botticelli_birth_venus_2Boys like smart girls. Girls like Botticelli’s Venus, standing glorious, bright, capable, useful. Intelligent, practical, prodigious women were the idyllic sought-after prize or at least that was what my parents told me when I was growing up. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned this was not true. Proof of this theorem. Newton’s law of coupling and attraction: Boys like fun girls, flirty girls, and pretty girls.

Don’t get me wrong- some boys like smart girls (and I guess that was the subset my parents were targeting me for) but for the vast majority of 18-24-year-olds, intelligence was not at the top of their list.

The injustice of it all, truly a travesty of priorities on a monumental scale! I must have spent too much going to math club and reading the biography of Albert Schweitzer and not enough teen magazines to be boy-savvy in this realm. I was not good at “those kinds of games,”  and I was much better at one-on-one on a basketball court. I know, I know there are anthropological underpinnings to the whole protector/provider thing, but I just couldn’t understand the appeal of helpless gazelle (then again I am not drawn in by kitten posters or Benji movies much either). While it seemed to work for some, I figured I’d better not try playing dumb because my acting skills were quite lacking (at least according to my 3rd grade TAG teacher who cast me in the seen-but-not-heard parts of flower and bookend in school plays).

At college, the curtains were certainly thrown open, revealing this whole shocking subculture of attraction, dating and marriage hitherto unknown to me. While I had exempted immature high school boys from appreciating well rounded girls, I expected more from the college set. I watched girls who spent more time working out and subsisting on tuna fish than cracking a book; girls who swindled their parents out of lots of money to feed their shopping habits through elaborate you-forgot-to-pay-my-rent schemes; girls who took superfluous classes or half the credits of the recommended semester allowance so they could drag their college career on indefinitely until they and found a desirable match because they believed nothing spelled plague like graduating unmarried (how I wanted them to wake up and smell the delicious textbooks); and girls whose likelihood to go out with a guy a second time was directly correlated to the size of his father’s bank account, his future bankability, or his degrees of separation from a general authority. These were the high volume daters.

Oh, was I disillusioned alright.  My visions of boy meets girl were subverted, derailed. Somehow it seemed 90% of the boys on campus dated the same 10% of girls. I couldn’t understand how some seemingly unimpressive girls dated all the time, while some of the most amazing girls I knew were more acquainted with dates as dried fruits that went into fruitcakes than as something that occurred on Friday nights and involved dinner or kissing. Wasn’t the glory of God intelligence? Had no one read that part of the scriptures? It seemed to me that smarts were not being factored into the whom-to-call-for-Saturday-night equation, and by smarts I don’t mean so much IQ as just capable, repsonsible, sharp girls.

Watching these other girls go in out of their apartments with different guys each weekend felt like the supreme trump.  There wasn’t much consolation in being the nice, responsible girl who every one’s parents liked. At first it was like getting picked last for kickball in elementary school, but it was then I realized I didn’t really want to play kickball with them anyways. While more dates might have been flattering, it was as much about me wanting them as them wanting me. If guys wanted girls like that I would surely never make them happy and they would never make me happy.

That is okay. In fact it’s how it’s meant to be. Like Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors. Because the other mantra my parents taught did turn out to be true: “There is a Jack for every Jill, and a lid for every pot.”

P.S. Eventually I did forgive my parents for their miseducation of me. Maybe it was when I finally married a guy who likes smart girls.

So what myths did you grown up with?

So what were you taught was picture of a desirable in a woman? Did this mesh with reality of what you saw? 

May 28, 2009


  1. Andrea R.

    May 27, 2009

    “Gilbert always said that being smart was better than being pretty” — Anne Shirley

    I grew up with my mother telling me that boys liked smart girls too. She told me that the reason why nobody asked me to dance at the stake dances was that they were intimidated by me. I, like you, expected to go to college and find boys who liked smart girls, and was disappointed. I expected a full tuition refund when I graduated from BYU without getting married.

    The thing is, I didn’t really WANT to date a different guy every weekend. I didn’t really WANT to get married after my freshman year. I think finding a guy who likes smart girls was worth the wait.

    Anne got Gilbert in the end, didn’t she?

  2. Camille

    May 27, 2009

    On the other side, I’ve heard a lot of guys complain that girls don’t date the “nice” guys, just the more aggressive types.

  3. Collette

    May 27, 2009

    I remember my Laurel advisor gushing over BYU and all the fun and creative dates she had while she was there. She said boys in college were different. Less superficial and more creative. And I believed her. I just knew that would be my BYU experience as well.

    Did I mention she was a Young Ambassador and competed in pageants? I probably should have factored that into the equation.

    No, I am not the girl who dated every weekend at BYU. Who never had to pay for food because she was always out on a date. I completely agree with your 90/10 theory.

    I am the girl who made amazing friendships with roommates and classmates that continue today. I can’t remember most of the names of guys I dated. And I didn’t date that many!

    I am the girl who actually graduated BYU unmarried. And then married a BYU undergrad a year later and stayed three more years to get him through school.

    And I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.

  4. Matthew Chapman

    May 27, 2009

    I married a girl smarter than myself.

    She regularly beats me at Scrabble, even though English is her second language.

    (We play in English because I don’t have a second language.)

    She got A’s in all her college courses. She still gets A’s in the occasional college courses she takes “for fun”. One of her professors this year told her that she would give her an “A+”, except the school doesn’t allow it.

    Oh, except she only got a “B+” in Analytical Trigonometry. Missed an A by less than 100 points. But then, we all know girls aren’t good at math.

    We have five children, all intimidating geniuses. I tell my kids:

    “Every boy should marry a woman smarter, kinder, better-looking, and more spiritual than he is.”

    “Every girl should marry a man smarter, kinder, better-looking, and more spiritual than she is.”

    Just doing my part to promote the myths.

    Just remember, 50% of the population is of below average intelligence.

  5. Julie R.

    May 27, 2009

    The myth I grew up with? That I’d be married by the time I was 21, and to aspire to be anything beyond a wife and mother was pointless, because I wouldn’t need any other options in life.

    My last Sunday before going to BYU, YW leaders and random people winked at me, saying, “Oh, you’ll be engaged by Christmas.” I took it as a compliment at the time, because it was their way of saying I was a catch.

    Well, I wasn’t engaged then, and my life has not been at all the “Mormon Myth” that my parents lived (eyes met across the dance floor of a BYU dance…). My mother did her best to raise me in both worlds, so to speak. I can bake, cook, play the piano, budget, sew a little, change diapers, all of which requires a person to be smart. And I am smart! BUT–“graduating from college” was never an expectation I felt placed on me.

    I did, and recently finished my master’s degree, and will gear up to start a second one in another year or so, but I’m still not married, and don’t really see marriage in my future. Some people (maybe my parents, maybe not–it’s hard to tell) would rather I trade in my degrees for a husband.

  6. Jenny

    May 27, 2009

    Re: “While I had exempted immature high school boys from appreciating well rounded girls, I expected more from the college set.”

    The college set, as it turns out, are just immature high school boys a year or two older.

    Oh, how I wish I could capture the vision your parents had for YOU, and somehow place it in the hormone-infested minds of immature high school boys (and the older, still immature college set)…

    This is the right post, wrong week for me. I own an immature high school boy. [sigh]

    Myths? More like misperceptions. When I left home to pursue my higher education, I didn’t expect education to become the secondary experiment. Debunking the social myth: still mysterious, but not nearly so intruiging.

  7. Leslie

    May 27, 2009

    camille- I am a huge champion of NICE GOOD guys- I married one of those!! I agreed they too don’t always get the attention they deserve.

    matthew- yes- my defintion of smarts is not IQ but being useful, passionate, deliberate -Glad to hear you are teaching your children well!

  8. Kevin Barney

    May 27, 2009

    As an adult man, I find intelligence in a woman extremely attractive. It’s number one on the list for me.

    But when I was in college, I had not yet gained that sense of self awareness of that which really appeals to me. I probably tended to date that same 10% of girls. I really was pretty immature still, just a couple of years removed from being a high school kid, as someone expressed above.

    So with some guys, it’s a matter of time and seasoning before the mantra of your mother that “boys like smart girls” becomes true.

  9. Merry Michelle

    May 27, 2009

    Most of the myths I grew up with can be found in that oh-so-scary book “The Fascinating Woman”. I actually found a copy in my parents’ basement.

    My mother was an immigrant from Eastern Europe, so with her thin frame, good looks and foreign accent–she was a “shoo-in” for dates every weekend (and somehow managed to finish her undergrad and masters to boot!). I was raised on stories of filled social calendars and male pursuers. It wasn’t that my mom didn’t believe in education (it had actually been her ticket out of communism); she wanted me to be brilliant–but just not to “act” like it. I was directed to keep my eyes wide with a “wondering look”. It didn’t work.

    I also graduated from college unmarried and was concerned. I actually loved class. I loved writing papers, and reading, and discussions thrilled me. What was WRONG with me?

    I did eventually marry a guy who likes smart girls; and though he was tough to find in the end it’s made all the difference.

  10. Nan

    May 27, 2009

    I very seldom dated until I got home from my mission. Even then, the whole mission-thing was a real liability with some less-desireables of the opposite sex. When I finally found my match, he was thrilled that I’d been on a mission, had better grades than he did, and was just 8 weeks from graduation and employability. I knew I was in love when he embraced all that and the low-level anxiety that came with being a girl like that.

    My Mia-maid leader once had us make a list of characteristics of the perfect guy. We had fun with that. Then she challenged us to become the woman on that list. If we didn’t, she explained, then even if Mr. Perfect came along, we would be woefully unhappy and unprepared to be a companion to him. I stopped trying to catch a man and strived instead to be a woman that men could look up to and not just look at.

    Yes, it made for a lot of lonely Friday nights, and more than a few tears shed in that Logan apartment. But I know myself inside and out, and ten years away from the dating game, I’m glad for all that time I spent alone because I find that at the end of the day, it is YOURSELF you have to live with.

    You had me from the title; what a great post!

  11. Plain Jame

    May 27, 2009

    This post was hilarious for me! It really took me a while to learn that while I was being engaging in conversation, for most guys I wasn’t the catch they were looking for. I was an overbearing knowitall and didn’t just sit back and let them talk about themselves the entire time. I’ve discovered lots of men needed atta boys, and compliments, and someone to encourage them more than anything. I ended up marrying someone that just needed a lot less, and let me be me.

  12. Melissa M.

    May 27, 2009

    Michelle, when I was fifteen “The Fascinating Girl” was my Bible! I actually quoted whole sections of it in my diary (I’d love to get a copy of it now so I could have a good laugh). Although I was smart, I sensed that boys liked less-smart girls (and “Fascinating Girl” confirmed the fact), and I sometimes dumbed myself down in high school and through several years at BYU. But when I was working on my Masters I couldn’t hide it anymore. It always bugged me that boys always gravitated towards my less-intellectual, doe-eyed, and helpless roommate. She got all the dates. I came to the conclusion that BYU boys=stupid. But then I met my husband, who wanted to marry a smart girl.:-) Now I have a very smart daughter who just finished her sophomore year at BYU, and, unfortunately, she is having the same problem. Apparently the “less-smart girls get all the dates” theory is still alive and well, because my daughter’s roommate advised her not to take so many honors classes because no one would marry her. That same roommate, believe it or not, has a copy of “Fascinating Girl,” which she actually takes seriously, because her mother gave it her as a gift when she went away to college. Yikes!

  13. Leslie

    May 27, 2009

    Thanks to the guys chiming in today- we love your perspectives too.

    As you can see I did not get a copy of Fascinating Girl…it sounds so oddly disturbing! No wonder I was out of the loop.

    I am working hard as a mother of 3 boys to instill a love of powerful women- and I promise some motherly reproach if they bring home any helpless gazelles.

  14. eljee

    May 27, 2009

    Is Fascinating Girl in any way related to the book Fascinating Womanhood? I recently read Fascinating Womanhood out of curiosity after seeing it discussed on a board I frequent. What a revolting, appalling book! Literally, THE WORST book I have ever read on relationships and gender roles. Yet my mom says when she was a young mother in the 70’s, it was all the rage. She even took classes about it.

    Anyway, one of the concepts is that wives should not be too smart because that might threaten the masculinity of their husbands. And if they are smart, they should act like they are not.

  15. eljee

    May 27, 2009

    Oops, I should have read all the responses. Someone already mentioned Fascinating Womanhood.

  16. Melissa M.

    May 27, 2009

    Yes, Eljee, “Fascinating Girl” was written for single girls aspiring to get married. “Fascinating Womanhood” was for married women. My mother lived by it and bought me “Fascinating Girl” (yes, and it was in the 70’s). It is just as appalling as “Fascinating Womanhood”–maybe more so, because it coaches girls on how to catch a man by acting helpless and dependent and dumb. The book actually uses the character of Dora in “David Copperfield” as a role model, but, as those of us who have actually read “David Copperfield” know, David was miserable being married to Dora. Lol.

  17. Kathryn P.

    May 27, 2009

    I think I told my only daughter that smart men like smart women, but that didn’t really help the reality of the BYU dating scene. Some wise person finally told my daughter that most girls were diet Cokes, but she was a Capuccino and some day she would find a man who loved Capuccino (metaphorically speaking, of course). After graduating from BYU she met a biochemist who had gone to high school AND served his mission in Italy. He was bored to death by the diet Coke females and yearned to meet a FASCINATING Capuccino. They are now happily married and absolutely adore each other. They are spending the summer in Rome.

  18. Brenda

    May 27, 2009

    These days you have to have a 4.5, be student body president, captain of the whatever team, and walk on water and glow in the dark to get into BYU. So even though a lot of the girls may act like airheads, it’s just a cover-up for their genius.

  19. QueenScarlett

    May 27, 2009

    Maybe I’m weird – but I never went to college to get married. It sort of made me ill freshman year watching these girls fall all over themselves baking cookies and fawning over these boys.

    And… then in my Soph/Jr year (I graduated a year early) a couple boys started talking marriage… I put a big kibosh on both because I had a goal of finishing my degree before even thinking of marriage.

    I was relieved to leave BYU unmarried. Found my hubby in … a cliche singles ward and am very happy he let’s me be me.

    I always believed in the beauty fades philosophy…so marry someone with a great personality… also.. you have to have an attraction…but that the surface, superficial stuff (including the levels of GA relations…gag) is lame.

    I grew up with parents that told me the only make-up I needed was a smile. They were wrong… but that’s what I was fed. 😉

  20. Keri Brooks

    May 27, 2009

    I didn’t go to BYU, so I don’t have that perspective. However, I’ve noticed that there’s a difference between LDS and non-LDS guys as far as how they perceive my intelligence and education. In general, the non-LDS guys appreciate it and the LDS guys act threatened by it. (This doesn’t translate to dates with the non-LDS guys, though. They seem to view me as “one of the guys”, but I think that’s related to my personality, not my education.) I even had a date with a guy once (blind date set up by someone in my ward), and on the date, he told me (after finding out that I’m working on a JD) that education was a waste of time. He didn’t get a second date.

  21. jendoop

    May 27, 2009

    Somewhere I picked up this crazy idea that you should just be yourself. Huh.

    There is alot of stereotyping going on in this discussion. I think there are few people who enjoy being stereotyped. Stereotyping is a way for us to feel comfortable (or superior), to push others into a mold so that we can more easily deal with the issues. It turns the debate into a “us” versus “them” situation, instead of exploring differences and how they make our world go round.

    Perhaps there are girls who dated alot simply because they were being themselves- a social person. I don’t think it is so much about being smart or not, but what kind of personality you have. If you’re an introvert you are more likely to have read alot and found traditional intellectual interests. While a person who is an extrovert spends less time reading or in intellectual debate. It doesn’t mean one is smarter or better than the other. One is socially intelligent while the other is cognitively intelligent.

    For the record, before you dismiss my dissenting comment as being from one of the 10%, I was not. I will claim residence in the 50% – average.

    The largest myth that was shattered as I became an adult: Being a faithful LDS girl would make my life perfect and happy. In addition, somehow all of my leaders and teachers seemed to leave out the part about working to have a good marriage after you’re married in the temple. It seemed that all I needed to do was get a temple marriage and it would be happily ever after.

  22. BYU Women's Services

    May 27, 2009

    It sure is hard to keep being smart sometimes when it doesn’t seem to get you any boys beating down your door; that said, I think intelligence and cultivation of knowledge is its own reward. I couldn’t live with a dumbed-down version of myself. How tiresome–keeping up the faking–and how boring! And as has been said, I guess eventually those stupid-girl-loving boys wise up or fade out and the real men step up. 😀

  23. mormonhermitmom

    May 27, 2009

    I never went to BYU and so I have no experience in that arena. I did find college guys a little better, but I wasn’t looking for dates. I was socially inept and figured if a date happened, great, if not, I had school to think about. I did end up marrying a guy I had known in high school but we had never dated until he got back from his mission. He told me he finally woke up to what he really wanted in a wife.

    And I am smarter than him in some things. Thankfully he is smarter than me at other things – like car repair.

  24. wendy

    May 27, 2009

    My friends and I came up with the asparagus theory (or avocado, whichever you prefer). Most guys are content with apples–they are shiny and pretty, and when passing by them in the produce section, they see an apple and think, “That looks good. I want one of those.” Not too many people walk by the avocados or asparagus and chooses them on a whim. Generally, one must be purposely looking for asparagus or an avocado to do more than take a brief glance.

    There was comfort in that theory, I confess.

    That said, being smart didn’t preclude me from wanting to get married before graduating. I dated quite a bit, too (though probably not in that 10% bracket), and had a fair amount of boyfriends and an engagement. I was very stressed about not being married when I graduated. And I was there for seven years (graduate degree).

    One of my graduate professors said he felt bad for the single girls in grad school because he knew this would further limit our options of getting married.

    What I think limited my options more than anything (more than being over 6′ tall, more than being in grad school, etc.) was that I had issues. I was on a huge “I am woman, hear me roar” kick for a long time. I actually met my husband before my fourth year in college, but I scared him . . . and I thought I was too smart for him. We reconnected 8 years later when I had mellowed out significantly, and then things finally fell into place.

    So . . . I guess for me, I would say I met plenty of guys who appreciated intelligence, but I was prideful, afraid, and kept up some pretty high walls.

  25. Kim

    May 27, 2009

    I like jendoop’s comment–really, its about our lives not fitting into the picture we’ve been told about, and because that is what we expected, despite who we naturally are, we are dissappointed.

    I was one of the ones who didn’t get a lot of dates at BYU, and who was a little dissappointed by it because there had been all the talk before-hand of boys beating down my door (which wasn’t the case in HS either) because they’d finally appreciated “my type”. Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t all that different than HS for me, and I would have probably been much more okay with that if I’d accepted who I was and not expected to suddenly live a different life. I didn’t want to get married at BYU, I hated the dating game, loved making friends with people and then having it grow into something more, and just loved getting to know people in a very casual, comfortable way. Which is what I did at BYU, so really, it was a great experience for my personality, and if I just hadn’t been wondering why I wasn’t getting asked out more, I would have enjoyed it even more than I did.

    And in the end, I met a guy a couple years later (not in UT–despite the doom everyone forshadowed when I moved back to CA after graduation, there are a ton of great guys in other places and you do not have to be at a church school to meet your mate) who I was friends with before I dated, had many challenging and interesting conversations with as we argued our views of the world, and who has helped me produce a couple of too-smart for their own good children 🙂

  26. Carol Brown

    May 27, 2009

    I married a kind, good, smart man who says he was attracted to me because of–not in spite of–my academic talents (I graduated from BYU magna cum laude in three years and earned my masters degree in the fourth). Thankfully, my mom told me to enjoy learning and not to even consider marriage until I was 23, so I enjoyed school without feeling the pressure to marry that many of my roommates (who are now divorced) did.

  27. Alexander

    May 27, 2009

    Actually, most guys I know (me included) are interested in smart girls who are attractive, funny, and interesting. Those are the girls they are willing to date long enough and seriously enough to fall in love. Only over time do guys start to consider that they may not be able to get the entire package, and are willing to compromise. Some are willing to forgo smarts, others are not.

  28. Keri Brooks

    May 27, 2009

    Alexander, where can us single ladies meet guys looking for attractive, funny, interesting, smart women? And what can we do to avoid scaring the nice guys off?

  29. bj

    May 27, 2009

    Well, there is also the popular mantra that boys don’t date the girls they want to marry. Which I can’t help but think has some ground in reality. In my experience it seems they dated the 90% but when it came to settling down wanted more of the 10% type.

  30. Kay

    May 27, 2009

    I did not go to BYU either but did go to the most prestigious University in England. There are few men over here on the church anyway and yet they sound just like the ones in the states. They like the pretty, funny girls who are absolutley not as bright as they are. I found that men were threatened by the fact that I went to Cambridge. Even my husband doesn’t like the fact that I went there and is embarrassed by it.

    I joined the church at 16 and my family are not members. However, my Y.W leaders did feed me the myth that I would be married by the time I was 21. Also, that a temple marriage was all I needed in life which would lead to complete happiness every day afterwards. Life has never been so hard since I married.

  31. Elizabeth

    May 27, 2009

    Thank you jendoop. I agree. It is my experience too that just because a girl gets asked out a lot doesn’t mean she is dumb or playing dumb either. Pretty/social girls sometimes get a bad rap. I have met plenty of girls at BYU and elsewhere who were both beautiful and smart and not afraid to be both but still got asked out a lot. Personality has a lot to do with the dating game and beauty and intelligence are not incompatible.

    We need to be careful to not stereotype out of jealousy. It is good to be intelligent, but we shouldn’t be prideful of it. A lot of this discussion seems to stem from those negative emotions.

    I agree that there are a lot of shallow men out there (and more than a few at BYU) but you can’t solely blame your lack of dates on shallow men. A lot of men ask out women that are approachable and friendly. If you want to increase your dating life, I would suggest starting there, not dumbing down or attacking those who do get asked out.

  32. Alexander

    May 27, 2009

    Keri, I’m not in a position to tell you how (as an attractive, smart etc. woman) not to scare nice guys, since I’ve never been scared by such women, and therefore may not be very nice.

  33. Carina

    May 27, 2009

    I grew up thinking that it would be really difficult to find a man that could possibly be as smart, or smarter than me.

    I love my parents 🙂

    Here was the plan: Go to college, go to grad school, not even think about marriage until after 25 and established in the glamorous career of my choice.

    What happened: Met my husband at 19. Got married at 21. Graduated. No grad school yet. Am in career of my choosing (mostly not glamorous.)

    In my experience, we smart girls sold ourselves short. There weren’t a lot of dates, there weren’t a lot of men who could match us in conversation, and we let it affect our self-esteem. It turns out that there ARE smart guys who want smart girls, it’s just that most of them aren’t 18-23. There is a lid for every pot, don’t settle for plastic wrap.

    And in the mean time, girls, be MORE APPROACHABLE. I tended to the bitter, acerbic, sarcastic, and mean; it’s no wonder I couldn’t get a date. I would have had more success if I’d tempered those tendencies with smiling, understanding, and kindness. Yes, we’re smart, don’t hide it, but add to your intelligence with happiness, confidence, laughter, and joie de vivre.

    I can’t help but think (and it’s been confirmed again and again) that the men who married the silly girls grew to regret their decisions as they both matured.

  34. Roxie

    May 27, 2009

    I think boys like pretty girls, but men like smart women.

    I think I went on 3 dates in high school, and probably 15 in college (all of those being during my freshman year too).

    I was the girl all the guys went to for help with homework. I was not the girl they asked out. So it’s been an adjustment to me now that there is a man who thinks I’m beautiful and sexy. But part of my sexiness, according to him, is how smart I am.

  35. Sage

    May 27, 2009

    Jendoop and others had great points about not stereo-typing and just being yourself. I feel fortunate that my parents encouraged me to be myself. They met at BYU, engaged and married quickly. My mom was a homemaker. She told me I could be a doctor or anything else I wanted. I am a homemaker! I do other things too. Got a degree. Found a nice guy after my mission, but before I graduated. I even feel that my YW leaders didn’t make marriage seem too much the end of the road. Wow! I guess I should count myself lucky. And I had fun at BYU too and enjoyed my honors classes without feeling excluded.

    I guess my point (if I have one) is that this post does bring up interesting problems inherent in society (maybe moreso in the LDS, but present in other places too) regarding opinions about the roles of men and women and how personal intelligence plays a part in how we relate to each other. My favorite idea is “The glory of God is intelligence” and with that phrase the understanding that to be a God, male and female are needed to create God’s image.

  36. Sue

    May 27, 2009

    See, that’s the benefit of being chubby in high school and college – you never even think to blame your lack of dates on your intellect or poor social skills. You think, “if only I was skinny, EVERYONE WOULD BE IN LOVE WITH ME.” Heh.

  37. Mindy

    May 27, 2009

    I met a girl my first week at BYU that had an amazing ability to attract guys. She acted so ditsy it drove me nuts. Then I got a chance to talk to her one-on-one and she was actually crazy smart. The ditsy girl was just her way of flirting I guess. And boy did it work.

    I dated some before my mission, but really didn’t want to get serious with anyone before I left, so I wasn’t too worried about not getting or turning down dates. When I came home, it was like I had a scarlet letter attached to my forehead, warning guys not to ask me out. It was like going on a mission was the all-time threat to most of the guys I met. I have many theories for this, but who really knows why going on a mission was so repelling.

    After graduating and moving out of state to a singles ward, where most of the guys were also graduated and working professionals, it was a totally different scene. These guys weren’t intimidated by smart, accomplished girls. I think they had just grown up a bit more, and so had I.

  38. Kathryn P.

    May 27, 2009

    Sue, I love your sense of humor! I think Carina has good advice. When I was teaching high school, one of my students was a beautiful, bright brunette. Every day she’d walk into class looking like her best friend had died. The junior prom was approaching and there was a lot of tension in the air. One day she stayed after class and said to me, “Why don’t I ever date? My mom says I’m pretty, but no one ever asks me out.” I said, “You’re absolutely gorgeous and if you’d try smiling instead of frowning, you’d have plenty of dates. Guys seem to prefer happy girls.” Within two weeks she had a date to the prom and a steady boyfriend.

    I have two sons in college and I hope they marry happy, optimistic, fun, funny, attractive, talented, confident, spiritual, and intelligent women. My sons would add, “But you said we should marry TALL women!”

  39. Emily M.

    May 27, 2009

    In my delusional moments in college and high school I blamed not dating on being smart. But really, not too deep down, I knew it was due much more to my demeanor and lack of social skills than it was my being smart. I like Wendy’s and Carina’s comments–I feel like I got married when I was more mellow, when I softened some.

    I know this is not the case for everyone; I’m not trying to stereotype in reverse here. That was my situation, however. My husband likes my being smart. I married someone who is strong enough to let me be strong too.

    And my dearest friend from college is brilliant, and she was a dating machine. Because she had fabulous social skills. I don’t think she played dumb or hid how smart she was. She was just really good at making the guys feel like they were smart enough to date someone as smart as she was.

  40. Faith.Not.Fear

    May 27, 2009

    I love the counsel to our youth in For the Strength of Youth! Spending your high school days group dating instead of serious dating helps you get to know a lot of people, and them to get to know you (smart!).

    By the time college comes around, hopefully you’ve built a lot of friendships that you then send on missions :-).

    At the end of my freshman year in college, I was depressed — no fish had bitten, despite the “oh, you’ll be married by the end of your first year” kindnesses that had been offered by our YW leaders before we left.


    Tell them to develop their talents, enjoy the journey, take classes on subjects their interested in, learn how to work and how to serve. Then, like the rolling stone, they will become polished women — smart “daughters of God” women. And married or not, they will have made the most of those years.

    Then, hopefully, most of the guys who’ve “gotten it” on their missions will have come home looking for smart girls — spiritual smart, goal smart, family smart, education smart ….


  41. Leslie

    May 27, 2009

    oh so many thoughtful comments- and varied thoughts! I love a good discussion

    As the heroine of this myth I chose to take a “Stengths-based approach” to the telling of this story (which means talking about the good and not bad (as I am sure my faults and flaws at age 17 were legion! but we steer clear of that to record it/remember it more positively)

    And yes Jen there is some stereotyping- but I don’t think the introvert extrovert thing has that much to do with it. I think looks have a lot more to do with it. While I saw many girls who dated lots and I felt were certainly great catches. There were others whose methods and merit seemed dubious- but again- they won “the game” so who is the winner?

    Every girl thinks her version of the ideal is right. I’d love to hear the same story of college life written slightly comedically by other girls. Still I do believe there is an element of truth in this, whether that be a critique on BYU, on LDS culture, human nature, and maturation. Hopefully we’re making progress with each generation towards less stigma around and subversion of strong women.

    and amen to the false doctrines of belief preached by Yw leaders that you will date everyweekend blah blah blah- I am the first to debunk this with my young women over the years and tell them to focus on quality and not quantity and to know there is no shame in not dating all the time or daring to graduate without being married. I think girls get set up to doubt themselves when we perpetuate these myths of dating.

    Kathryn- laughing at the tall too- being 5″10″ it automatically eliminated about 35% of the guys (yes stereotype to follow- becasue as a lot of tall girls know Most guys will not date girls taller than they are!)

  42. Faith.Not.Fear

    May 27, 2009

    One other stigma seemed to play into this whole thing –the myth that the grass is greener in the other ward/family home evening group/etc.

    Not dating girls in their own ward seemed to start in high school — maybe it was because they knew our foibles, having sat in the same Primary/Sunday School class with us for a million years?

    The mysterious enticement of dating someone outside your own turf? Blame it on ?th grade English and Romeo & Juliet!

  43. jendoop

    May 27, 2009

    Leslie, As I look at your picture I’m having a hard time hearing you 😉 Do you know these beauty vs. the beast theories from someone else? (I’m being silly.)

    Sue, I hate to hear that anyone shied away from social life because of their physical appearance. To think it doesn’t affect your social confidence is nieve on my part. But I think some of the tips given by Carina and Kathyrn apply to your situation as well. One of the past YW presidents, Sister Tanner, gave a great YW broadcast talk about not letting our looks get in the way of being out in the world. I think the not-so-young women need to hear it too.

    Here is Sister Tanner’s take on our topic of discussion (I came across it while looking for the other article) “At the first of our marriage, my husband said quite often, “I didn’t marry you for your looks.” Finally I teased him a bit by saying, “That really doesn’t sound too flattering.” He explained what I really already knew, that this was intended to be the highest compliment he could give me. He said, “I love you for who you are intrinsically and eternally.” The Lord said: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

  44. Paula

    May 28, 2009

    Leslie–I love your writing style. This was such a fun post to read.

  45. ESO

    May 28, 2009

    Funny how every comment was made by one of those smart girls. Where are the dumb ones that did all the dating? Too busy for us, I guess.

  46. Jennie

    May 28, 2009

    Carina–that’s such good advice. I was smart and pretty in high school but never dated anybody. I’m convinced it was because I was so snotty and sarcastic. Boys were afraid of me, but it wasn’t because I was smart.

    I remember once in an institute class I had quite an in-depth discussion with our teacher. Afterwards two guys came up to me and asked where I’d gone on a mission. I replied that I hadn’t served a mission and they were surprised. One of the guys actually said, “oh, we thought you’d gone since you know a lot about the gospel FOR A GIRL.”

    I guess as well as acting stupid, I should have acted like I didn’t know anything about the gospel too.

  47. ThomasB

    May 28, 2009

    As a young teenager my older brother told me I should be on the lookout for a naive woman. He never explained why but was adamant about it.

    It did not take long to realize that this was really poor advice. While living in Provo I became distracted by a young lady a couple of years older, definitely a great deal wiser who was grounded and knew what she wanted and expected out of life. We dated frequently for about 9 months before I went on my mission. She would get engaged before I entered the MTC and married before I got out of the MTC. I had no regrets and was so grateful to her because I knew the type of woman that I would be looking for when I got home.

    About a year after I got home I found a young lady who was brilliant, witty, personable, supportive, grounded and who knew what she wanted out of life. Thank the Lord she is smarter than me. I would be lost with out her by my side. I do not think that there is anyone with a brain that knows us that does not get that she is the smarter one of the two of us and I am just fine with that.

  48. rk

    May 28, 2009

    I do think some men are turned off by smart women, however I came to the conclusion that it is fine with me. They are entitled to marry the type of woman they want. Some men just need to have the intellectual upper hand in a relationship. I figured out that these men were doing me a favor by not dating me. It wouldn’t have been a good match.

    If you are not getting dates it doesn’t hurt to do personal inventory and ask yourself if there is another reason besides intelligence that might be guy-repellent. I am not a guy, but I think it is safe to say that bitterness and a sour attitude is about the biggest turn off of all. My social life got better as I learned to control my feelings and then only kept friends with cheerful attitudes.

    There are a lot of wonderful women out there that might be shy, but that can be helped. IMO good social skills can really up the odds of being asked out. There are a lot of books available on how to flirt and get asked out on a date. It would never hurt to read up and practice.

  49. Bean421

    May 28, 2009

    I thought of this thread as I was out to dinner with old high school friends tonight. We talked of my younger brother who has gone out with “older” girls. The men at the table all said that doing that was acceptable for now but once he got off his mission he should stick to the “younger, malleable girls”. I asked if they were serious and they said that’s what they did and how great it was they got to “train” their spouses. Not only did I feel badly for their wives, but I left and felt a great sense of relief that my husband and brother both expressed disdain about those attitudes.

  50. Leslie

    May 28, 2009

    ah bean– my poor husband who got stuck with such an old, educated, passionate wife, poor guy– he could’ve gotten himself one of those young malleable ones- I guess no one told him the secret of success and happiness.

  51. Michelle L.

    May 28, 2009

    love this post and the discussion Leslie. May I put a twist on it? I almost didn’t date my husband because he is so incredibly gorgeous that I just assumed he was shallow.

    Turns out he is smart and beautiful. 😉

  52. Leslie

    May 28, 2009

    SCORE– michelle! I’d say you’re an even matched pair- glad he took the same chance on you.

  53. bleepbloop

    May 29, 2009

    I feel like this could also read “boys like funny girls and other myths.” I don’t know how true it is, but I blame my lack of dating on the fact that I’m goofy/silly a lot of the time.

  54. ThomasB

    May 29, 2009


    You bring up and interesting point. I think that men really do not like dating a woman that is funnier than they are. I think for most guys that is more intimadating.

  55. Leslie

    May 29, 2009

    thomasB- maybe I was too funny that was it

  56. ThomasB

    May 29, 2009

    You know what Leslie I always loved funny girls but I never got the nerve to ask any of them out because I could never quite read them. I think I missed out on some fun times.

  57. Shelah

    May 29, 2009

    So guys don’t like to be intimidated?

    I think there’s something to be said for girls giving off subtle vibes. When my freshman boyfriend left on his mission, he told me to date and have fun while he was gone, and if I was still available when he got back, then we’d see how it went from there. I was disappointed by his nonchalant attitude about the whole thing and was bound and determined to “be available” when he got back. But I still wanted to have fun while he was gone. The thing is, virtually no one asked me out. During those two years, I had four or five dates, several of which were “sympathy dates” with guy friends who took pity on me and took me out to dinner. At the time, I was kind of bugged by it. I considered myself a good catch– smart, fun, cute (see, my parents gave me great self-esteem too), and I’d snagged my freshman boyfriend in the first week of college, but suddenly dates were not coming my way.

    A couple of years later my DH (the freshman boyfriend) and I were at a family party with his cousin, who had been in my BYU ward while DH was gone. The cousin said, “Yeah, you were nice and pretty, but you gave off a vibe that said ‘stay away.” And you always talked about your missionary.” I hadn’t realized at the time that I was doing it, but looking back I see that I was making myself unavailable.

  58. mariannamay

    May 31, 2009

    is there no such thing as being both smart and pretty? most of my friends in college were pretty, and they dated a lot, but they were also very, very smart. i think men like attractive women. we like attractive men. but i don’t think it is an either/or situation. i think it is a disservice to a lot of pretty women out there to automatically assume that they are not smart. not that most of you were doing that – i just thought i’d throw it out there.

  59. cracker

    June 1, 2009

    im currently 3rd year in the university. ive dated a few girls from other faculties,females barely exist in my faculty (engineering). i considered myself as a pretty decent looking bloke and have no trouble getting a date. However after a while i still couldnt find someone compatible on an intellectual level. where are these smart girls? they are pretty elusive.

  60. Tamlynn

    June 2, 2009

    well, I’m not sure what you’re talking about Les, because when I started college, I had to beat the boys off with a stick! lol. Someone on my floor in the dorms started a dating chart and within a short time they blacked me off the chart for getting so many dates. I think it was the 3 dates in one day that was the last straw. I am tall, not unusually attractive, and consider myself to be quite “smart.” I didn’t date much in hs, so college was very fun. My dating career was cut short at the end of my sophomore year when I got engaged, but I still was asked out a few more times. As for finding a smart guy, I married an engineer. Intellectually, we are on the same level but in different fields. This works best for us because we each can retain our feelings of superiority in our chosen fields and not feel threatened by the other’s intelligence.

    Speaking of myths, I attended a YW lesson recently where all the YW were stating their goals of marriage and children and the poor girls were completely shocked when I mentioned it was possible they would not get married or be able to have children but that they could still be happy.

  61. Heidi

    June 2, 2009

    One of my favorite quotes, one that keeps me going through singlehood in my thirties, comes from “The Art of Manliness”, a website I love. It says: “Women want to date men, not aging boys.” I think it can be expanded to say that “men want to date women, not aging adolescent girls”. Quite honestly, I don’t want to attract anyone who wants me to be the dumb cute girl. If that means I’m single at 40, so be it. I’d rather be true to my God-given intelligence and talents than compromise them just to get married.

    One myth I’ve shattered myself is the myth that if a woman is over 25 and single, she should be boring and drab. There are a few older (between 28 and 70) single women in my ward, and only one or two are boring and drab. 🙂

  62. James McOmber

    June 4, 2009

    The dumb, skinny, flirty girls who get most of the guys are just like fast food and music on the radio: Utterly uninteresting and lousy, but just accessible enough to woo the masses.

    I’m reminded of this maxim: “Build a system that even a fool can use, and only a fool will want to use it.” If men are intimidated by you, those aren’t the men you want to be with anyhow.

  63. Sue

    June 4, 2009

    I think my intelligence helped me in my dating life, but not until I learned to use it as a tool of attraction rather than as a weapon. There’s a difference between not hiding your intelligence and wielding it like a sword. When I was in the wielding mode (early in my dating experience), a lot of guys were put off. I didn’t realize this until a friend pointed it out to me. Once I just relaxed with it, all went well.

    And I was pretty cute, which didn’t hurt.


    PS. I’d rather find my own way in life than be with someone too insecure to appreciate my gifts. That was one of the things that attracted me to my husband…He valued everything I brought to our relationship. For me, intimacy means not having to keep any part of myself under wraps, intelligence included. What’s the point in being loved for a facade?

  64. KLC

    June 5, 2009

    If you want to know how to date more the best advice I could give is to put yourself in the shoes of the guy doing the asking. This isn’t a thought experiment, you need to actually ask someone you are interested in out on a date. If you do that you will discover that guys rarely ask out someone unless they think there is a reasonable chance that person will say yes.

    Immature guys (or ones that eventually end up as salesmen) assume that reasonable chance is created solely by their incredible charm, looks and personality and so they ask out anyone they want. More mature or self reflective guys usually have a more realistic view of themselves, making them less prone to put themselves out there for rejection without some external evidence. That means the kind of guys most compatible with a smart and thoughtful woman are probably the ones least likely to ask them out.

    If you are interested in someone find a way to let them know that if they were to ask you out you would say yes. That is how the flirty girls get the dates, not because they’re necessarily shallow but because their actions say that they’re interested.

  65. Erika

    July 1, 2009

    I have to say I enjoyed reading yout blog as it’s exactly how I feel. And I felt like I had trumped those girls, finding a guy who said he wanted a smart girl. Well, after that engagement fell through, I’m feeling pretty hopeless. Maybe it’ll end up changing who knows, but for now I feel like I’m pretty much hopeless as I’m not a ditzy, silly little girl concerned more about her MRS degree than a bachelor’s

  66. ann duckworth

    July 24, 2009

    Boys are raised with much aggression directed toward them to make them tough. They are also raised with much less kind, stabilizing verbal treatment and other positive interaction also designed to make them tough. Now in the information age all of those things society is presently giving boys to make them tough is creating large lags in mental/emotional/social/academic growth (reason why girls mature faster – girls receive all thos good things because we are not required to be tough).

    Since society allows more aggression toward Males to make them tough and also conversely allows more freedom of expression of girls to give verbal, silent abuse, and hollow kindness or patronization toward boys. Boys know this from much experience and so when feeling inferior as many boys are feeling today, they are much defensive in dealing with girls who appear more intelligent or smarter in some way. While boys are equal to girls at birth, they are being trained to believe from parents, media, teachers, peers, they are more inferior to girls, especially girls who appear more intelligent.

    Boys and society do not know how mistreatment of Males in the information age is creating many very insecure Males who feel very inferior and so feeling less able to approach girls who “appear” smarter. Until society begins treating Males with more respect, love, kindness, and girls begin to treat boys with this same respect and kindness, and in view of boys going down hill academically and girls going uphill more rapidly,
    I am afraid there will be many more lonely good hearted girls who will suffer at least to some degree of what those boys are suffering from today. All of us need to begin treating boys with more kindness, love, and respect.

  67. AP

    December 30, 2009

    I don’t have the recipe for everyone, but I know what happened to me. Before my mission I had always felt like the unpopular one that never got asked on dates. I was studying engineering, so there were plenty of guys around me. I tried to mimic girls who got more attention, but it didn’t work. On my mission I learned that God made me the way I am for a reason and he has a plan that’s just for me, so I should embrace ME for ME. I learned how to talk to people and love people I didn’t know yet. I learned to give more comfort and compliments. And I learned to be happier. I came back with these tools as a more confident older (22 at BYU which people had told me was the “old maid” age) woman. I didn’t make it to the 10%, but I dated more than I had my entire life and eventually found my husband.

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