I’m a sophomore at college, meeting lots of people, and able to be myself…in some respects. Back in high school, I was one of the “smartest” girls in my class, making Honor Roll and graduating with a 4.0. But enter college — a place filled with TONS of extremely intelligent people, people who talk about the theories of reality or the absence of it, or the origins of civilizations in ancient South America and so on — and I feel so very insecure even talking to these people. I find interests in other things, like music and art and odd facts and so on, but in this environment, I feel like that doesn’t even matter. If I can’t give an intelligent two cents about some weighty subject or the current political events, I feel like people look at me as if I don’t even belong here. It makes me apprehensive to make new friends, and thus, I’m feeling really lonely at school.
This insecurity is seeping into my relationship with my boyfriend. He’s awesome, a senior, and incredibly smart. His major is one that forces him to study multiple subjects and expand his knowledge about … everything. If it’s anything about science, history, philosophy, tech, so on, he probably knows about it. Me? My major is Food Science and though I absolutely love it, I feel like I can’t lend anything to the conversation among my boyfriend’s smart friends when they always talk about heavy matters. This insecurity is killing me. I don’t know whether to say anything about it to my boyfriend, because that might make him feel uncomfortable or make him feel like he has to “dumb down” things for me. What do you think? — Intelligence Inadequacy
Are your friends stoners? I’m just thinking back to when I was college and my friends and I would talk about “the theories of reality or the absence of it,” and we were usually high as a kite and munchin’ on a bag of Funyuns. These conversations about “reality” were typically sandwiched between ones about the existence of a higher being and whether any of us were time-travelers from another decade.
Whether your friends are stoners or not, you should probably go ahead and treat them as such when they get started on their “weighty” topics. Because, truly, I’m just not sure a group of 19-year-olds should be taken all that seriously when they are discussing the theories of reality. Chances are, stoned or not, they’re just talking to hear themselves talk. That’s what nerdy college kids do. They don’t really pay that much attention to what other people are saying — they’re too busy thinking about what they’re going to say next and when they’re going to get a chance to say it. Honestly, they’re too busy worrying about themselves to give you — or anyone else — much thought. I can almost guarantee you, that not only are they unaware that you don’t add much to their conversations about ancient civilization (YAWN, by the way), they wouldn’t care if they did.
But, if you truly are concerned about appearing the big dumb-dumb around these geniuses, including your boyfriend, why not brush up on a few topics outside your comfort zone. It wouldn’t hurt to at least scan the headlines so you have some knowledge of current events. With the election coming up next year, you could focus on presidential candidates and their various campaigns. That way, you could steer the conversation to something your friends might find interesting and you’ll have something to add to the discussion.
More than all that, though, you should put the biggest focus on what already interests you: music, art, food, etc. In my humble opinion, these topics are far more compelling that what your friends typically discuss anyway, and you’d do well to play up your role as an authority on these. Any well-rounded intellectual knows a lot about the arts so you’d be doing your buddies a favor by broadening their horizons a bit. And if you find that they simply aren’t biting, find new friends — friends who don’t make you feel like an idiot. Join a foodie club or audition for a play or start an art appreciation club. You have so many options in college and it’s silly not to take advantage of them and to branch out little if the social circle you run with bores you.
As for your boyfriend, if he’s such a smarty-pants, then trust his judgment in dating someone like you. If he really found you unintelligent, or didn’t enjoy your company, he’d probably MOA.