I mean, yes, professionally, it is a deal-breaker for me. I do not tolerate functional illiteracy in my students. It's my job not to tolerate it. It's my job to articulate to them why functional illiteracy is a bad thing, and to try to shed some light on the rules for English language usage. Sometimes I am more successful than others, but generally I think that I'm pretty good at this part of my job.
But when it comes to dating, does it really matter if a suitor is a good writer? This, as I'm in communication with the Computer Guy now, has become a matter of some importance. At least he's being funny about his lack of ability as a writer, and he does seem like a person with whom I'd have a good time. But do I dump him just because he doesn't use capital letters? Or is that cancelled out by the fact that he spelled "too" correctly? Do I dump him because he seems so intimidated by the fact that he is a crappy writer? Or is that cancelled out by the fact that he is self-deprecating and somewhat charming? Or do I dump him because he's charming, because I am too easily charmed?
I don't expect you all to have the answers to these questions, but I suppose at the root of all of this is a problem that I've had long before this foray into the online dating. What problem, you ask? Well, this problem with dudes making a big deal out of what I do, and this being translated into things like being intimidated about their lack of language skills, asking me to "grade" them on their performance in a variety of areas (and no, I'm not kidding, and yes, it's happened with more than one weirdo), or trying to prove that they're just as smart as I am or something, as if we're in some sort of smart-person contest. (Here's a tip: we're not, because I have a Ph.D. and I don't have to prove how smart I am anymore.)
Now, before all of my loyal and true readers get their panties in a twist and tell me that I'm just dating the wrong guys or considering the wrong guys, I would just ask that you consider my geographical limitations as well as the fact that I also really don't like being fetishized as a woman whose intelligence is the one true key to her sexiness, either. Because, yes, I've gone out with those guys, too, the ones who can't get over my awesome brain in order to deal with me in a normal way and to accept that I don't have brilliant thoughts constantly. What I want (which is perhaps crazy) is for what I do not to be a particularly big deal - either positively or negatively. Sure, I'm smart. So's my mom, who never went to college. So are many of my relatives who didn't even graduate from high school. So I'm not necessarily looking for somebody with whom I share every intellectual interest that I have or with whom to talk about books, etc. I have friends and colleagues and students for that. (Oh, and I should probably note that I've never had luck going out with other academics because I get weirdly competitive or I feel like I'm always supposed to be reading the New Yorker or something, and I just can't hang.)
So what is my point here? Well, I don't know. I guess I feel like this is something that academic single women have to deal with in a way that academic single men don't. I think there is often a cultural expectation that a man will have a higher degree than the women that he dates, or that a man will have more professional stature, or whatever. As a woman, though, I feel like I have to apologize for my achievements while at the same time I have to demand respect for them. It's a tough line to walk.
3 years ago