Recently a fellow writer and editor tweeted out a poem (see above) which is one of my personal touchstones. Funnily enough, it was the comment he put with it rather than the verse itself which drew my attention.
His comment, for those who are feeling too lazy to click through to Twitter, was this:
One of those things you’re not supposed to say, but it’s true.
Why, in a so-called enlightened millennium, when – sweeping statement here, but I will come back to it – we are reasonably free to choose our partners without conscious thought as to colour, race, and religious affiliation, is this a taboo topic of glaring importance when it comes to long-term relationships?
Why can't we say that it's important whether or not the future, current, or past love of our life will be, is, or was, smart?
Think about it for a minute, as I go back to that massive great sweeping statement of mine about freedom to love.
I'm neither naïve nor stupid; nor I am busily kissing unicorns, floating away on a cloud towards the chimney tops, wearing my ruby slippers. I am well aware in many nations, cultures, and communities across the planet it's still considered unacceptable to be with the one you love, if the one you love is of a different colour, religion, race, or sex. They may be from a different street, their family may have said something about Great-Granny Smith/Lopez/Koblowsky/Neumann/Ngoza/el Cid/Duprée/Smythe-Westleigh-Haverbrook/O'Shaughnessy/da Silva/Mahmoud/Svensson in 1893, and the battle has raged ever since.
It is easier than ten, twenty, thirty years ago, to be open and honest in love. It is possible to stand up, in countries such as the US, and Ireland, former bastions of 'no gay, no way' and marry the person you love, a person of the same sex (shamefully, not here – come on, PM). To be with someone of another colour is not something of everyday astonishment, or viewed with a curled lip and pavewalk spit. Atheists marry Hindus. Hindus marry Jews. Jews marry Christians. Christians marry Muslims. Muslims marry Buddhists. It can, and still does, mean family splits, and isolation, but it also means love happens, and the next generation may see the light of tolerance rather than the darkness of suspicion and narrow-minded ignorance. We talk openly about love being colour-blind, and having no bounds when it comes to sexual orientation.
Now apply this to talking, at a party, about loving someone for their mind.
"So you and Hamish got together at last! Wow. That's exciting."
"Yes! I know. We are so, so, happy."
"So what brought you together? Sport? Food? Facebook pictures of sport and food?"
"Oh, he had me at the second countable spaces in Euclidean theory."
"O...kay. I'm just going over... here."
(shuffles off, leaves the Hamish-lover staring rapt into the memory of dimension theory and well, Hamish.)
Yes, this is an extreme example, and I am attempting to be funny, but admitting intellect is part and parcel of finding someone attractive seems to be akin to saying you love someone because they secretly wish Stalin or Kruschev was still running the USSR, and had Red Dawn-ed the world into submission.
If you find someone attractive for their butt or their boobs, why is it so wrong to find them attractive for their grey matter?
"That pre-frontal cortex of yours – it does things to me."
It may not sound quite as wild as 'I got lipstick stamps on my passport I think I need a new one' if you insert it into the lyrics of Talk Dirty To Me or a myriad other songs, but my goodness, it's true. Because let's face it, when the butt and the boobs both sag, if you've chosen wisely, the brain won't.
It's intellectual compatibility which provides the fizzing rockets of excitement, the challenge to our potential – or otherwise – greatness. Bouncing ideas, thoughts, nuances, off another person, whom we also happen to bounce around the bedroom with, is the happiest collision of the spheres possible. Yet there seems to be a societal reluctance to say we choose love based not just on lust, liking, and looks, but also on applied learning.
I wrote an article a while ago called The Scrabble Test. At its core, I discussed what, to me, is essential in a relationship. It's what is left behind, after looks and physical lust fade. It's sitting after dinner at 80 years of age, and indulging in a game of Scrabble with the person you love, because you can. Because your minds are still engaged to each other, still married. Bones become brittle and break, but if your minds keep arguing about whether or not Paul or John (John) was the better lyricist, then your love will stay pulsing, a heartbeat for the life of your relationship.
This may sound like a load of hooey. You may think to yourself "it's not a taboo topic, and it's not something we aren't supposed to talk about."
But this isn't true. It is considered impolite and in fact discriminatory to judge another person based on their level of intellect. On a societal basis, damn straight. To call someone out for being less intelligent than yourself, simply because they don't understand a concept or idea, is completely wrong. To treat smartness as a caste system, with Brahmins of braininess at its top – absolutely not.
To call someone out for wilful ignorance is another matter, but we won't get into that here, as I don't want to be lynched by an angry mob of Hansonites.
This is different, however, to choosing a partner based on intellectual matchmaking, and we should be able to say so. Attempting to found a long-term relationship on looks or that sudden flare of attraction alone, invariably ends in tears, yelling, or a damp squib fizzle out. But base it in physical and mental attraction?
Our world is on fire, and it burns our life long.
I don't think it is discriminatory to say 'I am attracted to intelligence'.
I think it's discriminating.
And if you can't see that, then I guess you won't be attracted to me. I don't mind, because I am lucky as hell. I found my Scrabble partner a few years ago, and he proudly says, when asked, "what attracted you to your wife?" that it was my phenomenal mind.
That, and my amazing butt.
A version of this article was originally published in The Mission at Medium.
Image credit: http://virtual-history.com/