. . . My mother used to say to me . . . "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh, so smart or oh, so pleasant." For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
–Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey (Mary Chase)
I couldn't think of an answer off the top of my head, so I (duh!) went to my Facebook info page. I have a bunch, but *wham*–this one was it. And it's surprisingly hard to talk about.
The first time I heard this as a kid, I felt sad and hurt. "Smart" was once again being dissed. It was made really clear to me that I was a freak in grade school, and it took a long time for me to stop resenting that But when I ran across it again, I finally understood what Mrs. Dowd was saying.
I'm wickid smaht–oh-please-*yawn*-oh-go-away-you-Mensa-asshole smaht. It's screwed with my life substantially, because it intimidates people.
"You sound like you think you're smarter than everybody else." Well, um, ah, if you really want to go there, for the 99% majority of "everybody else," I *am* by some common standards. But I never, ever mean to sound like that. It's just that there's nothing I can do about it–except be pleasant. I have agency there; I can choose to be pleasant; and I do.
Fortunately, I am also wickid nice by nature. Sweet, cheerful, funny, you name it. I *like* being pleasant. It's easy for me; it's my default. Mind you, my default is also to talk in complete paragraphs, or so I've been told; but what really matters is what one says and why one says it.
I tend to meet people where they're at, if at all possible. It's kind of a sociolinguistic thing, in a way. It drives my daughter insane that I pick up a "fake" Boston accent when I talk to blue-collar Bostonians. (Bear in mind, by the way, that my daughter calls me Mawm, and frequently pronounces 25-cent pieces as quotas.) But it's not fake.
I do it automatically–and I do it in a number of different regional places. Its jargon term is codeswitching–and what it means is that people are happier when you speak their language; and your life is easier as a result. The Hahvahd PhD language is swell–but I can speak many others.
I like people a whole lot. As Ruth Gordon says in Harold and Maude, they're my species. Being pleasant encourages people to let you in, not keep you out. And I've found that to be a wickid good thing.