I recently completed a 10 month college program for medical laboratory technicians. Our class was a small group of approximately 18 people, depending on when you take a headcount. The program was different from most colleges or universities in the sense that students were permitted to drop out of their class for a period of time and rejoin the next group of classmates to complete their missing units or modules. As a result, there were students leaving and new students joining the class at different points of the semester, which I didn't pay much attention to. When our class was months away from graduation and we were shedding our winter boots in favour of flip-flops and sunglasses, a new girl sat down in the back row. I would normally pay her no more attention than anyone else, but something about her seemed different.
She had a soft pretty face with perfectly symmetrical features, and she had long dark hair that she probably straightened every day. After she injured the tendons in her hand, she had to stop school until she recovered enough to draw blood from people again. She was happy to be back in school. With a bright smile and girlish abandon, she laughed at everyone's jokes and won the friendship of half the class. Within days, she was spending every lunchbreak with the other girls her age. Her phlebotomy skills were better than mine, even though she was recovering from an injury. She seemed to fall into a place that had been empty and waiting for her. Everyone loved her and I wished that I could too, but something didn't seem right. She made offhand comments about "smart people" and she laughed too much. She emitted a strange energy that warned me to stay away, so I did, and I suspect that she resented me for it.
One day the words came out of her mouth. She was sitting one seat behind me and chatting with one of her new friends. He was a tall, thin man from Texas and he was always getting into trouble for talking too much. He often complained about his wife. There were seven of us in the room, waiting for everyone else to come back from break. The new girl knew most of the recent graduates from the previous class and the Texas man wanted to know if they had found jobs yet.
Man: "So do you know if the people from the other class found jobs yet?"
New Girl: "Yeah I think most of them have. There are a few that are still looking."
Man: "Oh that's good."
New Girl: "Yeah. It's funny because the ones that don't have jobs yet are the smart people in the class, the ones that are like really smart and don't talk much."
Man: "Hmm that's weird."
New Girl: " . . . . yeah. Like there was this one girl, she didn't really care about making friends here. I mean if she did make friends that was cool, but if she didn't, then that was okay too. She focused on class more than anything. Like, she focused on it SO much, you know?
(the other people in the room were listening intently)
Man: "Right, okay I see."
Girl: "And I think she focused too much on school. She was really smart but she like, didn't say much in class. I mean, the people in class that hardly say anything, they have no personality! That's probably why those people haven't been hired."
Someone Else: "Yeah, you need to have a personality!"
New Girl: "Yeah, I know!"
I didn't listen to the rest of the conversation. I looked around the room at the other quiet people that get high grades like I do, and they looked back at me. It made me feel better.
I don't know if her words were meant as a passive-aggressive attack against those of us sitting around her, or if she was clueless to the fact that she had made a generalization, slapping pieces of tape labelled "boring" onto each of us. I don't know if her new friends were able to recognize the malicousness of her statements. Did they notice the fact that nobody asked her why the "smart people" had not been hired? Did they notice that she singled out a particular girl and insulted her based on a difference of priorities and personality? It also seemed ignorant to claim that one has "no personality," especially when the person in question was not present to defend herself.
I wonder if this girl realized how much insecurity and anger she revealed in a matter of minutes.
I wonder if she knows that she is charismatic, beautiful, determined and probably smarter than she thinks she is. I wonder if she knows that she doesn't need to put other people down to feel good about herself. I wonder if she even realizes that she just put down people to feel better about herself.
The regrettable part of the story is that her attitude and behaviour continued in future incidents. It is sad consolation to discover that someone is bad news, just like you thought they were. I wouldn't say that this woman was dangerous or even a bad person. However, meeting her reminded me that instincts should always be trusted. They protect you from people that look at you and tell themselves, "she's smarter than me but she's also more quiet, therefore she has no personality which makes me feel better."