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brother’s still here

November 15, 2010

In 8th grade my science teacher allegedly said, during a parent-teacher meeting that I “only seemed smart because I hung out with the smart kids”.

That’s generally how it works in my experience. No one has ever really hassled me just for showing up. It’s more about where exactly my place is. Overt confrontations are rare. It’s more like, “I just assumed you were below average, just happy to be here and would sit in the back.”

The story I usually tell: sitting around high school senior year. This is a prep school way on the other side of town. I’d been there since the 6th grade and had known all these guys for years. Had classes with them. Commiserated over exam scores, etc. We were discussing the usual college admission anxiety. Where were you applying and such. People’s SAT scores were coming in. One of the guys mentioned his very good but not perfect score. Everyone nodded. Good job. Then they asked me. I told them my score. It was similar but slightly lower than the last guy. The reaction? Complete disbelief. One guy even immediately exclaimed BULLSHIT! I was shocked. I hadn’t make up some obscenely high score. It seemed totally plausible to me, give my record and previous test scores. Plenty of other students were getting comparable scores. The other guy who’d scored higher wasn’t exactly the class valedictorian. He was a good student, who I though was comparable to me. It hadn’t occurred to me that my score was in any way shocking or unbelievable. After a few seconds I snapped back to life and threatened to bring in a copy of my score sheet and pin it to everyone’s heads. They relented.

It seems they did not think of me what I thought they did.
A lesson to keep in mind.

I’ve heard enough similar stories from other folks to surmise that this is a thing. I haven’t figured out what to name it yet. A co-worker, classmate or acquaintance who had previously seemed perfectly nice suddenly griping about what they are sure are “stolen” accolades and fraudulent success. It’s always a surprise to them, for some reason.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2010 9:44 am

    Yeah, I’ved encountered this *thing* too. I’ve brushed much of it off until I got it from a famous scientist prof when I started my PhD. He knew the chair of my Master program (another uber famous scientist dude) who wrote me a great letter of rec and knew he wasn’t the kind of guy to say nice things in general. So when I gave my first talk for the department he came up to me and said, “Oh, you really did a good job”. And there was this tone of utter surprise in his voice. I enjoy a compliment, but couldn’t shake the feeling that although he was genuinely complimenting me, he really had low expectations of me and my research experience.

    It’s an odd feeling and you’re right. I don’t know what to call it, but I know it when I feel it. It makes me chew on the inside of cheek. Hmpf.

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