Simple Tests for Simple Minds

by David Francis

As a rule, I do whatever I can to avoid marital strife. Sometimes, however, a few tiffs are simply unavoidable. Just yesterday, for instance, such a scene erupted almost by sheer accident. Rebecca was sitting on the couch reading her book, and I was in my rocking chair, reading mine. It was at this point I broke the silence by announcing to her that I am smarter than she is.

For you bachelors out there, you need to understand that certain confrontations must occur from time to time in a healthy marriage. Marriage is about growing closer together over time, and you aren't going to be able to do that without being able to reach an understanding on these simple issues. For instance, it took me a whole year of marriage before my wife finally faced the truth and admitted that my dad could beat up her dad. I feel it is a testimony to my persistence and commitment to keeping the lines of communication open, that the two of us were finally able to resolve that issue.

Of course, I would never have held off on tackling this far more important smarter than her issue for so long, but I had always assumed she knew this to be true and that only her respect for my natural humility had kept her from openly expressing this. Sadly, there had been a recent game of Scrabble, in which her score appeared to be larger than mine, that she felt cast some doubt on this issue. For my part I had been more than gracious, freely admitting that in randomly drawing letters out of a bag that produced ready-made words, I was simply not her equal. Unfortunately, the glamour of this rare victory had gone right to her head and things had not been the same between us. Rather than letting this issue fester beneath the surface as a less sensitive soul mate might, I had cut straight to the chase, by stating my view outright.

As I had sensed a certain confusion that we needed to work out, you can imagine that I wasn't entirely surprised when she responded to my pronouncement with a resounding "Ha!" I was shaken by it, certainly, but, again, I am not one of those insensitive husbands that can't work through marital problems. I simply said to myself, what is the use of being smarter than her if you can't use your powers to make her see the light? That is what I set myself to do.

To quell the fears of any feminist-minded readers, I want to make it clear that I don't think of my wife as being intellectually bereft. I think she is a bright little thing, and as cute as a button! So you can see it is not a sexist trait in me that keeps me from considering my wife my intellectual equal. I am perfectly capable of believing that the world is full of couples in which the lesser sex is smarter than the other. That is simple logic. It isn't my sex that makes me so smart, so why should a woman's sex prevent her from being nearly as smart as me, and smarter than everyone else? How could I be sexist when I firmly believe that if I were a woman, I would still be extraordinarily smart?

Now, having put those matters to rest, we can get back to the issue at hand. How was I to handle this dilemma? I had explained the situation to my wife, and yet she seemed to find my explanation lacking. In fact, I seemed to have opened a well of repressed feelings on the matter. She immediately sat up and had the audacity to ask me what my SAT scores were. I gave my standard answer that I give to everyone. That is, that the level of my intellectual capacities that did not exceed the ability of their test to measure was rendered as an even 1000. She missed the big picture here and only laughed and revealed that her scores were much higher. .

I hated to see her sinking to these depths. What are SAT scores, I asked her. SAT scores are for measuring levels of mediocrity--not true genius. When I took my SATs, I assured her, I did not find them challenging enough to merit much attention--thus my score. Of course, it was only natural that if these tests were a challenge to a smaller mind, that that mind would engage the challenge and thus achieve higher results. Flawless logic, but Rebecca seemed unconvinced. In fact, she decided to raise the stakes.

"When I was in elementary school they determined I had a high IQ so they let me skip an entire grade."

"So what?", I countered. "That was just something you were born with. I didn't just get my cleverness handed down to me. I had to work at being so smart. What's the pride in being a smart little kid? That is like being born rich. No great accomplishment there."

Rebecca eyed me narrowly at this point. My logic had clearly dumbfounded her. She paused for a moment and then proceeded with her arguments.

"Okay, then, how do we prove that you are smarter than me?"

"I suggest that we agree on a fair contest. For instance, we could play a riddling game. I will ask a riddle and if you can answer it, you can ask me..."

Rebecca interrupted.

"We are looking for an intelligence indicator, not a geek litmus test. And I am not playing a riddle game with someone who has read The Hobbit eight times, and probably did this sort of stuff in his Dungeons and Dragons games every weekend until he was 18."

"Eleven times, and 22." I responded, "Okay then, how about we play a game of chess for it?"

"No, because you have been playing for years. Its just your experience that would let you beat me, not your..." She paused and made a sort of sneering grimace. "...genius."

"Hmmm, yes, you are right. I guess the only thing we can do is wait until you get good at chess. In the meantime, I don't think we have enough evidence to discard our null hypothesis. So until then, we must maintain that I am smarter than you."

"We could do that," Rebecca feigned agreement, "or we could download a MENSA test from the Web and settle this issue right now."

Yes, my wife is a bold creature, and such traits, I've discovered tend to appear in people to help them compensate for other traits they are lacking. But this time, I felt her boldness would be her undoing. I quickly accepted her challenge and we adjourned to the computer to take our tests.

I must say, I expected better from MENSA. You would think that an organization that dedicated itself to recognizing smart people would write a test where I would excel. In fact, if memory serves, Rebecca missed only a few, while I scored 17 out of 30.

"This test is biased!" I declared when I saw the results.

"Yes, I'm afraid so." Rebecca replied. "Its been shown that it is heavily partial to smart people."

"That is not what I mean." I answered, thinking on my feet. "Clearly, it is designed for average thinkers. Its just a placebo. Something to make the average feel good about themselves, while simultaneously bringing the gifted down to their level. There is nothing to this test."

"You are the biggest baby I have ever seen." Rebecca replied. "We agreed on this test so the matter is settled."

"Well, it seemed like a good idea, but I sometimes forget just how hard it is to measure my genious. Can I help it that MENSA proved to be so below me?"

"We agreed on this test!" Rebecca insisted.

"Try to understand, my dear." I said soothingly. You see, Rebecca can be very petty when it comes to these sort of contests, and she was taking my objections as an attack on her pride, rather than the exercise of pure and necessary logic, as, of course, they really were.

"I don't want to take away any credit from you, in this." I continued with my kindest and most beneficent elder correcting a misguided young child manner. "Again, as long as you find it a real challenge to unscramble words and other amusing little mind-tricks like that, you will always do better on these sorts of tests. It probably helps you that you can more easily clear your mind and dedicate your full attention to such trivialities. Unfortunately for me, I can't stop pondering the greater mysteries of the universe even when I want to."

Rebecca's look of disgust only grew. She started to make a reply, but I interrupted.

"But," I agreed. "You are correct. We agreed on this test. So I can't deny that you have won the bragging rights for being smarter. You are definitely smarter. From now on, you will be smarter, and I will just refer to myself as having a higher consciousness. Fair enough?"

Rebecca clearly didn't feel the need to discuss the matter any further because she just got up, walked out, and returned to the living room and her book. Once again, I had defused a volatile situation and restored marital bliss.  I'm not bragging about the achievement.  After all, what is the use of having a higher consciousness if you can't use your powers to help others?