Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Stereotypes and elitism

Posted by Lissa on July 16, 2010

These two posts by Borepatch and Jay G got me thinkin’ . . . (A dangerous pastime, I know . . .)  Only I’m going to approach it from the opposite end that Jay did. I could be wrong, but here’s what I think:

To most casual observers I come off as one of those “smart people”, one of those “elites.”  After all:

  • I went to a small, elite liberal arts college that often ranks in the top ten liberal arts colleges in America
  • I graduated said college cum laude, that is, with a 3.5
  • I attained said grade point average while doing very little homework (please note — I’m not proud of this.  It’s just a fact)
  • I’ve spent three weeks in London
  • I’ve sung in at least ten different languages
  • I’ve sung such fabulous works as Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Faure’s Requiem, Brahams’ Ein deutsches Requiem, and the full Messiah (and poor Mike had to listen to the whole Messiah – he really, really loves me)
  • My reading tastes are notoriously eclectic. Books that I’ve read at least ten times include everything from Stranger in a Strange Land to The Hunt for Red October to Atlas Shrugged to Jane Eyre.
  • I can make conversation with anyone.  ANYONE
  • I can speak in a British accent.  (Or cockney.  I can sort of do Irish or Scottish, but not well.)
  • I’m verbally “quick on my feet” (yes, that mixed metaphor was on purpose. Because it amused me)
  • I use words like “engender”, “unsolicited”, “therein” and “verisimilitude” on a regular basis.  I used the latter three in the last post

And yet . . . and yet . . . the older I get, the less smart I think I am.  A few of the reasons I don’t fit/deserve the stereotype of “smart person”:

  • I am profoundly historically ignorant.  I kind of know who Galileo and Copernicus were; I haven’t the foggiest idea when they lived.  500 AD?  1500 AD?  Something like that?  Anything prior to the 20th century is up-for-grabs in my brain.
  • I am profoundly Biblically ignorant.  No, I don’t think we all need to read, let alone believe, the Bible.  It’s just embarrassing that I don’t know any of the saints except Peter.  In fact, any knowledge of the Bible I have comes from playing a Soul Girl in Jesus Christ Superstar (back in college).
  • That thing about the British accent?  Well, I didn’t mention my moronic habit of adopting whatever accent I’m hearing.  It can be a Southern drawl, a Canadian quip, a prairie twang — if I’m hearing it, I’m speaking it.  That’s really fun when there’s a gathering of Ye Olde Liberal Arts College alums in London — ever heard a woman use “big ol’ ” and “y’all” in a British accent?  Yeah, didn’t think so.
  • I never learned proper grammar. I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my life depended on it.  I’m only familiar with present participle and pluperfect because of my years in Spanish class.
  • I cannot for the life of me remember names or faces.  Unless I’ve spoken with you five times or more, please assume that I don’t remember your name.
  • I’ve never read War and Peace. Or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Or The Moonstone, The Grapes of Wrath, The Jungle, Great Expectations, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Freakonomics, The Wealth of Nations, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and a whole host of others.
  • I’ve never changed a tire in my life.
  • I can’t sew, knit or crochet worth a damn.
  • I mostly cook from recipes.
  • I never understood calculus.  I got an A in the class by memorizing the types of problems and the subsequent steps to solve them.  It never made a lick of sense to me.
  • Ditto for chemistry.
  • And — oh yeah! I own and shoot guns.

Folks who’ve met me, please feel free to pop up and disagree — but I do think I’m a quick, and witty, conversationalist.  I’m usually the one to fill awkward silences and invite quiet group members to speak.  A lot of folks assume that, therefore, I’m a very intelligent person.

Verbal acuity and actual knowledge/intelligence are NOT the same thing.

Since we’re being all literary and usin’ them thar five-dollar SAT words, I’ll cap this post off with a Jabberwocky meme from Evyl Robot, Jennifer, Sarah and Christina.  Here’s my contribution:

And as in uffish thought she stood,
The Goblin-wock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the front-door wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! NOT through-and-through
My lil’ Siguette went snicker-snack!
The four nine-mil’s quite turned its head
And put him on his back.

Callooh callay, y’all. 🙂

7 Responses to “Stereotypes and elitism”

  1. Tam said

    Don’t waste your time with D.H. Lawrence. Mediocre smut notorious only for its dirty words, which have long since lost their power to titillate.

  2. Borepatch said

    “Education reveals to the wise, and conceals from the foolish, their lack of knowledge.” Looks like you got your money’s worth.

    And I love singing the Messiah, especially the ending. That’s some music right there, even if it’s not redneck. Mozart’s Requiem is also pretty powerful.

  3. Jay G. said

    I think we’ve gotten together enough that I have a rudimentary understanding of this funny little muddle called Lissa.

    You’ve always struck me as erudite, urbane, and eager to learn. That’s a fantastic combination. You don’t turn your nose up at the unfamiliar; you don’t put on airs; and you bake a mean cookie.

    And you can rock a Sig with the best of ’em!

  4. Lissa, we’ve never met, but just by reading your blog I can tell you’re a person I’d enjoy spending time with and talking to. I like smart people, and smart (to me) comes in many different flavors, all of which I enjoy. Sorta like ice cream!

    I heartily dislike elitists, but I also pity them, since they miss out on so many fun things.

    For me, it’s been a case of “with age comes wisdom”, I don’t think many of my current friends would have liked me much say, 15 years ago. Good thing there’s no such thing as a time machine!

  5. honey, you forgot to add “have worked at Dunkies” to the “reasons why you’re not” list.

    But, as you know, one doesn’t even have to technically be an elite caucasian to be condescendingly written off as such by the high and mighty progressive bunch. One just needs to be classifiable in a group that also contains a fairly high concentration of elite caucasians. It’s very stupid and every time I’m accused of arguing on behalf of “elitist whites”, it makes me want to punch throats.

    I *am* an over-educated white girl tending towards yuppie (if I ever finish my PhD and get a nice 6 figure job working for Intel, or something) by those standards. The fact that I own and shoot guns and don’t think progressive policies will be good for our country, that I *do* believe in a meritocracy, means I’m even more associated with that supposed subset of the population that is “evil elite white people who want to steal everyone’s money and keep the white man in charge of America.” (fun fact: Asians earn, on average, 10K more per year than Caucasians do nowadays.) Never mind that fact, or the fact that I’ve gone to public schools my whole life and my parents couldn’t pay for me to go to college. Or that I’ve worked minimum wage jobs. The fact that we are successful and are not victims of white suppression makes us elite by default, it seems.

  6. But can you do a MAINE accent! ; ]

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