Smart Girl Syndrome

I’m a smart girl. It’s the one thing I can hang my hat on. I am occasionally a pretty girl—but every girl has pretty days and ugly days. I’m usually a funny girl; at least in my head I’m funny. And I have a lot of phases that come and go—fat girl, artsy girl, religious girl, bitchy girl. But as long as I can remember, I’ve been a smart girl. Everybody says so: “That Meg, she’s a smart girl.”

Sometimes I am even called a smart “cookie.” I know that’s vaguely insulting from a feminist perspective, but it doesn’t bother me. Who doesn’t like cookies? And tacking that cutesy diminutive onto the word “smart” takes the pressure off.

Oh, you can bet your patootie there’s pressure. There are smart decisions to make, smart books to read… and there are things smart girls never do. They never sleep with men they’re not interested in because they’re lonely, or spontaneously adopt a Siberian husky because it’s cute, or buy ridiculously expensive vacuum cleaners from the door-to-door Kirby salesman. (Damn that Kirby salesman!) No, smart girls never do any of those things that I just spontaneously invented for the sake of illustration. Smart girls don’t lie much, either.

My boyfriend doesn’t like it when I say that I’m smart. He says it’s “not very becoming.” (I know, I know. That’s another post.) He doesn’t understand that for me, being smart is not something to boast about. I don’t believe being smart makes you superior. Smart is just another kind of different. It has advantages and disadvantages.

Smart is just the way my brain works. In most cases, I can quickly absorb and process information. I can synthesize and apply what I’ve learned in the past to new situations. I can recall a lot of big words at just the right moment.

Smart is not the same as wise. Yes, I can wrap my brain around the facts quickly, but that doesn’t mean I know what to do with them. Smart is not clever, either– I might know what’s going on, but I sure don’t know what to say about it.

I raised a couple of really smart kids, and I often told them that it doesn’t matter how smart you are if no one can tell. We live in a performance-based world. No one cares if you have a bunch of brilliant thoughts in your head—you have to DO something with them. It’s the Forrest Gump corollary: smart is as smart does.

If only I followed the advice I gave my kids, huh?

Notice I don’t claim to be a smart woman, despite the onset of my menses nearly thirty years ago. I’m still hiding behind the word “girl.” Seems like if I were a smart woman, there would be some achievement involved, some greater personal discipline that would allow me to capitalize on this brain of mine. Smart women are powerful, and they get things done. No, that’s even more pressure. Who needs that?

“Smart girl” implies potential, and I have loads of that. Any minute now, I could do something awesome. I’m just doing a careful analysis to determine the smartest way to go about it.

2 thoughts on “Smart Girl Syndrome

  1. I do believe you left out generous and caring and always there for her family and friends. With the onset of age, a smart woman realizes that great deeds mean so much more when there are people to share them with. We become cheerleaders to those around us and in doing so gain our own cheerleaders. Seems to me that you have made some smart choices no matter what age you admit to.

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