Dear E. Jean: My boyfriend is shocked when I don’t know a seventeenth-century historical event or an eighteenth-century philosopher. He sometimes belittles my taste in books and movies. Other times he simply outshines me. We both took standardized tests for law school, for example, and he scored far better. He also landed a more lucrative job than I did upon graduating.
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We’ve been dating for a year. Since we met in college and moved to New York—the occasions I mentioned excepted—our relationship has been wonderful, respectful, and loving. Yet I’m feeling a lack of confidence in my intelligence and accomplishments. Is it rational to feel this insecure? Or is my behavior petty? —Who Is Spinoza, Again?
Spinoza, My Sublime Woman: Of course your “behavior” is “petty.” My God! Whose wouldn’t be? I, myself, am petty enough to bring the Advice Columnist’s Curse down upon your boyfriend: “Belittles” your taste, does he? Fie! Fie! May his jaws lock when he mocks your books! May his bowels loosen when he hoots at your choix de films! May his nose run when he speaks to the boss at his “lucrative job” and finds he has no monogrammed hankie!
You know 10 times more about certain topics than he knows (and 20 times more than I do—I looked you up, Miss Ivy League). The secret to gaining equal footing is to control the topics you talk about. Next time the lad is shocked that you don’t grok one of his references, blast his frontal lobes with Mary Wollstonecraft or Artemisia Gentileschi. The insufferable twit only flits like a butterfly (and you only crawl at his feet like a caterpillar) because he controls a larger number of topics and you’re a tad too concerned about appearing intelligent. Don’t be afraid of losing your dignity, and jump on him! Your confidence will come roaring in like a polar bear!