Monday, September 24, 2007


I had one of those negative moments of enlightenment last week. I don’t like them much.

Some time ago, and completely without malice, one of my kids mentioned to a friend that I was a Mensan, and that kid mentioned it to their mom, and the mom became interested in being friends. I don’t like to make assumptions, and I don’t casually spurn offers of friendship, so we’ve met for cards or lunch from time to time and have a good time talking and so forth.

For the most part, I thought we were bonding over being in the same age range, having kids the same age who were friends, having similar interests, and all that other “friendship” stuff. I did know that I wished she didn’t know about my Mensan status because she brought it up several times in conversation, and it made me uncomfortable. I turned the conversation in other directions and mentally moved on.

Well, earlier this week, we were both in a group of people, and we were all talking about experiences with doctors. My friend mentioned her doctor, I asked what she liked about him, and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Well, he’s a Mensan, so, you know, we get along…” It was like she was saying he was a member of the right country club, or the right class, as if we shared a mutual bigotry.

Now, mind you, my friend is not a Mensan. I have no idea of whether or not she has checked into joining, or if she’s qualified or not. I’ll be honest, though, and say that I have my doubts and leave it, snottily, at that. And, basically, I don’t care because I don’t become, or stay, friends with people on that basis. It has never occurred to me to even consider whether or not friends are up to some intellectual benchmark, other than I may realize on some level that they are having trouble learning something I take for granted, or they occasionally poke fun at me for being a walking dictionary.

When she said that I was shocked, and then I was hurt, and then I was angry. I could feel myself withdrawing from her, too. I feel betrayed, too, and the suspicion is there that if I hadn’t “qualified”, she wouldn’t have given me the time of day. None of this means that I’m going to dump her, reject her friendship, or cut her out; friends are too rare and, by gum, I have plenty of my own flaws and quirks and subconscious white noise going on to take it THAT personally.

But I heard it, and it stuck, and it fit, and that makes it unforgettable, which is the hard part of the entire encounter. I also know now that we will never become the kind of friends we might have been had I not realized how important other people’s IQ qualifications are to her. I feel dirtied by implication. I have, unknowingly, lain down with fleas, as it were.

And, I’m going to have to explicitly set a boundary with her myself, which pisses me off. I’m going to have to tell her, just like I’ve told my family, that I consider it personal information that should not be disseminated without my express permission. I hate that she and her ego have put me in the position of having to do so.

Or, possibly, I am a big wienerhead.


Brigitte said...

I think it varies as to whether or not we feel comfortable sharing our Mensa-ness. I don't mind sharing if it comes up, but I've never had someone base their relationship with me on my membership!

And it's not even that she's a MENSAN elitest snob, wanting to consort with only fellow Mensans.

I am mystified (and maybe a little scared) by her behavior!

BoS said...

I don't mind talking about it either, if someone specifically asks, and if they do, they've probably learned about it from me so I trust them. I just don't make it a focal point of my life. I belong to other groups and clubs, too, and they're important to me as well.

I kind of think it's along the lines of name-dropping -- I'll bet if she were acquainted with Harrison Ford or Meryl Streep, I'd get an earful of their names, just like I hear more about Mensa from her than ever comes out of my mouth.

And, irksomely, she doesn't even ASK me about it, she just...assumes she knows about it. Urk.

Amber in Albuquerque said...

Weird...people are weird. I often wonder why I try to avoid even having the subject come up in conversation...or wander away from conversations where IQ, Mensa, etc. come up.

Now I know.

FugueStateKnits said...

I wouldn't say Wienerhead. Not at all. Perhaps Emotionally Intelligent?
I understand exactly how you felt. I've had that experience and it made me feel extremely sad and objectified. Seriously.
I would do exactly as you did.
I've never really been interested in Mensa. In fact, I think you are the first three-dimensional person I've encountered of that group (perhaps unfair assessment, as I have not encountered terribly many).
In all, she sounds like a very sad individual.
Take care and chin up!
LOVE the title of your blog and link to it on mine:)
Take care,
Joan a/k/a fsk