I know it's probably cliche to love this quote, and it's one of those quotes you might throw out at a dinner party to a hearty round of laughter and guffaws, depending on which gender one aligns with. However, I think there's some legitimacy to Tolstoy's point.
I know, as a woman, it's sometimes tempting to be charming and coy around men. I'm 42 now and still do it. I think I was socialized to be this way. From my Mormon upbringing to my Texas roots, a message sunk in that men like women who are light, airy, witty, charming and clever in ways that are amusing rather than threatening.
It was a subtle message. I certainly wasn't told to go sit in a corner, act pretty and smile. I was encouraged to have long dinner party conversations (even at an early age) and to speak my mind....so long as it wasn't strident, unpopular or too opinionated.
There was a spectrum, I suppose.
At one end was bath-face-down boring.
At the other end was girl-on-fire grating.
Somewhere in the middle was where I was supposed to sit, and in the middle of all that growing up, I learned to tilt my head ever-so-slightly to one side, smile and nod. I didn't necessarily bat my eyelashes, but I didn't voice my opinions, either.
I still do it.
You can imagine the types of men I come into contact with as the wife of an Army colonel. They are not for the faint of heart. They are type-A to the extreme, incredibly smart, physically fit and used to being in control.
I may have, from time to time, regaled some of them with witty little asides and self-deprecating stories that were...charming and coy.
But what Tolstoy says is true: men need the company of intelligent women.
I mean....I think we all need the company of intelligent women.
What does that mean, though? Does that mean women who argue politics throughout an entire meal, perhaps slamming a fist to the table and making declarations?
No. I don't think it means that at all, and I'm sorry that the idea of intelligent women conjures that sort of image in my mind.
I know many intelligent women. They are thoughtful, often quieter in nature, well-read, curious, and as quick with a witty comment as they are a thoughtful analysis.
They are also women who slam their fists on the table and make declarations.
I think the fact that Tolstoy makes the point at all speaks to the fact that so many women are sold the idea that intelligence is threatening or uncomfortable.
Maybe I'm making more of a point about the quote than needs to be made. Perhaps it's simply a charming reference, a little quip about how lovely it is to sit with a fine mind after a long dinner, beside a fire, chatting about poetry and prose.
Oh look.....I'm doing it again. :)