Too Stupid To Live?

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

How did I get to be so stupid to people who supposedly think I’m so smart? My ex-husband of two decades, a dear confidante of 5 years, and now a business partner and friend of 12 years. All treating me as though I were too stupid to live. I guess I’m growing because I’m no longer hurt by their actions: I’m pissed. And I have every right to be.

Working Through Grief

My ex used to tell our daughters how important it was for them to be smart girls and eventually smart women. He would tell them that my intelligence was what attracted him to me, though I swore at the time it was the jeans that were so tight I couldn’t sit down and the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra when we met at a fraternity party. But in hindsight, he was probably right that it was my brain that seduced him. I don’t think he was that interested in my other assets.

I’ve taken the tests and I have an IQ of 150, give or take a point. My lack of short-term memory keeps it that low—I maxed out the spatial analysis portions and everything that translates into extreme creativity and intuition. Sometimes it’s a curse. It’s that wild-ass creativity and intuition that make most people look at me like I’m from some other planet, one astronomers haven’t discovered yet. But my ex liked that I was the smartest girl he knew.

And yet, by the end of my marriage, I was too stupid to light a candle, too stupid to drive in a merge lane, too stupid to take the right kind of vitamin. I still have no idea if he ever knew how insulted I was by the way he told me every minute detail of how to live life.

I think he probably got a kick out of putting me down at times, even if it was subconsciously. If I was the smartest woman he’d known and he could best me, then he was smarter, right? He could feel better about his own self-esteem issues, but at my expense. So I felt hurt and if I dared to let him know I wasn’t stupid, then he was suddenly hurt that I’d spoken to him in an angry tone.

I got a sense of déjà vu earlier this year when a friend who’d always been so supportive suddenly began to treat me like a child when my divorce went through. She questioned every decision I made, from the men in my social life to my children’s school to how I would most likely feel in a particular situation if it should ever occur. All our conversations seemed to be built around my defending my daily actions as if I needed her approval. Our relationship had never been one of parent and child, but my divorce pushed the dynamics in that direction.

One day, I’d had enough. I’d been hurt repeatedly by the way she relegated me to the status of ignorant child. I was growing, learning to stand up for myself. So I told her to stop treating me as if I were stupid. I told her to stop patronizing me.

Her response? She was hurt. My demand for respect had been a “slap in the face” to her after all she’d done for me. She honestly couldn’t see the way she’d taken to treating me. And I couldn’t see how saying, “Whoa! Stop being so condescending to me!” could be so hurtful to her when I was the one getting the “stupid treatment” on a daily basis.

My business partner and long-time friend used the same words today, telling me that when I told her I felt she was patronizing me earlier this year, that it was a “slap in the face.” She spent plenty of time today telling me what she’d done for me, or what she perceived as doing for me—even though I’d already accomplished these things without her and was a bit surprised to find she thought she was responsible for certain good things in my life. Her sudden change in attitude toward me had left me stunned several months ago. I’d thought if I called her down on the change in behavior, then she’d recognize how hurtful she had been to me. I didn’t like to think that she’d intentionally been so disrespectful after we’d worked together so well for so many years, and I confessed to my best friend how hurt I’d been by this colleague’s behavior and how vulnerable I felt in the business deal we were working together. When my other colleagues tried to back me up, the proverbial hit the fan.

Now, this night, I don’t think this colleague has any idea of how condescending she’s been, or how it’s worsened with even more insulting comments when I’ve tried to point out what I find condescending. If she’d only stepped back and considered her words to me and how they sounded…. But she didn’t. It’s a business deal that I will handle professionally, but the friendship was slaughtered when she took credit today for something in my career, something I didn’t need her—or anyone else—for.

Sometimes when you treat someone as if they’re stupid, there’s no taking it back. And there’s no forgetting what was said.

But as I said, I must be growing. Because today when I got the “stupid treatment,” I didn’t react with paralyzing hurt. I felt anger.

Sooner or later, even after all the conditioning from my ex, I’ll stand up for myself on a regular basis. Because if I don’t stand up for myself, then I really am stupid.