Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Road Block

Mr.2young is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. From what I can tell, from what (admittedly little) I know about him he's trustworthy, caring, considerate, kind, and thoughtful. (Ok, yes, there are some redundancies in that statement.) He's a nice guy without being a faux, creeptastic, "Nice Guy" (as we've discussed before.) And his age doesn't really bother me anymore.

No, what bothers me the most is what his really poor spelling is a symptom of... It's a lack of knowledge, perhaps a lack of awareness. He tells me he has a learning disability for which he's getting help from the academic skills center of his college, and I don't hold that against him. Hell, I couldn't read until I was in the 4th grade--I had to be put in a special ed program.

However, since the 4th grade I admit that I haven't struggled much academically. I don't study--not really. I never have. I'm just good at retaining information the first time I hear it (mostly because I'm genuinely fascinated by the world and how it works.) I write my papers the day they're due... and I get high marks. I sometimes feel guilty about this. I know I'm not particularly smart or talented... I just, I don't know, remember things. And I'm fast at comprehending new information and integrating it with what I've already learned to come to a conclusion or a course of action.

And Mr.2young? He struggles... A LOT. He was having difficulty with his homework yesterday; It was a topic I haven't studied since the 8th grade, but I knew more off the top of my head than he did after having read books for a week. I spent my evening explaining the topic to him... inwardly I was cringing. Is this the person I want to be with? Do we really have anything in common? I am someone with little patience. I wanted to shout at him, "HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW THIS STUFF!?" and "How is it possible that you've not retained information you read 30 minutes ago!?"

I didn't yell. Don't worry. I didn't.

How much is the learning disability and how much is *HIM*? I also don't know.

I tried to be patient and understanding and compassionate. Mostly because I could see how devastated he was. He was close to tears at numerous points as he struggled to understand different concepts. Perhaps this wouldn't be so worrisome except for the fact that he wants to be a teacher-- he wants to teach these same concepts to students... and at the moment? I wouldn't want him teaching my (hypothetical) kids anything. I cringe.

I do feel compassion for him. I can't say I understand his frustration. I don't know what it's like to not comprehend something at that level... perhaps mostly because if I don't understand something the first time I learn about it I seek other sources for clarification until I finally DO understand. Perhaps that's what he's lacking, but I don't know how you provide someone with the impetus to seek out knowledge when you don't have a roadmap. [Also, I resisted the urge to tell him, "Wikipedia is not an appropriate lesson planning guide..."]

He hated to let me see him like that, I know. He was hurt, and embarrassed, and ashamed (the word he used.) It bothers him that I'm nearly done with my second masters (no great feat, quite frankly), and he doesn't have a single degree. I was at a loss as to how to comfort him. I did tell him that people have many different kinds of gifts, and if academics wasn't his strength he made up for it in other ways. That, and the fact that I've known many a Ph.D who can barely tie her shoelaces, let alone function as an adult human being, prove credentials are not much of an indicator of intelligence.

I worry though. I feel like this will be the main reason this doesn't work out. How much am I willing to compromise? How much do I forgo intellectual stimulation for kindheartedness? (He's not DUMB, mind you. He's just not knowledgeable. Given that he doesn't seem to retain information though, I don't know that this is something "fixable." Not that one should ever try to "fix" someone else either, because that's just a futile task.) My relationship with him is probably the healthiest relationship I've ever been in. I feel comfortable, and easy, and free to be myself, and to know I'm completely accepted for who I am.

I want to be able to offer him the same gift in return... but I don't know if I can accept this about him.

(I know many people will probably think me a terrible person for admitting that, but I do think that intellectual compatibility is a cornerstone for a good relationship. Though, as evidenced with other people (ahem. Muckraker.) I also acknowledge that intelligence is not a substitute for the other qualities that Mr.2young has in spades.)

So... My other question is... how long to I give myself to figure this out? He likes me. A LOT. I worry that the longer I let this go on the more I'll hurt him. And yet I'm inclined to let it go on for my own selfish reasons-- because he makes me feel really, really great about myself. This also probably makes me a terrible person.


Jan @ Struck by Serendipity said...

Oh, this is a tough situation. I guess it depends on what you're looking for. If you want to settle down, he's probably not the one to do it with. If you simply want to be happy in the moment, just enjoy it. You'll learn from the experience as much as he will. Maybe you'll recognize his other strengths and stop noticing this area that he doesn't excel in as you do. Regardless, it's impressive that he works so hard to improve academically. Most people would give up & find something that comes natural to them. I admire his determination.

However, I agree with you that being on a similar intellectual level is extremely important. I honestly won't date guys that don't at least have an undergrad degree because I tend to be annoyed by uneducated people. With that said, some of my most intelligent friends never went to college & have excelled in other artistic areas.

I'm anxious to hear what you decide...

arf said...

Learning disabilities are tricky, because it's clearly something he's aware of, not proud of, and trying desperately to work through/overcome.

I still don't think you are (or ever have been) a horrible person, but I do think you've never had to deal with anything like what he's going through. I'm like you - I got my first degree from one of the 7-Sisters, practically slept through my first masters and if I didn't hate school so much would consider getting another degree. I also think that you're discounting the real value that he might bring to a classroom of children, some of whom are disadvantaged and/or might have learning disabilities of their own. Having an authority figure who can also be sympathetic and say to a child, "I've been where you are and worked through to a productive place." is immensely powerful.

It also speaks volumes to his character that he's pounding his head against it hard enough that he can't hide how much it hurts. He WANTS to be better than his limitations. Sounds great to me.

This reminds me of all the UNBELIEVABLY BRILLIANT men I've tried to date (one got his Harvard PhD in theoretical Chemisty at 24, another was a 24 year old Law Review Editor) who were TERRIBLE boyfriends. Nobody had ever expected them to be anything other than brilliant, so they worked really hard at that, and didn't have a clue how to really relate to people. You don't need that shit.

Perpetua said...

I'm going to undo your fears of being a horrible person (which you are NOT) by out-horrible-ing you.

What exactly is his LD? I know you probably don't want to say it here, but there are LDs you can work with, and ones you can't. My husband is ADD and has been his entire life. Medication didn't help. He's also brilliant and has had to work very, very hard to do what most people can do easily (read a journal article, for example). I figured out he was ADD from one of our first conversations, but because his level of intellect is high, I can live with it. Because, duh, we all have our flaws.

There are a lot of LDs of that sort--that impair learning ability but not the level of attainment. But if his LD means he is never going to reach something near your level of intellect, it's probably not going to work out for you guys.

I agree with arf that brilliant dudes can be complete assholes; I've met enough of them. But there are some nice smarties out there, too. :)

Hypatia said...

Jan- Thanks for stopping by. Npapaya pointed out that if I heard him speaking I wouldn't think he was dumb. He's able to organize his thoughts clearly and rationally-- so it's not really "Him" so much as the LD, I think.

Arf & Perpetua-- You echoed my friend Kay who said to me- "Find a guy with advanced degrees and an impressive career who makes you feel insecure and see how that ends..." Which is very true.

Wise words from wise ladies.