Tonight, despite fabulous weather, I find myself resenting three things in life. The first is that I really don't have time to write this; I need to shower and shave and get back to a busy work day tomorrow. The second is that I can't, in good conscious, relate verbatim the user feedback I've been reading at work. Finally, I hate Mensa.
I really fucking hate Mensa.
I was home-schooled growing up, mostly because I managed to fake being sick for 90 out of the 180 days I was expected to go to school as a child. This is one of the many reasons I should have been an actor. Safe at home, luckily lacking fundamentalist parents keeping me home to protect me from sin, I spent most of my youth playing video games and feeling misunderstood because I was a kid and kids are just too dumb to understand. I eventually taught myself math, english, and physics, and read a lot of books about why rewards, grades, jobs, and money are a suckers' game.
Eventually, I moved to Maine, and discovered not every place is a happy if slightly dysfunctional Jewish or Christian suburb. Being totally isolated from community centers and parks at age thirteen forced me to consider going to school to meet people. This didn't work out so well. Having missed the formative socializing that would have introduced me to MTV and rap, I had no idea what people were talking about most of the time. I didn't really know how kids acted. Not that anyone at that age–or anyone under twenty-two, for that matter–really understands why they are they way they are, but I was particularly screwed because I hadn't been going through an especially social youth, so I was a late-comer to the rules.
What I did discover in my two months in eighth grade and two years in high school, is that I was one of the following: "geek", "smartass", "that smart kid", and, later, "that kid who went to harvard" and "that kid who went to jail".1 I was unfamiliar with the terminology. I didn't fully understand what a geek was, outside of wanting to bone Claire Danes. But here it was. It didn't matter that I was a sailing instructor and a tennis player, or that I biked thirty miles a day, or that I led a healthy physical life. All that mattered was that I had been reading books and learning things for the last half dozen years. That immediately made me an anomaly to be mocked.
This is just basic angst. The worse problem was that I didn't really care how well I did in school; school was a necessary evil, the same way work is now. I had to do it; if it was mildly interesting, I would put in some extra effort in, but the rule was they had to get my attention. I could always go do something else.
So this was how it was: coasting through school, socially outcast, eventually finding a few interesting, liberated friends, and later ending up at a creme de la creme early start college for fuckups. This was where I first encountered smart people who were still, freakishly, arrogant. It was when I started getting really frustrated.
For perspective, consider that I was in an anti-intellectual hell for many boring years. I was constantly surrounded by either pretty smartish people who wouldn't let me in the club because of acne and bad hair, or I was neglected by the sports teams and the cheerleaders, because despite my now long gone athleticism, I did well in school, and was resented. So I fled to supposed intellectual paradise, started smoking and drinking coffee, and settled down for good company and late nights.
There was some good company, and many late nights. But, sadly, they were mostly assholes.
"Wait a minute," I cried to that secular pseudo-god atheists complain to when they're out of options, "I thought these people were supposed to be understanding. What the fuck?"
And, being an atheist, I got no answer. I was left alone with people who thought their GPA was an interesting topic of conversation. They knew their whole report card. They went out and took IQ tests, and would have tattooed the results on their foreheads if they'd had the money. They looked out on people with contempt, pity, or patronizing understanding. They were in fact the same assholes I'd driven eight hundred miles to get away from.
As far back as sixteen, I've looked at the brain as a muscle. You lift weights, you can lift heavier weights. You read a lot of books, you can read a lot more books. Because of youthful hormone imbalance, I abandoned my biceps and went for my spatial reasoning. It's not fundamentally different or better. I would have gotten laid more in high school if I'd focussed on my biceps; I get laid more now because I can write. I resented the culture of my youth because my talents weren't valued. I had my few equally over-educated friends, and we moved on, and I'm sad to say it was a fluke that we didn't form a cute little club that touted itself as superior to our peers.
I'm reminded of Pierce Brosnan in Mars Attacks!, lecturing the world as to how a space faring civilization couldn't possibly be violent, because if they were smart enough to achieve interstellar travel, they must be smart enough to have dispensed with war. I think they attach his head to a dog after they vaporize congress. I sort of felt like my head had been attached to a dog when I realized that the smart people soaring through college and advanced classes were actually the same idiots bragging about their bench weight outside bars they were too young to get in to.
And this is Mensa. Where smart people go to be assholes. Honestly, what productive member of society, with a healthy personal life and enough brains to get employed, has time to join a club based on a standardized test? Who feels the need to get a card that proves they earned a number?
I understand that people need to get grades and pieces of paper and numbers to get into the world and find a job. It sucks, but c'est la vie; in the end, I'm glad I had a dozen years to do jack all and learn a few things about life before I had to pay my own rent. But to go on, after school, after college, and join a fucking club to get more pieces of paper and astoundingly worthless accolades… isn't this some kind of ironic short story? A joke? I can understand clinging to an IQ test if you didn't have enough else going on in your life to keep your demons at bay, but to take time out of a short life to prove something to an elitist bunch of….
What I really want for Christmas is a giant semicolon to cram into the colons of people who write messages like this. Not only are they members of Mensa, not only do they think this gives them a free ride to critique the rest of us who were just a little too busy to apply, not only did they use a winking smily face to a) condescend, b) back off from their condescension, c) prove they can't grasp the language well enough to type irony or smarminess, they're offended that our test didn't rate them well enough. Remember, it never occurred to them that they maybe just didn't do so well; our test was flawed because they didn't get a high enough score. They are so completely obsessed with this abstract, meaningless measurement, they need to take even more time out of the time they've already been spending on Mensa meetings to tell us our calculations are off because they didn't get their 160 IQ on a free dating site.
I refuse to take this test. Well, that's not quite true: I had to take it a hundred times because I was responsible for implementing it,2 but I refuse to take it in any serious way, because I don't want another number attached to the quality of my life. I don't think my college GPA makes me a better person, and I didn't give a damn what grade I got in a class; the work either enriched my life and entertained me or it wasted my time.
The intelligentsia of my youth were adamant in lesser people being lesser because they invested themselves emotionally in the outcomes of physical competition. I agree with that. I also think that investing yourself emotionally in an intellectual competition is a sign of a weak mind. If you're even slightly enlightened, you engage in the process, not the results, and least of all the measurement. And you never, ever start cute little clubs to prove how awesome your ignorant ass isn't.