Men Are Put Off By My Intellect

I’m a nerd, and it’s always hindered me when it comes to dating. I’m happy with what I’ve done and I’ve spent most of my life in school; I have two master’s degrees and am finishing up my Ph.D. in the next 1-2 years, and I’m 28. And I’m planning to spend the rest of my life in academia. I know I sound like a snob, but I’m not. I’m not an elitist and don’t think I’m any better than anybody else; but men tend to either get intimidated by me, or think I must be unattainable, aloof, or snobby because of my intelligence.

I don’t talk about work all the time, and I don’t expect the men I’m with to have the same level of education, nor do I think it’s essential or a marker of someone’s worth; it was simply what was most enjoyable for me personally.

I have a baby face and I’m really short, so I look way younger than I am, and I work on my appearance a lot because I’ve always felt deeply insecure about being too much of a bookworm. So while I do get asked out a lot/men show interest, online and elsewhere, the problem is that the men who are interested in me are looking at me as a blonde 21-year-old, basically a kid-which means they are the type who want to have fun with, well, a blonde 21-year-old. That means I don’t get taken seriously at all at first, and then they get freaked out by my multiple degrees (basically, then I get taken way TOO seriously).

I don’t know how to find a balance; I’ve tried to date older men, to look older, to tone down my intelligence, to play it up… I’m exhausted and I just want to be myself and have someone appreciate my education and intelligence/intellectual passions without being intimidated by them. I’ve been broken up with and have broken up with people because they outright told me (or, on a couple of occasions, I could tell that they thought) that I was ‘too smart’ and ‘too intense’ and ‘they felt small compared to me’ or ‘couldn’t measure up’ (exact quote). I like dominant, masculine men and I have a naturally submissive, feminine personality; in other words, I definitely don’t come off too strong or forward (it may be the opposite). But those kinds of men (take-charge men, that is) don’t usually appreciate one side of me, and the more artistic, egalitarian guys tend to only appreciate my intelligence and accomplishments and not me as a woman in a traditional sense. I’m not sure how to integrate the different sides of myself and find someone else who gets it, too. How can I be more approachable? Or, if nothing else, what on earth is my actual problem?

Mel

Well-written email, Mel. Allow me to key in on a handful of sentences where I think your answer subtly reveals itself.

    1. I don’t know how to find a balance; I’ve tried to date older men, to look older, to tone down my intelligence, to play it up…,

You usually won’t hear me saying this here, but did it occur to you that you don’t have to do anything different? Did it occur to you that attempting to contort yourself to be more appealing may be part of the problem? Did it occur to you that you are just fine as you are and that it may take a few years for guys your age to catch up with you? All of these are just as viable as the theories you’re throwing around.

You’d be better off being a little more zen about it than trying to solve an equation that doesn’t actually have an answer.

Believe me: I’m a believer in the definition of insanity, and looking in the mirror, and trying new ways when the old ways aren’t getting results. But sometimes, you can do the very best you can, and still fall short. That’s life. I would think you’d be better off being a little more zen about it than trying to solve an equation that doesn’t actually have an answer.

    2. “Men tend to either get intimidated by me, or think I must be unattainable, aloof, or snobby because of my intelligence.”

I’ve written about this a bunch, but WHO CARES about those men?

Let’s say 75% of men are intimidated by you. That leaves 25% of men as your dating pool. Choose from among them.

To me, it’s no different than, hypothetically, an evangelical Christian woman who wouldn’t date me because I’m a Jewish atheist. Fine. I don’t want a partner who thinks I’m going to hell anyway. You don’t want a partner who is intimidated by you and makes false assumptions about you. So stop worrying about them.

    3. “The problem is that the men who are interested in me are looking at me as a blonde 21-year-old, basically a kid-which means they are the type who want to have fun with, well, a blonde 21-year-old.”

An interesting observation, but ultimately, a high-class problem. I suppose you can dress more “adult,” you can lie about your age online and make yourself older, you can start hanging out at AARP rallies, but really, you shouldn’t have to.

If you’re petite and youthful looking, that will serve you well for the rest of your life. And I think that’s one of the only blind spots you have, my friend. You are only 28. You’ve been out of college for 7 years and spent most of it in the library. There is a LONG time ahead of you to figure out who you’re going to marry.

Instead of fishing for the right type of guy, how about you try on a whole bunch of different guys to see how they fit.

Think of yourself at 21. That’s the same as 35 year old you looking back on 28 year old you. You follow? There’s a lot more trial and error in your future. And based on your last paragraph, you’re going to need it:

    4. I’ve been broken up with and have broken up with people because they outright told me (or, on a couple of occasions, I could tell that they thought) that I was ‘too smart’ and ‘too intense’ and ‘they felt small compared to me’ or ‘couldn’t measure up’ (exact quote). I like dominant, masculine men and I have a naturally submissive, feminine personality; in other words, I definitely don’t come off too strong or forward (it may be the opposite). But those kinds of men (take-charge men, that is) don’t usually appreciate one side of me, and the more artistic, egalitarian guys tend to only appreciate my intelligence and accomplishments and not me as a woman in a traditional sense.

You’ve just outlined the conundrum of smart, strong, successful women who want men who are even more impressive than they are. But instead of fishing for the right type of guy, how about you try on a whole bunch of different guys to see how they fit. You may discover – as most of my clients do – that what you’re attracted to and what is the best fit for you are two different things. Or maybe not. Point is that you need a guy who gets you, appreciates you, is not intimidated by you, is masculine enough for you to be attracted, and feminine enough to be artistic and egalitarian… you can see why, with your limited experience and fine-tuned tastes, it may be hard to find Mr. Right. Keep reading here and email me in a few years and I think you’ll be singing a different tune.