before I pick up my pal Penelope for our trip to the Mensa Annual Gathering in Portland, there's enough time to write a quick post about how excited I am about doing this.
I joined Mensa thirty years ago, when my mom, seeing how stupid I felt after the breakup of my marriage, urged me to try my luck and take an IQ test. In my capacity as a school counselor, I had just given my young nephew Joel an IQ test, which he'd blasted the lid off of, to enable him to join Mensa.
"You could do that too, you know," my mom said. "Don't you remember when you were in 7th grade and Mr. S called us in to talk to us about you? We didn't say much to you about it, but his message was that you were undoubtedly a gifted child and we needed to provide you with the best education we could manage. At that time, you tested in the 140 level. You're probably still there, even if you feel dumb." (Words paraphrased, obviously.)
So I thought about it and eventually enlisted my friend Arline, the school psychologist at the junior high where I worked, to give me the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), figuring that if my brain had deteriorated, as I was afraid it might have, at least she was sworn to confidentiality and nobody would have to know.
But there I was, still, in that range, whether I felt stupid or not. And I sent in my test results, certified by a qualified psychologist, and was duly accepted into Mensa, the high IQ society.
I dithered for months, wondering if I had made a huge mistake. I was afraid to tell people, for fear they'd think I was bragging, for fear of being labeled a brainiac (which I certainly didn't feel like), for fear of being put down as someone who thought overly highly of myself. What good was it to belong to Mensa if I wasn't comfortable telling people?
And then I went to my first meeting of the Denver group, a gathering in a buffet restaurant before a monthly general meeting on some topic. It was like walking into a comfortable, casual home with people who liked me immediately, understood and laughed at my jokes, told their own esoteric funny stories, reveled in punny humor, and weren't the least bit stuck on themselves because of their high intelligence.
Over the years since then, I've honed my leadership skills as an officer in the Denver group (if leading UUs is like herding cats, try Mensans!), spent a few years working with gifted underachieving adolescents in schools, and generally having a blast most (not all) of the time. I got my first writing-for-publication experience writing monthly columns for the Matrix, Denver Mensa's newsletter; I got my first conflict reduction experience as LocSec/President of Denver Mensa for several years; I found some of my fondest friends and lovers in the group (fond, not necessarily normal). And I also got temporarily disillusioned and dropped out for a few years.
Re-entering Mensa when I came back to Oregon in 1999 put me in a whole different Mensa milieu, fun but not as demanding as my earlier leadership experience. And moving up to this area meant I became a member of the Western Washington Mensa group, where friend Richard and I started the Whidbey Island "Thank Goodness It's Friday" second Friday Happy Hour, alternating between Freeland's China City bar and the San Remo Grill in Oak Harbor.
I haven't been to an AG (Annual Gathering) since at least 1991---twenty years. And in scanning the roster of registrants, I'm aware that I will only know a handful of attendees at the gathering. But I believe that there will be the same high spirits, stimulating presentations, and convivial shmooze sessions that have always characterized an AG for me.
So there---I'm out of the closet on this. I am a smart person, even though I don't act like it sometimes. I am not vain about it; my parents and brother and sister are also smart. And then there's Joel! My son became a Mensan when he was old enough to take a junior high IQ test. My ex-husband is also eligible. It's pure luck on my part to be smart and I have a responsibility to be humble about it and use it well.
I have noticed that as I got more and more involved in ministry, my interests changed and shifted and I was less interested in what Mensa was doing. I have spent the past twenty years immersed in ministry, with its search for meaning rather than information. But there's always been a little spark of curiosity in me about science and behavior patterns and human development---not just what they mean in isolation but in relationship to my vocation. And if IQ has had anything to do with ministry, I hope it has been to be intelligent about my relationships, to curb my weirder responses that are an attempt to be funny, and to offer understanding and comfort to others who often offend because they are "too smart for their own good".
In fact, I once thought I might write a book with that title, about what it's like to be a gifted kid grown into a gifted adult, to go from obnoxiously smart to more socially acceptable intelligence. It's been a journey that has had its ups and downs. I still do dumb things occasionally and, even as I smack my forehead in frustration, I still know that I am a wiser person, due in large part to my life experiences.
Mensa is NOT a place where people sit around and stroke their egos. At least I've never seen that happen. Mostly I see people who are blossoming in the accepting atmosphere of a place where they are understood and appreciated for their weird humor, eccentric interests, and creative ideas. If you feel a little off-kilter sometimes in a world that doesn't see things the way you do, consider visiting a Mensa meeting and see what you think. You might find a new home.