Sounding Smart, Wearing a Dress, and a Third Item for Grammar

The idea that trying to sound smart gets in the way of actual intelligent thinking is as old as… I have no idea. I do’t need to be smart here. But it’s true. Most of the time, even when I am writing something I feel legitimately ready to talk about, the dominant thought in my mind is to sound smart with each and every sentence. More than once, I’ve found myself proofreading by running my eyes over each sentence and going, “Thought makes sense, drives the argument forward, sounds smart, NEXT!”

The problem with the whole sounding smart thing is that, at least in my case, it’s not an afterthought. It is part of the second-by-second act of writing. I have no idea how to detach it from the other decisions I’m making. If I start trying not to try to sound smart, I’m naked. I don’t think it’s because all I’m doing is trying to sound smart. It’s more like sounding smart holds everything together.

So I ask myself: Naked? Is that the feeling? Or is it more like a feeling of wearing clothes that make you feel completely unlike yourself? I don’t mean wearing a color that doesn’t go with your eyes or even wearing a costume. I’m talking about the feeling you get when you are in a social situation that is familiar to you with clothes that are unfamiliar to you.

Hmm…Dress?

Yes. Trying to try not to sound smart is like doing my job, driving my car, grocery shopping, drinking in a dress. I mean it. Just picturing it, I get the sense that everything I am would fall apart.

Now, I’m not talking about trying a dress in front of the mirror when you’re alone and making funny poses at the mirror. I’also not talking about wearing it ironically. I’m talking about just being another woman in the store, at work, etc, in a dress. I don’t think I could even order a coffee.

And as a matter of fact, I’ve been asked to do it. Someone whose being smart I respect a lot said, “You should do it. Wear a dress to work. See how you feel. The vulnerability. It will force you to…” The memory cuts there. Freud? Shush.

Am I gonna do it? I don’t know. Am I gonna try to try not to sound smart? Well.. This is my trying it on and making faces at the mirror.

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