I came here for the weekend to visit a childhood friend. We weren’t the closest friends growing up in our blue collar south jersey small town, but when there are one hundred students per class, you get to know just about everyone fairly well. My senior year I moved to Florida, for a variety of reasons I’ve mentioned before. I reconnected with this friend about 3 or 4 years ago, and he’s been asking me to come visit ever since. Not many people make it out of our hometown, so you notice when someone does. This particular friend has had a very successful career in the federal government for his age. He’s been the direct assistant to senators, worked in the secret service, for the homeland security council, the nuclear security council, for the secretary of state, and a variety of other high profile politicians and government officials.
Many of my Vanderbilt peers also moved to DC. The concentration of energy and ambition here is overwhelmingly evident. Everyone works for a high powered company or the federal government, and makes very good money for their age.
I’ve noticed, though, that there aren’t very many “cool” or “attractive” people in DC, compared to popular mainstream definitions of the word. It seems like all the intellectual or smart kids are recruited here. All the geeks that had to work and study hard, cause that was all they had going for them. Not looks. Not brawn. Just smarts. Which is fine.
This brings me to another revelation I often have from time to time. I’ve found that many people don’t know what to do with me when they meet me. Before we exchange words, they peg me for a douche bag or a meat head. I’m very muscular and fit, and I can objectively say I’m attractive by most standards. I curate my appearance, making sure I appear clean cut, put together, hygienic, and fashionable. But I’m intelligent, and I value ideas, and hard work, and intellectual activities and pursuits, dichotomies that almost seem inherently incompatible. (I think I relish in paradox)
People occupying positions or jobs and careers requiring a higher level of intelligence and smarts usually were, generally speaking, never the most popular, charismatic, attractive, or athletic. They don’t care about these things, and I think that’s awesome. But I find that they bind together. Scientists hire scientists that share similar qualities they themselves admire. They are attracted to people who possess qualities they possess.
When I enter the picture, it’s almost like they don’t know what do to with me. There is an initial level of intimidation. An almost, you can’t be apart of this group because you’re too “attractive” or “charismatic”. Or “you’re not one of us”.
I’ve actually even heard this in job interviews. I’ve applied for positions otherwise reserved for geeks and intellectuals, and the interviewer would say, “you have an impressive resume, a great education and good work experience, and I have no doubt you would do well in this position, but you have great charisma and people skills. I think you should be applying for jobs in sales or project management. Something client facing, where you work with people.” I have heard this more than a couple times, and I find it almost offensive. It reminds me that when applying for certain technical jobs, I should probably tone down my charm and charisma, and embody the qualities of a person they might be looking for: quiet, reflective, calculated, reserved, and the like.
But it’s the very fact that they assume that because I can smile, and generate conversation, and build instant rapport, that someone I wouldn’t be a good fit for the position of a data architect, or an implementation specialist, or a financial analyst.
Anyway. What I’m highlighting is that people are tribal, and it’s like the geeks keep to themselves. They stereotype, like we all do, and unconsciously maintain an insular working group.
I’m probably completely wrong, and other thinking things, of course. Probably being incredibly egotistical, or egocentric, and these people could care less.
But I don’t think I am. It’d be different if people (girls I date, colleagues I meet, potential employers, friends of friends) didn’t constantly tell me how surprised they were that I was intelligent and thoughtful and cultured and well read, and how they thought I was a douchebag until they started talking to me. And it’s like… really? I probably need to wear more argyle, corduroy blazers, and loser fitting clothes, and grow a beard out.
But why the hell wouldn’t I leverage what I’ve been blessed with? We are visual creatures. We are drawn to ideals that typify health and success and beauty, all of which are synonymous with goodness. In this culture anyway.
Why not be a whole human, if possible?