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Sep 19 2013

The loneliness of the Malcolm Gladwell scholar

The Onion reports on a guy who’s just too intelligent for the women he dates.

MILWAUKEE—Describing his mind as both “a blessing and a curse,” local man Benjamin Walker, 27, told reporters Thursday that his intellect was probably just too intimidating for most women to engage with romantically.

“I’m a very, very smart guy, and I guess most women are pretty scared off by that, you know?” said Walker, confirming that women often seem extremely uncomfortable and agitated around him, most likely because of how cultured and well-read he is. “After I’ve been speaking to a girl for just a few minutes, she’ll usually start to get this look in her eyes like she wants to bolt and I can just tell that she’s feeling so intellectually inferior that it’s impossible for her to continue with the conversation.”

Poor thing. She probably just wants to talk about shoes or weddings or kittens.

According to the Milwaukee resident, whenever he is talking to a young woman and begins to expound at length on one of the many topics he is well versed in—such as Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers or the British graffiti artist Banksy—she begins to appear highly overwhelmed by his mental capacity and quickly grows visibly restless and distant.

The 27-year-old, who graduated from Syracuse University in 2007, told reporters that he subscribes to The New Yorker magazine and keeps up with the news on a daily basis—all facts that Walker said seem to persistently leave the opposite sex speechless when he inserts them into conversation.

Ultimately, however, Walker said there was only so much he could do to lower his cognitive standards to another’s level.

“Recently, for example, I talked to this girl at a bar for half an hour about Radiohead—quoting lyrics and telling her about how the band went in a new musical direction with [their 2000 album]Kid A—you know, really making it easy for her to understand,” Walker said. “Things were going great, and I was saying a lot of very interesting stuff, but when I tried to call her a few days later, she never picked up or returned my calls.”

He now lives full-time on Twitter and has become much more resigned to his fate.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    Maureen Brian

    I hesitate to suggest this but could it be that the guy is just plain boring?

    He could, of course, meet a woman in a bar and discuss what she wanted to talk about. Too obvious? Then he’s not as bright as he thinks he is, poor lad.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    (Clearly the Onion isn’t a big thing in Yorks yet – it’s a satire site, Maureen. These days I always say “The Onion” right up front because otherwise people are fooled and then they get mad at me!)

  3. 3
    Ace of Sevens

    I think I did that when I was 23 or so.

  4. 4
    Al Dente

    This may be an Onion article but I have exactly the same problem. I start discussing topics of interest, like Fritz Fischer’s theory about the origin of World War I* or that Population III stars must have existed.** I just barely get started on these matters when peoples’ eyes glaze over and they start edging away from me. The gender or sexual orientation of my conversational partner doesn’t appear to have a bearing on their reaction to me. I don’t know what it is that causes this effect on people. I bathe regularly, use antiperspirants, and put on clean clothes daily. My oral hygiene is good. It must be something in other people which makes them behave this way whenever I try to have a friendly yet informative conversation. You’d think people had no interest in why the Southern Pacific Railroad used “cab-forward” steam locomotives or that the US military in World War II used only two specific aircraft engines in over 90% of their combat aircraft.******

    *Fischer argued that Germany had deliberately instigated World War I in an attempt to subjugate Russia before it became too power to conquer.

    **Population III stars are a hypothetical extinct population of extremely massive and hot stars with virtually no surface metals***, except for a small quantity of metals formed in the Big Bang, such as lithium-7. Their existence is proposed to account for the fact that heavy elements, which could not have been created in the Big Bang, are observed in quasar emission spectra.

    ***In astronomy, a metal is any element other than hydrogen or helium. Thus non-metals such as the noble gasses***** (other than helium) are considered metals.

    ****These were the Wright Cyclone and the Pratt & Whitney Wasp, both air cooled engines . The Allison V-1710 liquid cooled V12, used in the P-38 Lightning and the P-51A Mustang, was an unsatisfactory engine. The reason why the P-51 became a successful fighter was the British put the Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 engine into the P-51. The Merlin was the engine used in Spitfire and Hurricane fighters.

    *****The noble gases are helium, neon, argon, krypton****** and xenon. These are a group of monatomic chemical elements with low chemical reactivity.

    ******Krypton is not the same as the legendary kryptonite which is so harmful to Superman. Krypton gas appears to have no effect on him.

  5. 5
    Al Dente

    I apologize for my post #4. I neglected to list radon as a noble gas and I completely forgot to explain why the Southern Pacific used cab-forwards. But it’s too late now. I know your eyes have all glazed over and you’re edging away from me.

  6. 6
    Eamon Knight

    @4, 5: Thx for the thing on Pop III stars (yeah, and I knew about the astro definition of “metals”). And the fact that British engineering fixed a Yankee fuck-up and helped win the war.

    But damn you! I want to know why the Espee used cab-forwards!

    (OK: Where else in the world would you find someone else who was interested in all those things?)

  7. 7
    Stacy

    It’s not just men. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (a book I love, despite all the theological language) Annie Dillard tells about trying to talk to people at parties about insect mouth-parts or some such (she wasn’t an entomologist, just had a layperson’s interest.) “The poor wretch flees. I’m not making small talk, I’m trying to change his life.”

  8. 8
    Stacy

    (I know the joke is that the guy’s full of himself. But still.)

  9. 9
    oursally

    Al dente – it interests me – especially the aircraft engines – would you like to meet for dinner…?

  10. 10
    medivh

    @Eamon, #6:
    I’d imagine that it’s because cab-forwards give greater visibility on track obstructions. I know my own local railroad has phased out engines that can be used in cab-rearward configurations in preference to double-ended engines for pretty much this reason.

  11. 11
    chrislawson

    Al Dente,

    There are plenty of science fairs, air shows, museums, and so on that are always looking for volunteers and you may find that people will actually seek you out to have those conversations.

  12. 12
    pneumo

    Humor aside, there actually is a difference between a discussion and a lecture.

    I’m looking at you, Al Dente.

  13. 13
    Argle Bargle

    Oh! Oh! Oh! I know why the Esspee used cab forwards. The Southern Pacific had to cross a couple of mountain ranges like the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas and there were a lot of tunnels, some of them quite long, on the tracks. The usual steam locomotive layout had the boiler and engine exhausts in the front of the locomotive and the crew in the rear. In tunnels the crew would be breathing exhaust gasses and asphyxiation was a concern. So the cab forwards reversed the layout putting the cab with the crew in front and the smoke stack in the rear. The crew could breathe fresh air and dying was averted. The SP’s locomotives were oil fired rather than coal fired so bringing fuel to the firebox in the cab was easy, just run a pipe from the tender.

    Al Dente, your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  14. 14
    sailor1031

    …and you may find that people will actually seek you out to have those conversations.

    Yes, but would you want to talk to them?

  15. 15
    angharad

    Sometimes, when you tell people you’re a theoretical physicist, they run away even before you start talking about it…

  16. 16
    ttch

    Comedian Alan King was once on Carson’s Tonight Show talking about how he forgot to take a book with him on a long-distance flight but not being worried because he could talk to anybody about anything. So after takeoff he asked his seat-mate what he did for a living. “I manufacture ball bearings,” was the response. King looked defeated and got a laugh.

    Me, I’d want to know about self-lubricating ball bearings. I just checked and the wiki article on ball bearings doesn’t mention them.

  17. 17
    iknklast

    Sometimes, when you tell people you’re a theoretical physicist, they run away even before you start talking about it

    Maybe I should try that. When they find out I’m an environmental scientist, they want to talk. But they want to tell me stuff I should know (if it’s really relevant, I already know it, because I keep up with my field, duh. Much of it is new age nonsense and they get louder and louder until I get a headache and leave). I’ll tell them I’m a pathogenic microbiologist – by the time they figure out what that is, I can be halfway to the refreshment table.

  18. 18
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    When I was younger, I tended to get ambushed by men like the lecturer in the article. I think I’ve mostly gotten better at giving withering looks since I hit my mid-late 20s.

  19. 19
    moarscienceplz

    And the fact that British engineering fixed a Yankee fuck-up and helped win the war.

    Ooooh, British engineering , well, laa-dee-daa, isn’t that special? You’d think the British had invented the Industrial Revolution, or something.
    Oh, wait…

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