I once dated a guy that I’d immediately determined, for various reasons, was not very smart. Because of my quick conclusions, I worried that I would intimidate him, so I decided to “dumb myself down.”
The thing about dumbing yourself down is people often think you’re really dumb. Especially if you’re good at it. They don’t get your sense of humor or any of the jokes that you make. Because you’re putting on a false front, they never see the real you. They don’t know how much time you spend learning something they love — football — just to be able to have meaningful conversations with them.
This guy eventually broke up with me. Heartbroken, I asked him what he didn’t think was working in the relationship. He said, and I quote, “You don’t challenge my thoughts on current events and football.” Apparently I’m a really good actress.
When a client asked why he broke up with me and I told him, he replied, “I didn’t know he had such thoughts.” Truthfully, that was a pretty long sentence for the breaker-upper.
My best friend to this day still tries to get me to pay attention to football because it’s such a pivotal piece of conversation with men. But, when I think about it, how much time do they spend learning ballet to make conversation with me? This was the first pivotal moment in my life when I decided to stop trying to be someone that I wasn’t and just be myself. If I wasn’t myself, how long would the relationship really last? If I kept up the act, would I be doomed to a life discussing football? Would anyone ever talk to me about ballet? Would I ever lead a happy and fulfilled life? Scariest of all, would anyone ever love me for me and not some front I put up? They would never know the real me.
So, somewhere in my thirties, I reached a turning point where I stopped dumbing it down in an effort to not intimidate men. Ironically enough, once I started doing stand-up comedy, I got a spot calling in to a local sports radio show that focused on, you guessed it, football. I listened for days before my first call-in, trying to understand what they were talking about. It was like they were speaking Greek. Finally, I just decided to be myself, picked up the phone, and made the first call that was live on the air.
When the host asked why I was calling in, I began to sob into the phone and said, “My boyfriend loves your show, and he just broke up with me because I don’t challenge his thoughts on current events and football. You’ve got to help me learn football so I can get him back!” And that, my friends, began two years of calling in to a sports radio show as a comic. They say your past shapes your future, and they were right; it does in so many ways.
This Super Bowl weekend, may you always be true to yourself, and may you use your mistakes of the past to brighten your future.