“Be Normal At Dinner:” On Geniuses, Lovers, and The Asks We Make of Both
Anne Branigin

This is really lovely writing. The only thing missing for me, I think, is any questioning of what this genius is. Most people who are called “genius” seem to have had childhood experiences which groomed them in some way, intentionally or unintentionally, to be so. Sometimes the grooming is in the form of great opportunity; sometimes it’s in the form of abuse that builds them into a person who needs to stand out because they never quite feel worthy of notice without external validation that they have accomplished enough to be considered a full and lovable human. There is some sort of intrinsic exceptionality, certainly, in some people; but we also know from the world as it is that not all people with that internal capability end up realizing it. Talent must be relatively equally distributed around the world, but exceptional accomplishment is clearly not, because opportunity is not.

My father is one of those people called “genius,” from a long line of people described that way. When his first grandchild was young and I was still a teenager, I asked him what he wanted for the youngest of our family. I thought maybe he was dreaming of a musician like himself, or a scientist, or a doctor. “What do you think she’ll grow up to be?”

He said, “I hope she will grow up to be happy.”

So far, she is happy.

I wonder if we could begin earlier to love people in a way that is more freeing than confining, and less entwined with our comfort? If we did, would we have fewer exceptional “geniuses,” but more happy people whose lives include accomplishment that is enough, but not so much it destroys them?

But really, a wonderful piece, and I’ve seen it give warmth to several of my friends already.

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