W called me to discuss his relationship with his on/off girlfriend On/Off. He kicked off this conversation by talking about how stupid she is and how she took his effort to correct her on a pop culture reference she got embarrassingly wrong so poorly. They were with a group of people and she flipped out when he called her on her error, which was the cultural equivalent of arguing that Darth Vader was the captain of the enterprise.

On/Off is pretty stupid. She is definitely uneducated — I don’t mean formally uneducated, although she is that, too — but she is not well-read, not intellectually curious, and claims to never read the dictionary which I find appalling.

What On/Off is: very pretty. W is all about the surface and it does not bother him that this woman is not intellectually compatible with him. (A woman with whom he could have children and who would primarily raise them.) For him, her attractiveness is extremely important. He is dating other women, but they are not as pretty as On/Off and therefore, they cannot compete.

Does my disdain drip off the page?

I said to him, how could you date someone who is so intellectually incompatible with you?!!! It has nothing to do with formal education. It has to do with intellectual curiosity.

He defended her strongly: “she’s smart! she knows about politics! we have a lot we talk about!” Um, sure. We’ve known her for years and one of the only times I’ve heard her express an opinion about anything other than the temperature was when she claimed to never read a dictionary.

I said to W, not joking, that it’s amusing that none of us find the other’s mates appealing, based largely on this issue of intellectual compatibility. None of us would date each other or any of the people the others choose to date. (Notoriously, K “hates” BFD, which I still find amusing.)

BFD and I began dating and have continued dating because we are intellectually compatible. We are incredibly geeky, forever delving deeply into topics, with wikipedia and a fine dictionary at the ready. In public and in private, BFD and I often end up trying to figure out things or solving puzzles, like how a certain type of business could work, or what are the tax consequences of him setting up scholarships for his young relatives, or what would be the best crime syndicate to run. Goofy, ridiculous, and deathly dull to 99% of the people in our lives. Still, it’s what we enjoy . . . this picking up an object and examining it from every angle, stepping into someone else’s mind to evaluate their critique, etc.

I reminded W that he and the other two have teased me mercilessly over the years for being geeky — which, in their parlance, means I have a better than average vocabulary and an interest in topics other than whatever game we’re currently watching.

As I spoke with W, I realized my accent shifted just a little, my word choice shifted just a little, and I spoke to him as I speak to BFD.

I realized long ago that I speak to different friends differently. I always knew that A and I had our own things we would only discuss with each other and maybe with some of my family members. BFD and I have continued that tradition, mainly because we have cultural and philosophical interests we do not share with many people with whom we deal daily. I never realized that I shift so often how I am speaking and what I say and the words I use depending upon the audience.

Over the years, I have been teased mercilessly by my friends and colleagues about my vocabulary and my accent. Because of where I live, I have had to adopt some genuinely incorrect pronunciations in order to be understood. (Seriously! Only here would I be forced to pronounce the word “manor” as “may-ner.”) BFD has an accent similar to mine. We’ve lived in the same two regions and we have a blend of accents into which we slide. Over time, our accents are becoming unified, which has been interesting, and we do discuss how certain words or names are pronounced. Because that kind of thing is important to us.

We are willing to admit, “I have no idea how to say this” or “I have no idea what that means.” There is no shame in not knowing something. I often tell people that the three most important words I learned in law school (an unintellectual exercise I blame for my now being an idiot) are “I don’t know.”

We have a lot of things in common and we are willing to discuss things in depth and at length. My friends tease me about the fact that BFD and I are so similar in our interest in drilling down and figuring things out, but that’s who we are and part of what we have in common. For us, it’s always about “why?”

I have no idea how my friends can date seriously people with whom they are not intellectually compatible. If you don’t have that, what do you have?