Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting Dumber? Request for Advice

So I don't seem to be great right now at blogging about my own independent topics - it's easier to write a response. So this is a semi-response to one of my friend's blogs, but only tangentially. But I still wanted to give props. Props, friend.

Here's the issue: the "getting dumber" thing has finally struck me.

To explain: I'm a pretty smart person, and almost all my friends are also smart. I don't mean to brag on myself (or my friends, though they deserve to be bragged on), but the fact is, because I was a kid who wasn't that popular or particularly pretty and who also wasn't funny, I developed my obvious aptitude for learning. As I continued into adulthood, I kept succeeding at school, and gradually intelligence became one of my defining qualities. I'm smart. I'm a smart girl. I'm the smart girl. And because I'm the smart girl (smart woman now - I really haven't changed that much), I make friends with smart people and am not all that interested, at this stage of my life, in trying to backtrack and make friends with the cool kids. Screw the cool kids. I'm a nerd now.

So about halfway through college, my smart friends started to remark on a certain phenomenon that seemed to be slowly sweeping the group. "I'm getting dumber," I'd hear one or the other of my friends say. "I think my talent is slipping away." I would snort at them - because when you're a nerd, you can snort. "You're not getting dumber!" I would say. "There's no way. It's because you're in college, and now you know just how many things there are to know, and you know that you don't know them all yet." It always ran something like that.

Well, so, that's fine, and I was probably right in a way. And my friends are so darn smart that if they really were getting dumber, then they were still so smart that nobody else noticed. At the same time, I felt lucky that I hadn't been struck by this creeping terror, this horrible sense of losing intellectual ground. What a nightmare that would be, huh?

Well, I'm getting dumber now. It's my nouns. They're going. Names seem to be particularly difficult for me. The other day, I spent about 12 hours ruminating before I finally said to my husband, "Hey honey? You know our acquaintance in Columbus? What's his name??" I just couldn't remember. After that I started to notice it everywhere. The X files movie has that guy in it - what's his name?? (David Duchovney is the answer, which I remembered later without help.) And his partner - who the heck is she? (Gillian Anderson.) After a while, I started forcing myself to sit there until I remembered the answer. "The funny guy in The Office is not David Brent but . . . . Ricky Gervais!" "The woman who hosts Project Runway is not Holly Something-Or-Other but . . . . Heidi Klum!"

Now this pop culture identity parade really doesn't matter. Doesn't matter at all. But to the extent that it points to a larger vocabulary problem, it really does matter to me. Realllllllllllly. If I can't remember nouns, then I can't remember terminology. And if I can't remember nouns, chances are my adjectives and verbs are suffering too. I've noticed myself misusing certain words, or stuttering between two similar-sounding terms before settling on the right (wrong?) one. Little malapropisms just slip out of my mouth. I hate it, because this is the one thing I pride myself on. This is the one thing I do just right.

So, perhaps the first step is to ask for stories and suggestions. Who else out there is suffering from the (perceived?) onset of dumb? What are your stories? How are you coping? And, most importantly - how are you fighting back?

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Blogger Alicia said...

"Scooters" is a tag for this post?


Anyway, you used the word "malapropism" properly (IRONICALLY) in your post. And read the post I'm about to put up on SYD from last night (though I have to actually write it first) for how cool malapropisms can make you, anyway.

Also, I know it's completely beside the point, but if you were an ugly duckling at any point in childhood, that stage it over. Swan since I met you, and I think most people would agree. 'Course you're already married, so a lot of good it does you. ; )

More seriously, of course I always think I'm getting dumber.

I think the trick, and what's saved me these last few years from worrying obsessively about it (as I used to) is learning not to care -- developing an aggressive indifference: No. I REFUSE to be my relative smartness or dumbness. Shut up, everyone! Shut up!

Ni meiyou banfa. (Shrug.)

12:46 PM  
Blogger Anne G G said...

In the post previous to "dumber," my tags are "fall, scooters, vacation," because those were the tags suggested to me by blogger, and I figured, why not? For this post, I thought if I added scooters, then you could link the two posts in just one click . . . not that they have anything to do with each other.

I will certainly be reading about how malapropisms can make you cooler. I want to know about that ;-)

Oh, and I have tried to get used to the idea that I might actually be pretty, though I can't seem to get the idea to firm up. I satisfy myself by being able to say, "My husband thinks I'm pretty; I'm pretty to him. X or Y person seems to think I'm cute, so I'm attractive to him/her." Subjectivity gives it some holding power. This isn't meant to elicit (I almost said "illicit." See?? This is my point!!) pity or insistences that I am pretty. It's all a symptom of the same disease - the belief that I'm one big brain, and that's it. Doomed to failure, cause eventually, we all get stupid.

Still, I meant it when I said screw the cool kids. (cause eventually, we all get dorky.)

5:53 AM  
Blogger BK said...

I definitely think I'm getting dumber. I've decided that my new year's resolution is going to be to read more. Maybe that will help. I'm taking suggestions for books to read. Please help?!

3:23 PM  

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