IF YOU ARE A WELL-EDUCATED woman hoping to marry a man who is at least your intellectual equal, you have almost priced yourself out of the market. Honestly, where do you think that you will find super-smart men once you are no longer a student? At a bar? Online? You know that the men on your campus are just as smart as you are—they got into the same school that you did! They take the same classes. You see them in the library, pulling all-nighters studying, taking exams. Once you enter the real world, you’ll be stunned by how smart the men are . . . not. In fact, the collective erudition of most of the people you meet (men and women) out of an academic environment will distinctly disappoint you. They may have many other things to recommend them, but it will probably be a mistake to attempt to engage most of them in the kind of serious discussions about esoteric subjects you can chat about in college. After all, 22 percent of the American public believe that Elvis is still alive.
You don’t have to marry a man who is as smart, capable, and accomplished as you . . . but tell the truth: Don’t you want to? Clearly, your admission to college was not by accident. You’ve invested yourself in academic achievement, and your discipline, hard work, and character are what earned you a place at that institution you are justly proud of. Of course you want a husband who shares those values and that work ethic. You’ll find some of these men after you graduate, but you’ll never again have this many wonderful men who are single and age-appropriate to choose from as you do on your college campus.
Can you be happily married to a man who isn’t as smart as you? It depends on what you want from marriage. If your priority is financial security, a huge bank account may be enough to satisfy you. And then of course, there are some very self-sufficient women who marry slightly unintelligent, ultra-studly men just for the sex. Okay, but the likelihood is that after a while even the most Thrilling Circus Sex with Mr. Macho will become Mechanical Boring Sex with Annoying Dumb Guy. And that’s not something that’s likely to get better. The sex won’t improve and he definitely won’t ever get smarter.
The big thing is that you want to form a lifelong union with a man who will celebrate and encourage your achievements and never be threatened by your capacity for greatness, simply because he has a similar track record and those same capacities. But it’s the little things that continue to surface that will remind you of why you should marry a smart man. You will either have to regularly explain your references to things like Fermat’s Last Theorem or Diaghilev or the Bayeux Tapestry—or else get used to that glazed look that comes over his face when he just doesn’t get it. There is a wonderful scene in the movie Swingers where Mike (Jon Favreau’s character) tries to impress a waitress in a Las Vegas diner. The menu says, “We serve breakfast any time.” He asks her for an omelet in the Age of Enlightenment. The waitress walks away in disgust and Mike rues having used a time frame that was “over her head,” and wishes he referenced the more commonly known Renaissance. A few minutes later, the waitress returns with his order and says, “Here’s your eggs, Voltaire.”
Okay, so Mike underestimated the woman’s intellectual prowess, but if your date doesn’t understand why this is funny, he’s not smart enough for you.
Beyond your frustration at his not getting cultural references, you will want a man who can express himself as elegantly and as eloquently as you can. Command of the English language is important, and a limited vocabulary, bad grammar, and the inability to construct a proper sentence will drive you crazy. It is comical to watch Meadow Soprano’s reaction to her uneducated boyfriend Jackie Aprile Jr.’s objection when he thinks she is using a Spanish word in their Scrabble game. If your man doesn’t recognize oblique as a proper English word, you won’t think that is at all funny.
While some men might find it adorable that their little wife doesn’t know about high finances, or global perspectives in government and politics, you will not experience making excuses for your husband as in any way adorable. And neither will he. The chances are that he is smart enough to know that he isn’t smart enough for you. Recognizing that you and your friends know things that he doesn’t, he may ask you to buy him a copy of Ulysses or The Fountainhead. But he’ll never actually read them, and probably wouldn’t understand them if he did.
Most men’s egos are fragile. If you can imagine the stress that is associated with your being smarter than he is, just think about what will happen when you outearn him, which, unless you purposefully hold yourself back, you probably will.
• Look for a man who will celebrate and encourage your achievements.
• Look for a man who will not be threatened by your capacity for greatness.
• Beware of marrying a dumb guy for good sex: The sex won’t improve and he’ll never get smarter.