Being an intellectual

When I was in high school I decided to be an intellectual. I got together with a group of social outcasts and we distinguished ourselves from the plebeians in our classes by dressing in black from head to toe. We called anyone we thought was intellectually inferior to us “cretins” (which we pronounced “CREH-tins”). We argued loudly with our teachers, especially in English class. We never even noticed that most of our teachers found us amusing.

Then I went off to Boston University. I was quite sure that an intellectual like me would be welcomed with open arms. But when I got there, to my great disappointment and irritation, I was placed in an English class full of “crehtins.” Even though I was just a lowly freshman, I proudly walked into the office of the head of the English department and demanded to be moved to a better class. He took out my records and said, “But you scored poorly on your college entrance exams.” I wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I retorted, “OK, how about my straight A’s in English all through high school? Doesn’t anybody even bother to look at that?” He smiled and said, “All right, I’ll see what I can do.” Within a few days I was in an advanced placement English course.

Then, since I was feeling pretty invincible, I joined the staff of the college poetry magazine, “Patterns.” All of the staff members were upper classmen, but I didn’t feel intimidated. After all, I was an intellectual. Our job was to get together and read poetry submissions to the magazine. After a few of these meetings, I realized that I was dealing with an extremely intelligent, but quite haughty, supercilious, critical, and even nasty bunch of people. I was tempted to feel inferior, as though my opinion didn’t count, but I refused and tried to act the same way they did.

In fact, I decided one day, since I wrote poetry myself, that I would submit a poem to “Patterns” under a pseudonym. I thought it was a good poem, and I was pretty sure it would be accepted, even by this uber-critical bunch. Imagine my chagrin when they literally ripped my work to shreds at the next meeting. They were unbelievably sarcastic and cutting and they even laughed and poked fun at my poem! Of course I couldn’t let on how humiliated I felt, and I also couldn’t just sit there silently, so I weakly tried to defend the poem. They all turned on me in utter scorn. “Are you KIDDING? This is GARBAGE!”

After that, I decided I was tired of being a hot shot intellectual. I resigned from the “Patterns” judging staff and decided to do something that was much more in line with who I really was. I designed a linoleum block cover for the next issue of the magazine, with a great sense of relief.



Filed under my history

10 responses to “Being an intellectual

  1. Libby

    Who were the true “cretins” in this story?

  2. I can’t remember exactly, but they were the popular ones, of course!

  3. Ahahaha!!! This is hilarious!

  4. I see that you “got” it…haha!

  5. Jess L.

    That linoleum block really wowed me! Yet another talent I didn’t know abouit. My high school was very small, and so we all knew each other well enough to be ourselves and try different things. Never realized the value of that until I got older.Later, I could always “pass” with both the quasi-intellectuals and the others, but somehow I felt like I was reading my lines!

  6. I know the feeling!
    As for the linoleum block…over the years I’ve discovered that a lot of musicians also like to do “art” of one sort or another. I wish I’d kept it up. I used to oil paint and draw, but don’t seem to have the time any more.

  7. geostrong

    Nice, Amy, and laugh-out-loud funny! I sympathize with Jess L, I went to a small high school, so when I chose to be an intellectual, I was in a group of just one. I showed my disdain for the masses by wearing the same Brahms sweatshirt every day for over a month, followed by a couple of weeks in a three-piece corduroy suit…nobody cared, and that taught me quite a bit. So, like Jess, I just kind of flowed around among the different groups in school, somehow watching it all, including myself, sometimes from overhead, mostly from offstage on the left.

  8. awriterweavesatale

    Well being an intellectual is ok. you can be one without being a “hot head”:) And you were absolutely right to demand to be put in a more advanced English clas — I still think the SATs etc are a ridiculous way to measure anyone’s potential. I too scored poorly. I was always a weak test taker. But I got all As on those papers!

  9. Totally agree about the SATs, and I also have a lot of other issues with today’s educational system…don’t get me started!

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