One of my readers recently pointed me towards one of the most absurd articles I have come across in a very long time, “I’m single at 50. Why? Men hate me being brainier than them, says Kate Mulvey”. Kate Mulvey is a writer. What is more, she wants to sell a book about her difficulties finding her buff billionaire at the ripe age of 50. In an attempt to promote it, she wrote an article for the Daily Mail. It’s a cringe-fest like few others. Let’s go through the piece an comment on it, shall we?
Three months ago I went to Italy with my then boyfriend, Philip. As we were checking into the hotel, I struck up a conversation with the receptionist in Italian (just one of the five languages I speak). But while I was enjoying myself, chatting away, it became clear that Philip most certainly was not.
That is of course excessively rude. Imagine the roles were reversed and the boyfriend would engage the cute young waitress with the ample bosom in a conversation in a different language, while she was relegated to pretending that it didn’t bother her. I’d blame him inasmuch as he hasn’t told her to keep moving.
He shuffled from foot to foot, muttered something under his breath and rolled his eyes like a stroppy teenager.
OK, you knew he doesn’t like what you’re doing and you still continue deliberately annoying him. Your choice.
Then in the lift he turned on me. ‘I was wondering when you were going to let me join your conversation,’ he snapped. I tried to laugh it off but I knew this was the beginning of yet another argument.
That guy sounds more like a girl. She was probably out vacationing with a girlfriend and engaging in female competition. Women are much more likely to try to one-up each other instead of one-upping a man. Also, men hardly ever start arguments. Women do.
‘You always have to be the star of the show,’ he continued in our bedroom, as he began to systematically work his way through the mini-bar. Apparently I was argumentative, a know-all and an intellectual snob.
Let me guess: if it’s really a guy, he’s paying for the entire trip. If he wants to make use of the mini-bar, it’s certainly up to him. Also, “argumentative” is a word reserved for describing women.
What had I done? It should be depressingly obvious. I had dared to dent his fragile male ego. By speaking in a language Philip didn’t know, I had managed to make him – a successful writer, ten years my senior – feel small. How selfish of me to embarrass him in public with my linguistic prowess!
Male egos aren’t fragile. Also, look at the facts: You managed to leech off a 60-year-old guy. You are 50 and desperately trying to find a husband, and probably have your first kid too, in your boundless delusion. How many more men are lining up? Probably not that many, so how about you check your attitude? Oh, and I don’t by that the guy is particularly successful or attractive, because if that were the case, he’d be vacationing with a 35-year-old.
Like so many of the men I’ve dated, it was clear he expected me to play second fiddle to him at all times. It wasn’t the first time we had rowed about such things. One night, we ended up arguing over a BBC4 documentary on the origins of jazz. When he became annoyed that his attempts to outsmart my knowledge on the subject failed, he started singing loudly, to drown me out altogether.
What if he only wanted to talk about the subject? Not everything is a competition, unlike what that hag believes. The guy she’s dating took it at least humorously by singing, at least that is how I interpret it. The crude version would have been to tell her to shut up. I think the problem is that she is very insecure about her intellect, probably for a good reason. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)
But the pointless fight over the receptionist was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Needless to say, our year-long romance didn’t last long beyond the flight home.
Yup, it would have been all-too-risky to break it off on vacation as he may just have canceled your ticket home.
I was reminded of our contretemps last week, when research in the APA Journal of Personality and Social Psychology confirmed what I’d always suspected – that men simply can’t handle it if a woman outshines them. According to the study, rather than bask in the reflected glory of a partner’s success, men feel worse about themselves.
‘A lot of men feel threatened if a woman outshines them,’ says Professor Sandi Mann, psychologist and author of Hiding What We Feel and Saying What We Don’t Feel. ‘It harks back to cavemen days, when men had to provide the resources. If a woman is too intelligent, a man subconsciously thinks she’s taking over his role.’
When it comes to high IQs, men outnumber women by far, so we’re talking about pairings where some supposedly high-IQ woman was forced to settle for a man less smart. The high-IQ guys take a young, tight pussy with a pleasant personality (high IQ optional) over some hag that has spent two decades in “educamation” any time. Maybe we’re also talking about women who got diversity-hired and promoted over more qualified men who are so deluded that they think they really deserve their supposed success. Sure, I can understand when men get a little bit annoyed about that.
By the way, I was unable to track down that study on the website of the journal she mentioned, so for now I’d say she made that up. Narcissists are pathological liars, after all. Furthermore, Sandi Mann is not a professor. She works at a crappy university, and has poor credentials. (NSFW: She is not a looker either.)
For me, this is stating the blindingly obvious. I’ve lost count of the times men have rejected or insulted me simply because I was brighter, wittier or cleverer than they are. They have called me ‘intimidating’, ‘scary’, ‘difficult’ and ‘opinionated’. Translated, that means: ‘You are too clever and I don’t like it.’ An older male friend – supposedly tired of me dominating dinner-party conversation – even wagged his podgy finger and told me I would never get married because I was too confident and demanding.
He gave you a hint. The Daily Mail article shows a few pictures of the author when she was noticeably younger. She’s really unattractive, scarily so even. That well-meaning friend of hers gave her a hint that her only shot at finding a partner is through being nice.
Then there was my dalliance with the criminal lawyer who, whenever we went to a party, criticised my hair, weight and choice of outfit before we set off. He was so terrified I might outshine him socially, he made sure I felt as bad as possible before I’d even got out of the door.
Nope. He realized that he’s dating an unattractive woman and was hoping you’d make a bit more of an effort to look presentable. After all, a woman with an unattractive face who is in shape and dressed well isn’t quite so painful to look at.
I’m convinced that the reason I’m still booking a table for one instead of settling down with a significant other is not because I’m a year off turning 50, but because men are so threatened by my intelligence.
Sure, if you were a dumb 50-year-old in the same body, with the same face, men would line up from the door to your apartment all the way around the block.
I might have a successful career as an author and broadcaster, but I have never been engaged, let alone married, and my longest relationship lasted just seven years.
That was your one shot. Yet, you were hoping that Chad Thundercock with eight figures in the bank would come running.
Sometimes I wonder if isn’t all my father’s fault – ever since I could talk, he encouraged me to hold my own in an argument. But little did he know, as he exhorted me to ‘get a good degree’ or add yet another language to my repertoire, he was reducing my chances of getting hitched altogether. As a child, I went to one of Britain’s most academic girls’ schools, Godolphin & Latymer, where I got three top A-levels, then breezed through an Italian and French degree at the University of Kent, getting a 2:1, while keeping up conversational German on the side.
I think you’re in trouble if you boast about your A-levels at an age in which you should think about retirement. Also, claiming to be highly intelligent but doing a degree at an utterly mediocre university might rub people the wrong way. You know, people who go to elite universities normally go to great lengths to downplay their achievements. A friend of mine who studied at the University of Cambridge, for instance, tells people he studied “in England” when he’s abroad. LSE graduates may opt to say that they studied “in London” and Harvard alumni that they studied “in Boston”. Yet, here we have a washed-up 50-year-old who believes that men are intimidated by her because she took a degree at the University of Kent. Whom does she think she is kidding?
I grew into a bright and confident young woman, keen to flex my intellectual muscles and to never let a man get the last word just because of his sex.
Imagine you’re an Oxford-educated banker and, for whatever reason, are out on a dinner date with that woman who is eager to prove that she’s smarter than you. What could go wrong? It seems she hasn’t even realized that sometimes people don’t engage her because they don’t want to embarrass her, or praise her in an attempt to make her shut up.
My bedside table has always buckled beneath the weight of substantial, intellectually challenging books. I devour cultural documentaries and love nothing more than taking another evening class (Spanish, the most recent; philosophy set to be the next).
Meanwhile, some of the supposedly dumb men you’ve met may have studied PPE at Oxford. But of course, your “evening class” in philosophy certainly trumps that.
As far as I’m concerned, a dinner party isn’t complete without a bit of an intellectual tussle during dessert – whether it be on the finer points of Ed Miliband taking on the trade unions, or President Obama playing a high-stakes game with President Putin over Syria. But little did I know that by honing my neurons and showing my intellectual rigour, I was scuppering my chances of romantic success.
Man, I’m getting tired of fusing her one-sentence paragraphs together to be more readable. Also, “honing neurons” is an incredibly awkward expression. She doesn’t seem to know what a neuron is, and what “honing” entails. Anyway, people who work in intellectually challenging professions may not want to engage an amateur like her because it’s tiring, or because they spent a few hours on a tough task at work. I’d say most hard-working men would prefer a blow job after work instead of some broads regurgitation of what she’s read in the MSM newspaper of her choice.
The backlash against my brainpower began in earnest in my 20s, when I was a struggling writer going out with Sebastian, a high-flying City trader. Initially he loved dating a writer – even (or, perhaps, particularly) a constantly broke one, and he had to rescue me by paying for everything. But as my career and social life suddenly took off, his affection turned to resentment. My career entailed a round of seminars, high-profile dinners and exciting parties. Sebastian might have made million-pound deals but he couldn’t handle being my ‘plus one’. After three years he told me he’d met someone who ‘needed’ him. Since then, relationship after relationship has imploded like a sinking soufflé.
Yup, estranging a successful investment banker literally screams “brainpower”, and so does “constantly broke”. I once dated a woman who wanted to drag me to all kinds of events, probably to show off that she has such a tall boyfriend. (That didn’t last long.) I can only imagine how incredibly annoying it is to have to not only do that but having to listen to the woman you’re dating for hours on end on stage, when she’s talking about something you may have absolutely no interest in. He certainly didn’t need to be at those events, and neither were those “high profile dinners” and “exciting parties” mandatory to attend. Had she just blown this guy properly a few times instead, she could now enjoy his millions.
It was always the same. At first, men loved my wit and intelligence. ‘You’re such a breath of fresh air’; ‘I love talking to you’; ‘You’re the first woman I’ve met who stimulates me,’ they’d trill.
They are just telling you what you want to hear.
No sooner had we become an item, however, their behaviour would change: the more confident I became, the more insecure it made them.
You mean, “the more they wanted me to shut up”. You’re not confident, you’re clearly insecure.
One boyfriend told my father he hated the way I never used short words, when a lengthy one would do. Another would turn away whenever I started to speak. When I asked him why he didn’t listen to me, he said, without a hint of irony: ‘Everyone else listens to you on the radio, so why should I?’
The first boyfriend was witty, the other was, at that point, pretty annoyed, it seems. Yup, it’s good to learn when to shut up. No man likes listening to a woman who just can’t stop talking.
My boyfriends would speak over me at dinner parties, put me down in public, tell me my books – of which I have published eight – were just stocking-fillers, or simply ask me to keep schtum. In my late 30s, I decided this would be easily remedied by dating older men.
If all men are doing it, the problem may be with you. I chuckled how she squeezed in that she has “published” eight books. With all her intelligence, she should have figured out that it’s doubly annoying to see someone so full of herself use the wrong verb because she most likely didn’t self-publish those books.
Surely, I thought, an ageing alpha male, secure in his achievements, would not be jealous of his girlfriend’s accomplishments? Sadly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Julian, a handsome 61-year-old lawyer, was a case in point. One night he invited me to meet some of his old friends in Geneva. As I sat there tucking into fondue bourguignonne and making jokes in French, he lashed out, jealous at not being the one getting the laughs. ‘Kate’s friends are all pretentious wannabes or sad has-beens,’ he hissed, desperate to bring me down a peg or two. I felt my eyes prick with tears. We broke up soon after and he went on to marry an unthreatening woman with tidy hair and the personality of a wet rag.
Again, there are two different perspectives. She may be the one making jokes, and some are laughing — because they want to be polite, not because she is funny. Because she can’t read social cues, she just keeps going, however. Behavior like that is incredibly tiring. That lawyer may have made the correct assessment, in fact. It seems he was just so fucking tired of her that he poked her where he knew she was most vulnerable. After all, would she have had a reason to tear up if her friends weren’t “pretentious wannabes or sad has-beens”? That other woman probably knows when to keep her mouth shut, which is an important skill in society, for men and women alike.
And that’s the thing. When it comes to love and marriage, I have watched with depressing regularity so many brilliant men choose beautiful but dull women.
Well, for women, looks and having a pleasant personality trump paper achievements. Also, most certainly nobody gives a damn about her A-levels and her degree from a mediocre university. Whether those women are dull is an entirely different question, though.
As a friend of mine said the other week: ‘Kate, you are far more likely to get ahead romantically if you push your cleavage, rather than your opinions, in a man’s face.’ Perhaps she is right. But it’s too late for me to change. Like a lot of career women, after years of looking after myself I have learnt to see men not as protectors but competitors.
That may have worked 25 years ago. It’s over, Kate.
Unlike the canny girls who learnt how to flirt with men from an early age, the brainy ones, like me, were too busy with their books to master the art of flattery. Instead we challenge rather than charm, we control rather than compromise. No wonder men find it hard to like us. Sometimes, I wonder if the confident signals I’m giving out are at odds with what is going on inside. I long to be loved but I’m too scared to be vulnerable – I use my sharp mind to protect my all-too-soft heart against yet further rejection.
That is a false dichotomy. Women can be smart and have pleasant personalities. They can also challenge in a charming way.
I tell myself I shouldn’t have to dumb down my intelligence or omit to mention my achievements just to make myself more attractive.
Men don’t care much about the achievements of women. They may be a welcome bonus, for instance if you’re like me and think that having a hot girlfriend who went to an excellent university gives you extra bragging rights. (No, it’s not that. However, I think that academic achievements reflect well on a woman’s character.) Besides, that woman is 50. What kind of guy even thinks of dating her?
But as I watch a lot of clever women morph into Stepford wives at the merest whiff of testosterone, I wonder whether, by refusing to show any chinks in my intellectual armour, I’m the one who is losing out. I was sorely tempted to join the giggly man-pleasers last week as I watched a friend of mine, a 48-year-old, highly educated PR executive, swipe a potential suitor from under my nose with a ‘dumb blonde’ act.
The kind of guy who fucks grannies probably goes the path of least resistance.
While I ribbed and joshed with him, engaging in a battle of equals, she batted her eyelids and told him in a breathy voice how young and attractive he looked. She ended up with a glass of champagne and an invitation to dinner. I stood there glumly nursing an empty glass.
Yup, that is the story of your life in a nutshell.
I reassured myself that I had preserved my dignity. But I couldn’t help but wonder if, once again, my brain might have done too brilliant a job of protecting my heart.
If you’re 50 and still chasing love, you need to get your head checked.
Phew, what a trainwreck.
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