Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Smart AND Sweet

So once upon a time, one of my friends was engaged to this guy - and then she broke up with this guy because they were clearly not made for each other. And when he came over to get his stuff, he said, "You know, I always thought I wanted to marry a smart girl . . . but I guess I really wanted to marry a sweet girl."

And the thing is, I know this girl, and she is sweet. She's a terribly nice person who also happens to be very smart. The problem was not that she wasn't sweet - the problem, for this guy, was that she had her own opinion and could hold her own if she disagreed with him. (And, you know, he was probably mad because she'd broken up with him.)

In any case, I've thought about that several times since then, and I've had arguments with some of my guy friends about what's most important. Because I value my independence and intelligence, I initially have a hard time when a guy says he thinks that sweetness is more important. It makes me think that he just wants someone to fawn on him and tell him how right he is about everything, and I'm not really sure how to feel about that. The word "sweet" seems to imply something saccharine and fake to me, probably based on my friend's experience. On the other hand, I've met women who didn't want to show their intelligence because they felt like it made them hard or inaccessible, like they were somehow disgracing womanhood if they weren't all sweetness.

However, I think I figured out the answer one night when I was talking to a friend and he said he thought sweetness was more important than smartness. I stopped him and said, "Okay, let's define what you mean by sweet." (I was taking a class about social science research, and definitions were important.) So when you look at what the word actually means, a sweet person is someone who is pleasant, kind or thoughtful. And really, these are lovely qualities that have nothing to do with the fakeness I envisioned when I heard the word. I like being around people who have those qualities. I want those qualities. And also, why should it be a question of one or the other?

Being smart is great. Learn all you can, be interesting and witty and brilliant all you want. Being sweet is great. Be kind and pleasant and thoughtful and make people feel like a million bucks whenever you can. You don't have to choose, and it might be nicer if you don't.


Julie W said...

very nice meg. Why does there always seem to be a power struggle?

I would like to add that you can be smart and sweet but to always be serving. If you put your spouse first, and he puts you first, all your needs and his will be met. There will never be any selfish thoughts as to why the other is not treating you right. Then you can love each other in the disagreeable smart moments. Service makes the heart grow fonder.

LifeAsABox said...

Definitions seem to be very important in library school. Many of my classes are exercises in theoretical definitions.

I like that definition of "sweet." It's what I would term generous because sweet makes me think of cotton candy.

One more tangential thought. Yesterday I was browsing at Barnes & Noble and I saw a book called Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work is Done. From the back blurb: "Given women's progress, enlightened sexism assumes, now it's okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women." Anyway the comment that some girls feel like they are disgracing womanhood if they're smart but not sweet is a pervasive stereotype that reminds me that we still have a long way to go.

All that being said, sweetness/generosity and intelligence are both lovely qualities to have and want.

Christian said...

I will say that it is sadly often one feels that is it a difficult balance between the two, though I'd say it's also in large part between accepting and criticizing. Girls that are thought of as "sweet" tend to be those that don't call people out for when they're wrong (which I think is a bit of a mis-definition as well). I always told myself I wanted a girl who would challenge me when I was wrong, stand up to me, etc., and while that is still true, I found after dating some girls who would call me out on EVERYTHING and see every problem as a huge disaster, because they were very critical/analytical, that I'd maybe prefer someone who could do that 1/7th of the time or so (to use the classic analogy of 7 compliment for every 1 criticism, if that's even the real number), rather than always focusing on the things that she, as a smart girl, recognizes could be better about me/her/the relationship. So maybe it's just a matter of the ratio of perceived sweetness (the negative side of which is letting things slide) to smartness (the negative side of which is calling people out all the time or seeming superior, Hermione-style). I don't think I could fall for a girl who's not smart, but neither do I ever want to end up with a girl who's too "smart" to live with.
Also, I'm glad that the girl from that anecdote found a guy who seems to value both sides of her, hopefully a much better fit than that guy. :) Classic example how it does work out, sometimes.

annie said...


Krilafis said...

coming from someone who is not smart, or particularly sweet. It's nice to know that there are people out there who love others that do not have much of either quality. I don't necessarily believe it's about having one or the other or both of those qualities. It's about being loved and not being stingy with loving someone back in whatever way they need.

I think smart girls would be surprised to be in love with a guy and know he values their individuality, independence, and intelligence and not also value them for their sweetness. I don't know of a single young woman who is in a love filled relationship that has to choose. She can't help but be smart AND sweet in love.

I think the better question is,

why do we qualify when to love someone?

Fatimah said...

Great post! Good hunch on asking him to define what he meant by "sweet." I think a girl can be both, and either way, they should just be what they are, not what others want them to be!

Whitney said...

Thanks for this post. I hope that guy found someone sweet, but smart enough to challenge him =)