Your Brain Is So Hot

Unicorn in front of a waterfallViv, Becs, and I are drinking passionfruit mojitos in the kitchen. It’s Friday night; we’re seeking mom oblivion for a few hours. House is empty. The slider’s open and I wonder how much the neighbors can hear.

The slippery little haloed seeds smell like manna. The mood is relief, a willingness to probe the recesses of non-motherhood life.

Becs says, “There are few things hotter than intelligence.”

“Mmm, hmm,” Viv agrees, chewing on a mint leaf, “Intelligence is definitely critical to attraction.”

My mind wanders through lover’s faces, IQ estimates floating above: 102, 118, 123, 98, 129, 144.

Swigging and swallowing, I say, “I dunno.” I often find myself disagreeing with these girls. I know what they’re saying, but it’s too glib. I also know two cocktails in is not the time to question and critique. One line witticisms that don’t even have to make sense is where we are.

A little sensitive and long accused of not paying enough attention to my gut, I’m a believer (it’s scientific) in emotional intelligence playing the real role in special humans. Mr. 98 was an example of this. He defied categorization with his world-wise, compassionate self. He was one of my favorite humans, and yes, I was extremely attracted to him, partly due to his ability to attune, know when to play, know when to support, and know when to walk away and leave me the hell alone.

It’s complicated for me when it comes to the gender divide. I’ve found, with a lot of guys—but not all—that there’s an IQ skewing tied to societal entitlement. On top of that, due to the social justice field agent (male) v. target/non-dominant (female) roles (look it up), their condescension means I don’t get the chance to reveal my true braininess. I play dumb a little too long and find it hard to express my peculiar wit as soon as I’m deeply attracted to someone. Take attraction out of the equation, and I can hold my own. I do well with the middle-aged male corporate type. Not that it does much in the traditional workplace unless I combine it with a level of aggression that leaves me feeling exposed and a bit sick. I imagine I’m not alone.

I’m getting off track, but the conversation got me thinking. Lately, I’ve been digging kind, deeply empathic people. I’ve been training myself to notice it in others and walk the walk. If you want to see kindness and compassion in action, hang out with long time Dharma practitioners. Highly self-aware beings pouring lavender shrouded non-judgment all over you. On a footing with your best spa day.

The point is, as much as I wanted to throw EQ in, I also shut down the conversation because, well, of course, EQ is admirable. Duh. But that’s all a bit saccharine for this crew.

Becs looks into her empty mojito, shrugs, and says, “Well, I’m still looking for the unicorn.”

You know that Universal Hot/Crazy Matrix of women that’s totally offensive—the x-axis shows looks, the y craziness, and the more you fall in that top right quadrant, the hotter and more unhinged you are? I don’t want to agree, but I laugh and toast unicorns anyway.

Three days later, I’m reading The Paris Review’s sixth series of Writer’s at Work interviews. I notice Rebecca West and Stephen Spender spend most of their interviews (okay, they cover a few other worthy topics, like feminism…and writing) discussing the relative merits of their peers’ brains. They appear to relish the line of questioning—a discussion that flows around how much one writer respects, refutes, or enjoys another’s intellect, as displayed in prose, poetry, or remarks recalled from a party ten years gone.

It’s a giant bitch fest—a gossip session about who’s got the intellectual goods. And although most of it isn’t related to sexual attraction (well, not consciously—Auden is quoted as saying when someone disses his work, “he probably wants to sleep with me.”), it’s all about who floats your boat intellectually.

Rebecca West on Iris Murdoch (p.28), “… [Whom] I like enormously except when she begins to clown and be funny, because I don’t think she is ever funny. She writes curious books on goodness. Have you ever read her philosophic works? I can’t make head or tail of them. They’re better written than anything else she writes. They are so strange. She says that one has to study what goodness is by looking at good people. She says that the trouble with good people is that, if they’re men, usually very little is known about them because they’re so obscure, and, as for women, goodness is rarely found except in the inarticulate mothers of large families, which is just such an idiotic remark, you can’t believe it.”

It could be People magazine quoting Perry on Swift.

Spender on Earnest Hemingway (pp. 45-46): “Hemingway I knew during the Spanish Civil War…we would go on walks together, and then he’d talk about literature—I mean he’d say how the opening chapter of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme was the best description of war in literature…Then I’d say, “Well, what do you think about Henry IV, do you think Shakespeare writes well about war?” Oh, I’ve never read Shakespeare,” he’d say. “What are you talking about—you seem to imagine I’m a professor or something. I don’t read literature; I’m not a literary man.” That kind of thing.

“He was very nice when one was alone with him, but the public Hemmingway could be troublesome. On one occasion I remember we went to a bar where there were girls. Hemmingway immediately took up a guitar and started strumming, being “Hemmingway.” One of the girls standing with him pointed at me and said “Tu amigo es muy guapo”—your friend is very handsome. Hemmingway became furious, bashed down the guitar, and left the stage.”

Hemmingway definitely gets a male unicorn trophy.

That’s when my bullshit hits me like a golf ball to the temple. I collect friend’s frontal lobes for trophies. Most of them are way smarter than me, and I roll in their brain matter, asking questions, waiting for the ideas to drop. Yes, I’m smart enough to seek out inarticulate mothers of large families (and Dharma sisters), but for me, intelligence is way hotter than the unicorn in the speedo.

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