legitimately have her name preceded by the prefix “Dr.” Like, “Doctor, will you take your dress off,” or “Doctor, may we smoke a cigarette now that we’ve both had an orgasm?”

At first, our uncomplicated intellectual attraction translated well into bedroom antics. But soon, Dr. Brain became aware that I did more than just emcee books. I was a writer myself. I was directing a play at the time, a badly-written script which I had decided to sic on the world like a rabid little dog. Every person involved in the production was very sweet about the whole thing, though each was acutely aware that my words were probably best left unpronounced. Dr. Brain was supportive, too, and took an interest in my writing in all of its forms, no matter how unfortunate.

Then Dr. Brain informed me that she, too, wanted to become a writer. “I could write a book,” she said. “I know all these things about how research works, and pharmaceutical companies. I could do it. No problem.” Dr. Brain was very intelligent and highly educated. When she decided to put her formidable mind to something, there was little chance of me dissuading her. But I did ask a few questions, like “what kind of book would it be, specifically?” or “maybe you should work on submitting a shorter article first,” and finally, the most damning: “What’s the last book you read?”

The answer was a collection of pop culture essays—the book that launched at the reading where we met. I have nothing against pop culture essays; in fact, I make most of my living writing them. The damning part was that Dr. Brain didn’t even like the book. “It was stupid,” she said. “I want to write something important.”

“Entertainment isn’t stupid,” I said. “And some of those essays were pretty well written.”

“They’re pointless,” she countered. “If you’re going to write something, it should be important, have an impact.”

Dr. Brain's book, she told me, would investigate how a person’s brain chemistry could turn him into an extremist. She envisioned a how-to guide to brainwashing the subject in an effort to prevent the turn of mind. It was an interesting idea, but it was coming from someone whose professional body of work consisted largely of endorsements for certain drugs on behalf of certain pharmaceutical companies. If my writing was frivolous, at least it existed.

“Do you think what I do is pointless?” I asked her. “Is my play pointless?” This was a little unfair, because my play was pointless. But this had become about more than my play—she was questioning my entire intellectual legitimacy.

“Don’t you want your writing to matter?” she replied.

“It matters to me,” I said. I had suddenly grown quiet. I decided to up the ante. “What’s your favorite book?” I asked. “I mean, of all time. Any subject. Favorite book. Go.”

Without hesitation, she said: “1984,” then quickly, “by George Orwell.”

I suppose she didn’t want me to confuse it with the Danielle Steele version. I was irritated. 1984? What a drag. Sure, it’s iconic. But the characters are thin, and if you really want to read some Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying is his better work, and—but I didn’t say any of these things. I could get over this. I could get over 1984 being her favorite book. I could get over all of her ignorant claims about just shooting off a book, an important one. I could maybe even be supportive and helpful in this endeavor. There was just one thing I needed to know.

“When is the last time you read it?” I asked. I was 28 years old. She was 32.

She blinked and said, “I don’t know. High school.”

And just like that, it was over. I don’t disqualify romantic partners whose favorite books are 9th grade staples like To Kill a Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn. Hell, I’m obsessed with The Old Man and the Sea and Catcher in the fucking Rye. But I’ve read both of those books several times since I escaped from beneath my parents’ roof. I don’t just talk about reading books, or show up to readings of books. I really read them, too.

If reading is a kind of passion, and passion is related to sex, a partner who only bothers to page through her “favorite book” once, way back in high school, hasn’t advanced much past intellectual puberty. A woman doesn’t have to have read—or even heard of—the books I love. She just has to read books, and read them for fun because she loves them. For some, writing that changes the world is a huge turn-on, and that’s great. For me, it’s a little smarter, and maybe a little sexier, when a woman is content to just turn the pages and sigh.

NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less

Climate change means our future is uncertain, but in the meantime, it's telling us a lot about our past. The Earth's glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, but as the ice dwindles, ancient artifacts are being uncovered. The Secrets of the Ice project has been surveying the glaciers on Norway's highest mountains in Oppland since 2011. They have found a slew of treasures, frozen in time and ice, making glacier archeologists, as Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, put it when talking to CNN, the "unlikely beneficiaries of global warming."

Instead of digging, glacier archeologists survey the areas of melting ice, seeing which artifacts have been revealed by the thaw. "It's a very different world from regular archaeological sites," Pilø told National Geographic. "It's really rewarding work.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less