Are You Too Smart to Date?

March 3, 2009

winnie-the-pooh“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words, but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”

Winnie the Pooh



As the author of  The Tao of Dating: The Thinking Man’s Enlightened Guide to Success with Women, Dr. Alex Benzer is primarily known as a guy who helps other guys get women. Here at Hooking Up Smart, that is the last thing we’re losing sleep over, so ordinarily I wouldn’t be particularly tuned in to what he has to say. Today, though, he has a very interesting article in the Huffington Post: “Why the Smartest People Have the Toughest Time Dating.” He knows about smart: he has a bachelor’s from Harvard, an MD from the University of California at San Diego, and a Masters in Philosophy from Cambridge University. And you, dear readers, know about smart, because you are highly intelligent and thoughtful human beings, every one of you.

Here’s what he has to say about his background and motivation for writing about dating:

“The writing of the books was precipitated by the endemic dating woes on the Harvard campus, as I observed them as an advisor and earlier, indulged in them as a student.

Those kids graduate and pretty much continue to have the same dating woes — only now with fewer single people around who happen to live in the same building and share meals with them every day. So if they had challenges then, it gets about 1000 times worse once they’re tossed from the warm womb of their alma mater.

From my observations, the following dating challenges seem to be common to most smart people. In fact, the smarter you are, the more clueless you will be, and the more problems you’re going to have in your dating life.”

He are the dating challenges he believes are common to most smart people. I’ve included excerpts from the article, along with my own commentary:

1. Smart people spent more time on achievements than on relationships when growing up.

“Smart kids usually come from smart families…and smart families are usually achievement-oriented. [But] time spent studying, doing homework, and practicing the violin is time not spent doing other things — like chasing boys or girls, which turns out is fairly instrumental in making you a well-rounded human. I’ve been co-hosting young alumni events for name-brand schools for long enough to know that these kids come out a little lopsided (which sounds so much better than ‘socially awkward’, don’t you think?”

Many college students say they are not interested in having a relationship because of the time commitment. They are under significant pressure to deliver the goods to their boomer parents, and to meet the high demands they place on themselves. I’m not sure young people are “lopsided” as much as they are burdened by high expectations.  

I do think that young people today grow up without enough time to daydream. Afternoons spent lying on my teenage bed contemplating my place in the universe were not wasted. They helped me to figure out who I was and what I wanted to become. 

Smart kids haven’t given up on having fun, though. There are plenty of kids at even the most selective colleges who are finding plenty of time to party, drink and hook up. Maybe that’s all they feel they have time for. 

2. Smart people feel that they’re entitled to love because of their achievements.

“For most of their lives, smart people inhabit a seemingly meritocratic universe: if they work hard, they get good results. Good results mean kudos, strokes, positive reinforcement, respect from peers, love from parents.

So it only makes sense that in the romantic arena, it should work the same way. Right? The more stuff I do, the more accomplishments and awards I have, the more girls (or boys) will like me. Right? Please say I’m right, because I’ve spent a LOT of time and energy accumulating this mental jewelry, and I’m going to be really bummed if you tell me it’s not going to get me laid. 

Here’s the thing: your romantic success has nothing to do with your mental jewelry and everything to do with how you make the other person feel. In other words, you need to earn love (or at least lust). Sadly, no mom, dad or professor teaches us about the power of the well-placed compliment (or put-down), giving attention but not too much attention, being caring without being needy.”

I don’t get the sense that smart people feel entitled to relationships. If anything, I think smart young people feel insecure socially about being brainy. They understand fully that they have made studies a priority, and they doubt whether they have the game to get the guy, or girl.

I do agree that the subtleties of romance that have been lost. The art of flirting should not include grinding your pelvis up against someone’s booty. Everyone seems so anxious to cut to the chase, I worry that they’re not enjoying the ride enough. No wonder The Rules and The Game have been such big sellers. Everyone wants results fast. No one wants to waste precious time. 

With so little practice, knowing how to respond with an appropriate degree of interest is also something both girls and guys have difficulty figuring out. Guys are faced with the nice boy/bad boy dilemma, while girls attempt to straddle the line between being needy and indifferent. The result is a lot of role-playing, and far too little real interaction.

3. You don’t feel like a fully-realized sexual being, and therefore don’t act like one.

“Attracting a partner is all about the dance of polarity. Energy flows between positive and negative electrodes, anode and cathode, magnetic north and south. Unless you actually convey femininity as a woman or masculinity as a man, you’re not going to attract a suitable companion of the opposite sex.

Part of the issue is this: when all of your personal energy is concentrated in the head, it never gets a chance to trickle down to the heart, or, god forbid, the groin. By virtue of being born of the union of male and female, yang and yin, you are a sexual being. Deal with it. Now do what you need to do to perpetuate the race already. Use what mama amoeba gave you.”

We are programmed to engage in all kinds of wonderful subtle behaviors to indicate interest in each other. Human beings have the capacity to send and receive very complicated signals in the ritual of coming together. Why should we behave like a pack of wolves when we have been granted the capacity for complex seduction and surrender? The brain is the most important sex organ by far; sex should be better for smart people.

4. You’re exceptionally talented at getting in the way of your own romantic success.

“Here’s an incontrovertible fact: every one of your ancestors survived to reproductive age and got it on at least once with a member of the opposite sex. All the way back to Homo erectus…..maybe when you’re really sloshed at a party and your whole frontal lobe is on vacation in the outer rings of Saturn, you’ve noticed that your lizard brain knows exactly how to grab that cute girl by the waist for a twirl on the dance floor. Or knows exactly how to arch your back, flip your hair and glance at that handsome hunk just so such that he comes on over to say hi.

To put it plainly, you are programmed to reproduce. Now quit thinking you’re smarter than the 3 billion base pairs in your genome and 4 billion years of evolution. Actually, just stop thinking altogether.”

This is especially true for young women. We have raised our daughters to disdain using trickery or feminine wiles to snag a man, so they often wait for a guy to signal his interest without encouragement.  Women also tend to overthink their interactions with guys. Who among us has not spent hours analyzing the meaning of one little glance or something he said? Smart women need to stop analyzing and start feeling more. They need to trust their instincts.

5. By virtue (or vice) of being smart, you eliminate most of the planet’s inhabitants as a dating prospect.

“Generally speaking, smart people seek out other smart people to hang out with, simply because they get bored otherwise. And if they’re going to spend a lot of time with someone, intelligence in a partner is pretty much a requirement. Well, congratulations — you’ve just eliminated 95% of the world’s population as a potential mate, Mr. or Ms. Smartypants. At this point, you have three choices:

A) Loosen up

B) Do a very thorough search all over the planet and be prepared to move to Duesseldorf OR

C) Join a monastery.

My hearty recommendation is choice A. The purpose of relationship (and perhaps all of life) is to practice the loving. No partner is going to be 100% perfect anyway, so learn to appreciate people for what they have to offer, not what they don’t. And love them for that. That’s what real loving is.

Taking that into consideration, given a choice between happy-go-lucky and picky-but-lonely, happy sounds like more fun.”

OK, fess up. How many of you are picky-but-lonely? Does he have to be smart AND cute AND jacked AND funny? Try something for me: give someone a chance in the next week or so that you really don’t see yourself falling for. You don’t have to hook up, just try hanging out and being a friend. Love is something that grows. It is not a lightning bolt that strikes. In my entire life, I have only known one couple who stayed together who claims it was “love at first sight.” Try spending time with a guy who’s not that hot, but who is funny and sweet. Or maybe he’s a cute kid, but he’s a little soft around the middle. 

The moral of the story is: stop trying to be perfect, and stop trying to find perfect. You’ll find that life and love are a lot more fun.

Are you game? Do you accept my challenge?