Train Wrecked, Woman Blames Brain

A reader alerts me to this Daily Mail article which asks the following question:

I’m single at 50. Why?

The author, one Kate Mulvey, believes it’s because:

Men hate me being brainier than them

Which may be true. However, I suspect there are other factors at play which will become apparent as the article goes on. Let’s take a look.

Three months ago I went to Italy with my then boyfriend, Philip. As we were checking into the hotel, I struck up a conversation with the receptionist in Italian (just one of the five languages I speak). But while I was enjoying myself, chatting away, it became clear that Philip most certainly was not.

Well, were you having a quick chat with a local or showing off? I know the difference because I regularly do both, and if I’m doing the latter I need to make sure I’m impressing the person I’m with, not pissing them off.

He shuffled from foot to foot, muttered something under his breath and rolled his eyes like a stroppy teenager.

Then in the lift he turned on me. ‘I was wondering when you were going to let me join your conversation,’ he snapped. I tried to laugh it off but I knew this was the beginning of yet another argument.

It sounds as though you were showing off, Philip knew it, and didn’t like it.

‘You always have to be the star of the show,’ he continued in our bedroom, as he began to systematically work his way through the mini-bar. Apparently I was argumentative, a know-all and an intellectual snob.

I’m only a few paragraphs in, but I’m already thinking Phil might have been onto something.

What had I done? It should be depressingly obvious. I had dared to dent his fragile male ego. By speaking in a language Philip didn’t know, I had managed to make him – a successful writer, ten years my senior – feel small. How selfish of me to embarrass him in public with my linguistic prowess!

Well, yes. Most sensible men could appreciate the difference between having a quick chat with a local and showing off. I wasn’t there but Philip was, and the body-language would have said it all. It sounds to me as though this woman knows it makes him uncomfortable but went ahead and did it anyway, then made sneering remarks about his “fragile male ego”. Well, we all have an ego and we all have our insecurities. What if Philip had engaged in a lengthy conversation with the hot young waitress with the nice ass, complete with little jokes that made her laugh? Could he complain about Kate’s “fragile female ego” or would he stand accused of being pretty damned rude?

Like so many of the men I’ve dated, it was clear he expected me to play second fiddle to him at all times. It wasn’t the first time we had rowed about such things. One night, we ended up arguing over a BBC4 documentary on the origins of jazz. When he became annoyed that his attempts to outsmart my knowledge on the subject failed, he started singing loudly, to drown me out altogether.

This is a slightly separate issue, but related to the other. The truth is, most men couldn’t care less about a woman’s intellect provided she’s not dumb as a box of rocks. They’d rather date a pretty young waitress than a haggard old professor. The other truth is that women are attracted to a man’s intelligence, very much so. This is why the men of equal intelligence to Kate Marvey were married off long ago, leaving her scraping the metaphorical barrel of relative dumbasses. Not that I think Phil’s a dumbass:

But the pointless fight over the receptionist was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Needless to say, our year-long romance didn’t last long beyond the flight home.

Wise move, Phil.

I was reminded of our contretemps last week, when research in the APA Journal of Personality and Social Psychology confirmed what I’d always suspected – that men simply can’t handle it if a woman outshines them. According to the study, rather than bask in the reflected glory of a partner’s success, men feel worse about themselves.

Yes, which is why it is not a good idea for women to upstage their male partner in public.

‘A lot of men feel threatened if a woman outshines them,’ says Professor Sandi Mann, psychologist and author of Hiding What We Feel and Saying What We Don’t Feel. ‘It harks back to cavemen days, when men had to provide the resources. If a woman is too intelligent, a man subconsciously thinks she’s taking over his role.’

Yes, it’s a normal, natural way to feel – just as women feel threatened by younger, more attractive women.

For me, this is stating the blindingly obvious. I’ve lost count of the times men have rejected or insulted me simply because I was brighter, wittier or cleverer than they are.

So it’s blindingly obvious, yet you put your partner in an uncomfortable position in Italy knowing full well how it would make him feel? That was nice of you.

They have called me ‘intimidating’, ‘scary’, ‘difficult’ and ‘opinionated’. Translated, that means: ‘You are too clever and I don’t like it.’

I expect they also find you rather unpleasant. Not all men mind being with a more intelligent woman, especially if the man is pretty smart himself. Possibly the cleverest person I ever met was a female engineer in the year below me at university, and we dated for about 6 months. She didn’t intimidate me partly because I was perfectly happy with how smart I was, but more importantly she didn’t make the difference an issue in our relationship. If she’d gone out of her way to demonstrate her superior intellect every five minutes, going so far as to embarrass me in public, we’d have split up pretty quickly. Being smart, she knew not to. What excuse this Mulvey woman?

An older male friend – supposedly tired of me dominating dinner-party conversation – even wagged his podgy finger and told me I would never get married because I was too confident and demanding.

And he was right, although I’d bet he never used the word “confident”.

Then there was my dalliance with the criminal lawyer who, whenever we went to a party, criticised my hair, weight and choice of outfit before we set off. He was so terrified I might outshine him socially, he made sure I felt as bad as possible before I’d even got out of the door.

You sound made for each other.

I’m convinced that the reason I’m still booking a table for one instead of settling down with a significant other is not because I’m a year off turning 50, but because men are so threatened by my intelligence.

It’s mainly because you’re turning 50. It’s also because you are quite likely an awful person to be around. Those who are put off solely by your intelligence are robust fellows indeed.

I might have a successful career as an author and broadcaster, but I have never been engaged, let alone married, and my longest relationship lasted just seven years.

She was in a 7-year relationship but never got engaged or married? So much for her being a confident, assertive type. Women with half her IQ points would have told the man to put a ring on it or pack his things within 2 years, tops.

Sometimes I wonder if isn’t all my father’s fault

Aaaaand here come the Daddy Issues.

ever since I could talk, he encouraged me to hold my own in an argument. But little did he know, as he exhorted me to ‘get a good degree’ or add yet another language to my repertoire, he was reducing my chances of getting hitched altogether.

Okay, go on.

As a child, I went to one of Britain’s most academic girls’ schools, Godolphin & Latymer, where I got three top A-levels, then breezed through an Italian and French degree at the University of Kent, getting a 2:1, while keeping up conversational German on the side.

If you’re going to hold up your father’s advice to “get a good degree” as the reason for your lifelong failings with the opposite sex, I’d expect something a bit better than a 2:1 in Italian and French from the University of Kent. I’d also have expected more impressive credentials from someone who thinks their entire problem is being too clever.

I grew into a bright and confident young woman, keen to flex my intellectual muscles and to never let a man get the last word just because of his sex.

So you deliberately set out to put men off?

My bedside table has always buckled beneath the weight of substantial, intellectually challenging books. I devour cultural documentaries and love nothing more than taking another evening class (Spanish, the most recent; philosophy set to be the next).

Which is great, but none of this is the slightest bit interesting to men. It’s the equivalent of a man citing his love of football in a screed about why he’s single.

The backlash against my brainpower began in earnest in my 20s, when I was a struggling writer going out with Sebastian, a high-flying City trader. Initially he loved dating a writer – even (or, perhaps, particularly) a constantly broke one, and he had to rescue me by paying for everything. But as my career and social life suddenly took off, his affection turned to resentment.

My career entailed a round of seminars, high-profile dinners and exciting parties. Sebastian might have made million-pound deals but he couldn’t handle being my ‘plus one’. After three years he told me he’d met someone who ‘needed’ him.

This might be true. Alternatively, he might have found your success made you awfully big-headed and a pain to be around. It might come as a surprise to Ms Mulvey, but not all successful women are hopeless, lonely wrecks.

One boyfriend told my father he hated the way I never used short words, when a lengthy one would do.

So he found you so pretentious he felt the need to mention it to your father?

My boyfriends would speak over me at dinner parties, put me down in public, tell me my books – of which I have published eight – were just stocking-fillers,

This is unfair, given she’s written such weighty tomes as “How to Date a Younger Man: The Cougar’s Guide to Cubhunting” and “1920s Style: How to Get the Look of the Decade”.

In my late 30s, I decided this would be easily remedied by dating older men.

Heh! Yeah, I’m sure the men your own age and younger were just queuing up, weren’t they?

Surely, I thought, an ageing alpha male, secure in his achievements, would not be jealous of his girlfriend’s accomplishments? Sadly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Julian, a handsome 61-year-old lawyer, was a case in point. One night he invited me to meet some of his old friends in Geneva. As I sat there tucking into fondue bourguignonne and making jokes in French, he lashed out, jealous at not being the one getting the laughs.

I find it rather hard to believe this 61-year old alpha-male lawyer was angered by her intelligence.

We broke up soon after and he went on to marry an unthreatening woman with tidy hair and the personality of a wet rag.

I’m glad she’s not bitter. Here’s the photo of her in 2000, aged 31:

Now looks aren’t everything, but if you don’t have ’em, your personality better make up for it.

And that’s the thing. When it comes to love and marriage, I have watched with depressing regularity so many brilliant men choose beautiful but dull women.

Who says they’re dull? You? Because they can’t dominate a dinner table conversation with “the finer points of Ed Miliband taking on the trade unions”?

As a friend of mine said the other week: ‘Kate, you are far more likely to get ahead romantically if you push your cleavage, rather than your opinions, in a man’s face.’

Perhaps she is right. But it’s too late for me to change.

It’s too late for you to be pushing cleavage in their face, too. By about 25 years.

Unlike the canny girls who learnt how to flirt with men from an early age, the brainy ones, like me, were too busy with their books to master the art of flattery. Instead we challenge rather than charm, we control rather than compromise. No wonder men find it hard to like us.

I like the causal assumption that clever women cannot be charming and are incapable of compromise. If you’re a controlling woman who cannot compromise, no man will like you period, and it has nothing to do with your supposed intellect.

I tell myself I shouldn’t have to dumb down my intelligence or omit to mention my achievements just to make myself more attractive.

Maybe try being a bit nicer, and more considerate of the other person? I know a few couples where the woman is smarter than the man, and it works out fine because the woman is, well, nice.

But as I watch a lot of clever women morph into Stepford wives at the merest whiff of testosterone, I wonder whether, by refusing to show any chinks in my intellectual armour, I’m the one who is losing out.

She’s gonna cling to this “I’m too clever for everyone” right until the end, isn’t she?

I was sorely tempted to join the giggly man-pleasers last week as I watched a friend of mine, a 48-year-old, highly educated PR executive, swipe a potential suitor from under my nose with a ‘dumb blonde’ act. While I ribbed and joshed with him, engaging in a battle of equals, she batted her eyelids and told him in a breathy voice how young and attractive he looked. She ended up with a glass of champagne and an invitation to dinner. I stood there glumly nursing an empty glass.

I’m struggling to imagine a sadder scene than two aged women fighting over some bloke who’s probably looking for no more than a quick shag, one playing the slapper and the other desperately trying to show how clever she is.

I reassured myself that I had preserved my dignity. But I couldn’t help but wonder if, once again, my brain might have done too brilliant a job of protecting my heart.

Self-awareness is rarely a strong point among women featured in the Daily Mail, but I think this one breaks all records. She actually has a book out called “Flirting with the Barman: The Big Girl’s Guide to Growing Old Disgracefully”. Yes, really.

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59 thoughts on “Train Wrecked, Woman Blames Brain

  1. “I’ve lost count of the times men have rejected or insulted me simply because I was brighter, wittier or cleverer than they are.”

    Lost count?

    Not that bright then. Should have tried taking her socks off.

  2. She’s obviously pretty fucking stupid. She still hasn’t worked out that men basically want sex, food and praise. Looks (and willingness), cooking ability (and willingness), being nice. 0 out of 3 for her. Arrogant, dumb heifer.

  3. It’s sounds like she’s a female Will Self, but without the come-hither looks.

  4. I was all ready to go, ‘so no man is good enough for her, which is fine, but then she shouldn’t be surprised that she has no man’, right up until I got to the ‘2:1 from the University of Kent’ bit.

    There are plenty of men cleverer than her, which seems to be what she wants, but you just try rocking around the bars of Cambridge thinking that a 2:1 from the University of Kent means you’re clever and see what response you get.

    Anyway, really clever people don’t need to constantly go on about how clever they are.

  5. “Anyway, really clever people don’t need to constantly go on about how clever they are.”
    Precisely. Empty barrels make the most noise.

  6. She’s really clever because she speaks languages she spent four years studying full time at University.

    And Tim’s commentariat of expatriate consultants and engineers who’ve learned one or more under their own steam, in their spare time, on the side, for the lolz, let out a collective belly laugh.

  7. I should clarify the issue isn’t rocking around the bars of Cambridge with a 2:1 from the University of Kent; that’s fine. Nobody will have a problem with that.

    It’s specifically rocking around the bars of Cambridge boasting that you are clever because you have a 2:1 from the University of Kent that will get eyes rolling.

  8. Yes lads

    A 2.1 C*nt from Kenterbury.

    But remember she did ‘breeze through it’ not just struggle to achieve it!

    Even I would be willing to go head-to-head on the IQ stakes there. But maybe I’m just not mouthy enough!

    You paint a lovely picture Tim. I think we can all imagine the reality!

  9. Well, she may not have contributed much in the literature field, but she has provided humanity with a textbook example of the Dunning–Kruger effect in the wild.

    Beautifully fisked, by the way Tim.

  10. Addendum: It looks like our Kate was whinging in the media about being single a decade ago. Back then, she was wearing a fake engagement ring in an attempt to attract suitors…

  11. So given that her whole career is based on being single, does she really want to get married? It seems her entire income would dry up if she did…

    (Or maybe she has secretly been happily married since she was 21, and this grotesque is just an act she puts on for professional purposes. In some ways that would be more believable.)

  12. “she was wearing a fake engagement ring in an attempt to attract suitors…”

    One of my most irritating discoveries as a male was that being married increases the interest women show in you by about 100 fold.

  13. BiG

    “One of my most irritating discoveries as a male was that being married increases the interest women show in you by about 100 fold.”

    Well, of course: women want want other women want.

    As far as I can see, her only evidence for being “intelligent” is that she can “speak” (whatever that means) five languages and, since we know that language ability is only loosely correlated with intelligence, that isn’t really demonstrating anything.

  14. If she had struggled rather than ‘breeze through it’ she might have done better than a 2:1. Stupid and lazy.

  15. “Breezed” through a soft subject at a university founded in 1965, yet still got a 2:1 and not a first……..

    *slow clap*

  16. “One night, we ended up arguing over a BBC4 documentary on the origins of jazz.”

    He: “Jazz is bollocks.”
    She: “No! Jazz is fooking bollocks.”

    Arguments like that erupt often, I believe.

  17. I suspect that, like certain targets of Tim W’s wrath, she’s a) not as clever as she thinks she is, b) very sure of herself, and c) has not had as lucrative a career as she thinks she’s entitled to.

  18. Could someone explain to us non – Brits what a 2:1 means? I’ve trawled through the Harry Potter wiki, but found nothing.

  19. Jonathan here are the grades.
    She achieved upper second. Also going to Kent university is not something one brags about. In polite conversation, when asked which uni you attended, a good reply would be “Only Kent” while rolling to eyes.

    * First-Class Honours (First or 1st)
    * Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1)
    * Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2)
    * Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd)
    * Ordinary degree (Pass)
    * Fail (no degree is awarded)

  20. I’ll bet the receptionist spoke adequate English- most do. In that case she was cutting her boyfriend out of the conversation in front of him. I’ll also bet she made no attempt to translate for him. And she can’t see why he’s upset!
    Someone should tell her that the point of learning languages is to enable communication, not to isolate anyone.
    Plus I know people with six languages and none of them would pull that trick, not even when I’m the only English speaker present.

  21. What a right cow. She’s a rude nasty female – no wonder no men want her!

    So basically she has a bachelor’s degree (undergraduate college degree?) with honors in two foreign languages and she puts weighty tomes that look “intellectual” on her nightstand and that makes her smarter than everybody else? Most people have a college degree now, and you can get honors in an easy subject if you’re halfway clever and pay attention.

    I wonder what she thinks of us female engineers and scientists – is she smarter than us too, or are we equals?

    I can talk shop if the man is in a similar field, football or baseball if he isn’t, batting eyelashes is silly, but basic consideration for the other person is a given. She doesn’t even have that down! Good grief.

    Great job fisking that article Tim – I’m glad you read it so I didn’t have to!

  22. She’s so clever that she doesn’t realise she wrote a whole article demonstrating that she’s not clever at all.

    That’s an achievement of sorts.

    I also note that “Professor” Sandi Mann (if there is such a person, I cannot be arsed to google) is also mentioned in the daily mail article she wrote back in 2008.

  23. Someone has inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on this woman a long time ago by persuading her she was extraordinarily smart. This should be a case for human rights organizations.

  24. In the article from 10 years back they pictured a gorgeous model instead of her, which was understandable once you’ve seen Kate Mulvey, but a bit pointless seeing as that model wouldn’t have needed a fake ring.

  25. She sounds like a right c*nt, and given the article is strewn with references to how allegedly clever she is, a very insecure one.

    One night, we ended up arguing over a BBC4 documentary on the origins of jazz.

    Genuine lol.

    When he became annoyed that his attempts to outsmart my knowledge on the subject failed, he started singing loudly, to drown me out altogether.

    And another! Comedy gold.

    What I don’t get is that the men stick it out for at least a year. Surely they discovered what she was like within 24 hours?

  26. Her longest relationship was seven years, and she has nothing to show for it?

    My longest relationship is 5½ years (and counting), with two kids so far. If she’d found someone worthy of seven years of her time, why on Earth wouldn’t she make an effort to put it on a more concrete footing by either getting married or getting knocked up (preferably both)?

  27. Thanks for the 2:1 Grades explanation. Would never have figured that out on my own 🙂

  28. and my longest relationship lasted just seven years.

    And then the batteries died…

  29. More seriously, she has invested her whole concept of self-worth into her intelligence when she really isn’t much brighter than anyone else. A 2:1 from a div 3 university enabling her to speak two foreign languages. Who hoo, tremble in awe, peons. I can manage in three foreign languages without a degree in any of them, and I know plenty who can do so in four to seven. Hell, my last job was in Africa where plenty of otherwise barely literate people could speak English, French, Arabic and one or more tribal languages. More to the point, I’m sure all her unfortunate boyfriends had their own areas of expertise but took care not to bore the pants off her talking about financial options or chemical engineering or ancient history or whatever their degrees were in.

  30. Ok, The article was funny enough until I hit that picture and nearly blew my tea all over the keyboard laughing.

    I know a few of these types. I call them myna birds. They latch onto everything you say, and start squawking how it applies to them or their better at it. The worst of them start talking louder and faster as they are ignored.

    No male likes to compare dick sizes with a woman.

    Usually, they reel in some poor slob who stays quiet and looks at the floor. So she tormented some poor slob for seven years and never sealed the deal. Lucky dude.

  31. Usually, they reel in some poor slob who stays quiet and looks at the floor. So she tormented some poor slob for seven years and never sealed the deal. Lucky dude.

    I know the type. They have to find exactly the right person who gets off from being pussy whipped in the particular manner in which the whipping occurs.

    Sometimes this gentleman is in awe of the person’s intellect (although a 2:1 from “only” Kent would require some uneducated chap who left school at 16 for said awe to be awakened), some just like being pushed around.

    But with the entitlement, educational attainment and daddy issues, she’d have to have got very lucky…

  32. You have to admit the Waily Fail is excellent at trolling these people. Come and make yourself look like the total idiot you are in our pages. We’ll even pay you £40 for the privilege!

  33. “Someone has inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on this woman a long time ago by persuading her she was extraordinarily smart.”

    The education system does this to teenage girls and young women nowadays, constantly telling them how wonderful they are, and clever, and destined for great things. A good friend of mine has a teenage daughter who has just gone to Uni and I’ve heard all the stories about her and her mates, and how bright they all are, and how they are all going to change the world etc. There’s one in particular who is very full of herself, a ‘feminist’ aged 18, who rather amusingly got a bit of egg on her face when the A level results came out, and instead of the grades she needed to get into the Cambridge college she assumed was her intellectual level, ended up struggling to get a place in Bristol. Oh the shame! Perhaps it’ll be the slap in the face she needs to become a more rounded human being and be a bit more realistic about her actual brain power.

  34. In my experience, the bigger a jerk someone is, the more they are convinced that they are superior individual. Our brains protect us from harsh truths and so assholes are convinced they saintly.

  35. I like clever women, and my main reason for ditching them was they weren’t clever enough.

    My wife, of 21 years, is much clever than me. It’s one of the things I most like about her.

    She’s decent enough at languages too.

    Some men do like smart women.

  36. “It’s too late for you to be pushing cleavage in their face, too. By about 25 years.”

    I can’t get over the picture. Saying she’s ordinary would be gracious. I”m sure now, matters are worse. She probably had a chance at a decent dude in her 20s, as most women do, but blew it.

    Now she reminds me of many an obnoxious hausfrau I run into from time to time.

    To some extent the culture and education establishment shortchange women. Some have way too extreme amounts of self-esteem. And we really need to tell them if they want kids, or a prayer of getting married and having kids the time to do that is in your 20s. There was a woman journalist the wrote something along those lines a year or so ago and was vilified.

    I’m in my mid 50s. My toleration for bullshit is almost non existent. I have a few divorced friends that are 40s and 50s and they are similar. All of them are fishing in the late 20s early 30s water for women. This one they’d maybe take out once or twice if they had nothing better going on. Although they probably would give her a wide berth.

  37. Tonight the part of Kate’s father, who has never been satisfied with any of her accomplishments, will be played by every man Kate has ever dated. She’ll show him.

  38. The problem with this woman is not that she’s cleverer than every bloke she dates. It’s purely and simply that no one likes a smartarse.

    I’ve a good female friend who is probably ten to fifteen points clear of me in IQ (and I’m not particularly stupid). Thing is, we’re really good friends without this being even slightly an issue. While she could rub my face in it, she doesn’t (unless we are playing board games, when it’s all out war) – and actually like most bright people she’s pretty modest. I only found out she had a Cambridge doctorate in a science after we’d been friends for a couple of years.

    I can’t imagine that the women who wrote this piece would be much fun to play board games with, never mind anything else, (especially if by some fluke she lost) and I bet you’ve not finished your first drink on the first date before hearing all about her 2:1.

    And arguing about the origins of Jazz ffs – that’s not even anything to do with brain power – that’s more like a test of pub quizz trivia (which in my experience is very loosely correlated to intelligence).

  39. Anyway, really clever people don’t need to constantly go on about how clever they are.

    Indeed. The girl I dated in university refused to admit she was clever if someone told her she was, and she never, ever alluded to it herself.

  40. And Tim’s commentariat of expatriate consultants and engineers who’ve learned one or more under their own steam, in their spare time, on the side, for the lolz, let out a collective belly laugh.

    Indeed.

    Which reminds me of the time when I wanted to say something nasty to a translator, who had learned all three of her languages as a child, i.e. none of them had come through applying herself as an adult or adolescent. I pointed out that I work with many people who are fluent in three languages, but they also have engineering degrees.

  41. “One of my most irritating discoveries as a male was that being married increases the interest women show in you by about 100 fold.”

    Yup.

    Well, of course: women want want other women want.

    Another yup. A wedding ring is a stamp of approval. Conversely, nothing puts a woman off like a man who no other woman will touch. Part of the reason why dating is so hard for women after 30 or 35 is because their dating pool is filled with men no other woman wanted.

  42. As far as I can see, her only evidence for being “intelligent” is that she can “speak” (whatever that means) five languages and, since we know that language ability is only loosely correlated with intelligence, that isn’t really demonstrating anything.

    Indeed, I once totally mistook a rather dim Lithuanian for being bright because she somehow spoke brilliant English (much better than most Lithuanians, and she’d never lived abroad). And it’s not like Italian and French are 1. particularly difficult and 2. very different from one another. If she could speak fluent Japanese and Turkish, for example, well that would be worth bragging about.

  43. It’s purely and simply that no one likes a smartarse.

    Unless they write a blog, it seems. Ahem.

  44. Come to think of it;

    Why no degrees given as 1:2, or to put it another way, what is it that is separated by the colon?

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