"Girls seem to 'turn off' to science in middle school," I said.
My friend nodded. "Oh, yeah," she replied. "They don't want to appear smarter than the boys."
Once we'd unpacked this can of worms, I realized how deeply this idea had affected my own life. In my conversations with others exploring why women lag behind men in engineering , I'd never even thought about it. As an adult, I've overwritten this lousy piece of advice. But as a teen ...
The idea that I had to hide my intelligence to get a date was so ingrained, it never occurred to me to question it. I can remember being one of the "smart girls" in junior high and I just accepted that I would remain dateless for life. This was the assumption that I carried around:
Smart girls don't date. If you want to get a boy to like you, you have to make him feel superior and intelligent. Even if he's stupid.Did I realize that I had absorbed this little tidbit from popular culture? No. But this idea definitely colored how I presented myself to others and how I thought about school and my studies. If I liked a boy, I would downplay my strengths and try not to show my intelligence.
How pathetic is that? And as my friend pointed out, once a girl stops showing interest in science, she starts to fall behind. Once behind, she often stays behind, and a self-fulfilling prophesy is sadly realized.
What do you think? Did you (or are you) short-changing yourself? Do you downplay your smarts to get dates?
To all of my smart young friends out there, please keep in mind that smart girls (and boys) do date! But sometimes they have to wait until college.