“How did you do on that calculus exam?” A tall brunette pulled a chair up to the table, directly across from me. The cafeteria was bustling with the usual suspects.
I shrugged. “Okay.” I tried to keep my voice nonchalant.
“Man, that was brutal. Who needs calculus anyways?” The blonde who joined us was slender, and preppy. I noted that several boys watched as she approached and then mumbled approvingly amongst themselves.
“I need to study more,” another classmate complained, as she dumped a pile of texts on the table. “I just don’t seem to be able to grasp the concepts.”
“Yeah, well someone in our class does. I heard one person scored 100%.” Our lunch group was growing in numbers.
“No way! That’s not possible.” A loud rumble of surprise and disapproval erupted around the table.
I kept quiet.
Then Izzy arrived. Izzy was one of my closest friends, and also my seat mate in math class. She knew the truth.
“Congratulations!” she oozed, before I could stop her. “Another 100%!”
“What?” The brunette across the table from me blurted. “You’re the one who got perfect?! How’s that possible?”
All eyes were on me.
“No offense, or anything, but you’re not all that bright.” She had always proclaimed to be the smart one, and I can see that this revelation was making her truly uncomfortable.
“Izzy’s joking,” the blonde proclaimed. “If you didn’t ace it, then there’s no way she did.”
“Well, she did!” Izzy responded. “She’s smarter than you think.”
“I don’t get it.” the brunette questioned. “If you’re so smart, why do you act so dumb?”
She had a point. I’d learned to hide my intelligence after years of bullying and beatings. But why act so dumb?
It was a question I would ponder for years to come. Not bragging about my accomplishments felt right, but my motivation for doing so was not so admirable.
How do we balance our very human need for acknowledgment with a desire to be humble?