Monday, February 9, 2015

The Intimidation Game

A few weeks ago I saw The Imitation Game, the story of brilliant mathematician Alan Turing, whose incredible machine (prototype of the modern computer) broke the Enigma code of the Nazis, no doubt shortened WWII and saved thousands of lives. Turing was depicted as a loner, with few intellectual equals. I know the feeling!
The apex of my intellectual career! Downhill from there!

Just kidding! I not only have many intellectual equals, I have countless intellectual superiors. For some unknown reason, I developed a reputation for being smart as a child, and can't seem to shake it. I was an early reader, notorious for checking JFK's Profiles in Courage out of the school library in third grade.  I did very well in class, with many a 99% on my report card ("Nobody's perfect!" Sister Ellen would remind us), but I hit a wall in late high school, and it suddenly felt like I was living The Emperor's New Clothes. I was challenged to the max in French by Madame Kohn, who loved putting us on the spot to read long passages from Le Rouge et Le Noir with a proper accent. There were days I actually felt the gray matter seeping out of my ears.

By the time I hit college, I was drowning in a pool of my own making. Instead of admitting I was not the sharpest tool in the shed, I continued to try to be snappy and quippy and bright at all times.   There were certain phone conversations with brainiac friends (Mike O'Shea, I'm talking to you!) that were so wide-ranging and challenging that I hung up sweating from the effort to keep up.

 My years as a young mother were bliss. I was smarter than my kids were!! I could converse with great enthusiasm about Sesame Street and Barney, and was aces at the times tables at homework time.  At dinner parties, instead of dissecting the political scene and analyzing the works of Noam Chomsky, I gravitated towards the end of the table where the talk was more preschool gossip and favorite recipes than Stephen Hawking and climate change. But at home, I was a genius!!

As the five kids grew to adulthood, my ebbing self-confidence in my brainpower continued. Though I love them beyond words, I am incredibly intimidated by them. Usually when Sheridan and Evan go to town on a subject, I sit there in a befuddled silence. Oh, later I think of intelligent things I could have said, sure, but at the time? Nada.

Evan and Rose--can't we talk about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle again?

Menopause, that notorious midlife scattering of the mind, certainly didn’t help things, and now at 58 I shrink from high-level convos on most subjects. I’m tempted to try that Lumosity website that purports to boost brainpower with clever games, but I fear having my inadequacy confirmed.

I guess I’ll soldier on, keep up the fa├žade as best I can, but honestly? Next time on earth, I’d rather be known as Dumbo, and then surprise everyone when I can string two sentences together. Gotta love those low expectations!

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