How a question on a quiz show led to me doubting myself for the next 25 years
“In 1981 Dead Ringer For Love, was a duet by Meat Loaf and which female artist?” (or words to that effect)
I grew up listening to Meat Loaf.
Bat Out Of Hell was the album my mum played through the window when I was a baby and got woken up by the people singing hymns in the church next door. I went back to sleep. Someone got kicked out. The church complained.
“In 1981 Dead Ringer For Love, was a duet by Meat Loaf and which female artist?”
I was 11 years old, and casually dropping a whole bunch of right answers at the quiz show on TV.
Knowing the answer to this song got me into trouble and taught me it wasn’t safe to know things.
Especially when the man who didn’t know the answer (Bonnie Tyler?! Nope) is a hot-headed dickhead with a fragile ego. Who also happens to be your stepdad who doesn’t like to be wrong and “won’t have a know-it-all shit like you trying to show me up”
I wasn’t being a know-it-all. I just knew this song like the back of my hand and knew it was Cher because NO ONE sings like Cher.
And who was I showing him up in front of? There was no one else there.
It was subtle but constant. The digs that I shouldn’t know things. The backwards compliments or the refusal to admit anything I did was any good.
He’d tell my mum he thought I’d done well on a school project when I got high grades, and she’d pass the message along because “he just feels weird saying it to your face” yet when she wasn’t around I was mocked, shamed, slapped and sometimes had things thrown at me for being a “know it all”
I learned to not offer up answers. Home, school, anywhere. I just decided it was safer to keep quiet.
Like 4 years later sat in Technology class and the teacher asked “what does PVA stand for?”
I wrote the answer in my book (polyvinyl acetate) but refused to put my hand up. The girl who sat next to me offered up my answer because I refused to, even when she told him I knew it and I’d written it down already.
That teacher stopped me on the way out of class to say in all his years of teaching he’d never known a student scared to be right before.
The same thing when I scored full marks on a maths test and asked the teacher not to say anything about it in class. She’d already told me at parents evening and I’d been scoffed at “well anyone could do that” from the guy who couldn’t even understand my homework.
Back then, I was shy. I’d been a shy kid, happily going along in my own little world, so I figured playing small was the best option. I’d started doing things that got me noticed, and it wasn’t going well, so I should hide.
I should keep my mouth shut.
Pretend I don’t know.
Downplay my own strengths.
Leave the homework.
Lower the grades.
Don’t answer the questions on TV.
Lose the games.
Just stay quiet.
Even when I left school and went to work, men didn’t like it when I knew shit they didn’t, like how to format an Excel spreadsheet and write formulas that worked.
Or put together a new delivery schedule and then present it to every level of management.
Or develop SOPs that saved the company £15k in one quarter.
I was repeatedly told I should stay in my own lane. (by the very people who’d handed me the work in the first place)
I gave up trying.
It’s hard work being FUCKING SMART and constantly having it thrown in your face because the “men” around you can’t fucking handle it that a “girl” knows shit they don’t, and can do things that they can’t.
Intelligence is a superpower.
Being smart, using our brains, having a wealth of knowledge, and knowing how to use it… THAT is what we need to do more of.
We all have it, we’re all able to learn, we just do it in different ways (neurodiversity is fascinating!)
We all have our own interests and skillsets.
We just need to use them in a way that suits us and helps us move forward in life.
No one should be hiding who they are and what they know to appease others.
We should all be comfortable living in our own lane, even if that’s the fast lane.