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by Ellie Greenberger

“Tehehe!” and a twirl of hair. It’s the new “bend and snap.” That is, of course, if you are trying to play dumb. Dumb and annoying.

Women who pretend to be dumb make me cringe. I can’t stand it. I can’t even stand the person I was back when I did it.

I went through this phase of my life where I thought that playing dumb would make me more likable or more relatable. I never really saw this as a problem. I thought that my parents constant nagging about it stemmed from a parent’s belief that I had an immeasurable amount of potential.

I run the risk of sounding prideful, but I am smart. Of course, you will find people who are incredibly more talented, intelligent, and driven than I am, but I am not dumb.  

Back in high school, I never let my grades slip or failed classes, but I would hide my successes. I would lie to my friends and say that my test scores were a few points lower than they actually were. I would also share anytime I did struggle. I would complain loudly, and celebrate my failures. I knew on some subconscious level that I was pretending to be dumb, but I didn’t realize the level to which I had taken it.

I was sitting in one of my classes in the ninth grade, and we were watching the play, “12 Angry Men.” My school this year had redone a couple of the class rooms, and had gotten new desks. These desks had wheels on the bottom so that they could easily be rearranged or easily be used to play bumper cars.

The room was dark as we watched the movie. I tried to reposition myself in the desk to be more comfortable. As I attempted to pull my knees into the desk with me, I flipped the entire desk over. In a silent room.

I crashed to the floor, and started to laugh. I have this problem where if I’m nervous, I laugh. If I am uncomfortable, I laugh. If I am upset, I laugh. If I am hurt, I laugh. So I laughed by myself. The teacher didn’t look up from his desk.

While being naturally clumsy had no connection to me playing dumb, as I was recounting the scene dramatically at the end of the school day, one of my friends said to me, “Ellie, you are just dumb.”

I laughed it off, and said, “but not really.”

She responded with, “Oh, okay. Sure.”

I don’t know why her opinion mattered to me more than my parents, but it stuck with me. I would love to say that I realized then that I was playing dumb, and turned my life around.

I didn’t.

It took me a really long time before I learned that I didn’t need to play dumb. More than time, it took self confidence.

I had to learn that it was okay for me to be me. It was okay for me to be smart, to be weird, to always be hungry. Being smart added to who I was. I am proud of that fact.

Pretending to be dumb doesn’t make anyone more attractive. It is like applying for a job and purposefully taking something off your resume that makes you qualified for a position. When women pretend to be dumb, it takes something away from who they are.

When I played dumb, the people that I was around thought less of me. I often found that more people talked about me behind my back, because they believed that I was too oblivious to find out. I heard people say that the reason that I was ditsy was to hide the fact that I had depression and that I cut myself.

I did neither of these things.

I pretended to be ditsy because I was insecure with who I was. I’ve learned over the years that not everyone will always like me, but I don’t have to pretend to be something that I am not in the hopes that they will change their mind. I don’t have to become lesser. And if we are being honest, no amount of changing who I am, will make someone like me if they already do not.

I realized that the people worth keeping around were the ones who liked me when I was smart, when I was sad, when I was human.

I don’t pretend to be ditsy anymore. I still have moments where I am uncomfortable because someone mentions grades, but I am proud of what I am capable of. I’m proud of who I am.     

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