Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Credential Inflator - The (Worst?) Way To Someone's Heart

Okay, funny story time! Actually, I should say stories, plural. But, they're funny stories with a moral. Aesop would be proud of me, no? By the way, these are all true stories.

First, the side stories.


This is a story about a friend, but I won't use her real name on this post. Let's call her Jenny for the sake of anonymity from the rest of our friends out there reading this. One afternoon, Jenny was pumping gas at the gas station, texting me while she was doing so (WHICH IS NOT SAFE, JENNY, BEE TEE DOUBLE YEW). Yet, while she did so, a man dressed in carpenter overalls pumped gas beside her - blatantly checking her out. Rolling her eyes, she headed in to pay, grabbed a chocolate bar (upon contemplation), and walked out. Yet, as she headed out, Man In The Overalls walked up to her, grinned conversationally, and winked "Hey, Beautiful. What's up?"

Jenny rolled her eyes, grabbed her keys, and walked past him. As she did, she heard him chuckle behind her. He called after her, "Hey, I noticed the UofT keychain on your keys. So, you're one of those educated types, eh? Is that why you won't talk to me? 'Cause I'm a carpenter? What if I was wearing a suit? Would you talk to me then?"

Uncomfortable, Jenny jumped into her car, and booked the heck out of the gas station. She called me later that day to relay the story.

The nerve, right?

No, Overalls. She won't talk to you because you're weird.


So, one autumn afternoon last October, coming home from Queen's for the Thanksgiving long weekend, I sat at Union Station waiting for my Dad to pick me up. Seated beside my suitcases, I played Sudoku (because I'm a nerd) and constantly checked my watch for the time.

Then, a relatively good-looking guy in a security uniform sat beside me. Thinking I was in his way, I moved over to give him more room.

Except, ugh, this happened. Security Uniform smiled, nodded at my Sudoku book, and tried to make conversation. "So, cool game, eh?"

Oh, for the love of all that is holy.

I was a little sketched out. It was late at night, I was by myself. Safety first, right? And plus, I know I watch too many movies, but what if his security uniform was FAKE?! No one hits on customers on the job! Uncomfortable, I stood, I smiled, nodded yes, grabbed my suitcases, and began to roll them towards the Exit.

"Hey," yelled Security Uniform, "You're wearing a Queen's University sweatshirt. Just because you go to Queen's, you think you're too good to talk to me?! Huh? Because you're more educated?!"

Good call on running away, Barb.


So, Jenny and I, along with a bunch of other friends, had a fantastic weekend. Movies, outings, went out in Toronto, breakfasts, etc. It was a wonderful (yet obviously unproductive) weekend.

But, so, here's the scenario for you. We're at a club/a restaurant. It's fun times, right? (Actually, so much fun!). And, of course. My friends are gorgeous, so situations like the ones to follow happen more often than not. And so, the traditional ritual of mating dance begins with introductions ensuing between prospective admirers and my friends, among those invited to the party. Mutual friends are a good way to meet people, right?

Yet, hilariously (and actually kind of interestingly) the following conversations happen. Note: I'm not using real names here.


My friend, Sarah: So, what do you do?
Guy #1: I actually work at a call centre in Toronto. You?
My friend, Sarah: Oh, I just graduated from UofT. I'll be going to med school in September.
Guy #1: Oh... you're one of those.
My friend, Sarah: ......

My friend, Jenny: So, what do you do?
Guy #2: I work at a gym. I'm a personal trainer. What about you?
My friend, Jenny: Oh, I'm about to start my pharmaceuticals Masters program this Fall.
Guy #2: Oh.... you're one of those educated types.
My friend, Jenny: Um, okay....

Guy #3: So, Sally, what do you do?
My friend, Sally: I'm in Pharmacy at UofT, I'll be done in a year. Pretty pumped!
Guy #3: Oh, yeah?
My friend, Sally: What about yourself?
Guy #3: Um..... well, you see, I'm actually a co-owner of a major, huge, large corporation here in Toronto.
My friend, Sally: Oh, which one?
Guy #3: Well, it's a major corporation that deals with investments and banks and such. I get to fly all over the world. I have my own private jet since I'm an assets manager, you see. And I handle all the private accounts.
My friend, Sally (skeptical): Oh, yea? And you're pretty young, that sounds awesome. Where did you go to school?
Guy #3: Yes, it is. And, I attended McMaster University's Rotman School of Business.
My friend, Sally (rolls her eyes): You mean UOFT's Rotman School? McMaster doesn't have a business school.
Guy #3 (nervously): Oh... crap, yeah.

Guy #4: So, what are you up to for the summer now that you're done your Masters?
Me: Just taking it easy, before I go to school in September.
Guy #4: What are you doing in September?
Me: I'm going to law school! Pretty excited. What about you? What do you do?
Guy #4: Oh.. law school, eh? Um... I'm, um, I'm actually the new owner of a business set to gain about a million dollars next year.
Me: What?!
Guy #4: Yes, I'm starting a new business that should be bought over by Amazon.
Me: Oh.... (*thinks to myself* this doesn't make any sense)
Guy #4: I'll be working for a Fortune 500 company soon. And plus, I'll be heading to medical school in September, so I'm planning to be a neurosurgeon. I'll be going to Princeton Medical School.
Me (Ivy League spidey senses on alert): Um, Princeton doesn't have a medical school. Or any professional school, for that matter.
Guy #4: *silence*

Do we see a pattern starting to emerge? After our night at Rockwood, Jenny and I have come up with a new term: Credential Inflators.

We laugh about it all the time (incessantly, almost). But, it's true, no? We've seen this happen so often - to our friends, to us. It's almost a common occurrence, in fact. That learning about a prospective love interest's education is a topic that can make someone back off, to even feel angry or insecure, or lead someone to lie blithely about their own education or occupation. Like the last two guys above. Hence, the term Credential Inflator.

You know what I'm talking about.


"Hi Sarah, my name is Bob. Oh, you're in Pharmacy at UofT? Well, I'm a cardiovascularmortologist at the Toronto Medical Centre Hospital. I'm a doctor of brains and hearts and legs. I'm the bestest best doctor. And I went to Harvard Medical School. I have lots of credentials. Please like me."

Oh. *face palm*


We've noticed this happen a lot. Men or women back off from a potential love interest once education comes into play. Really? Really.

But, here's the thing.

As my dear friend Mary (again, fake name!) puts it, "You can be a jerk with one degree. And you can be a jerk with five degrees. There's more to a love interest than credentials."

So true, M. So true.

Obviously, from the above stories and scenarios, a couple of themes reveal themselves. Scenarios where my friends were called out for being "too good" for certain men because of their education OR my friends being subjected to men inflating their credentials in order to look like a valuable suitor/potential significant other.

Oh, boy. If there's anything that annoys me more, it's the above two scenarios. Really? Picking on someone for not responding to your lame pickup line by accusing them of being elitist because of their education? What if she just doesn't like you? Like, what if she just genuinely doesn't hit it off with you? And, secondly, really? Inflating your job position or education to look good for a girl? I understand you're doing so because you like her, but that's not cool either. Not cool. Especially WHEN YOU'RE BLATANTLY LYING! Like the last two guys in the scenarios above.

But, I'll be the first to admit it. We can be guilty of looking at credentials all too carefully, if you know what I mean. School? Profession? Education? Income? Family? There's that infamous list. Don't scoff, you know these have crossed your mind.

And in this grad life of ours, going through life as 20-somethings, with the reality of "settling down" closer than when it was when we were teenagers, you tend to think of these things, no?

But, here's the thing. Credentials can be part of the picture if you want it to be. But, you know. When you get right down to it, it isn't the ENTIRE picture. You don't have to bank chiefly on credentials or being a certain profession to be appealing. Education is one thing - but being a good person that someone genuinely wants to get to know, that someone would want to pursue a relationship with, is completely another.

And, so, back to stories of my friends and I's experiences up. Guys, really? Backing off from getting to know a girl because she has more degrees than you do? You can call her educated, but she isn't stupid enough to let go of a great guy if he doesn't have the education she does. It isn't all about the education. And, on the flip side. Guys, really? Lying or inflating your education and/or career to look good for a girl? Really? Have more self-respect than that. What happened to being honest?

The lessons here? Let me go a little Aesop on you, friends.

Be yourselves.

To the MEN reading this post: Don't let your credentials, her credentials (or lack thereof) make you hesitate from getting to know a girl you're interested in. If you feel insecure about not having the "education" she does, or if you feel like she doesn't have the "education" you think you'd want in a girl, just take a chance anyway. Throw those insecurities aside. Get to know her first. And go ahead and get to know her beyond those typical "requirements" you have in a partner. You may be surprised at what you find.

To the WOMEN reading this post: Girls, I know there's that saying where we shouldn't "settle." And, of course, if you aren't completely into your prospective admirer, then, fine, backing off is totally understandable. But, what if you actually meet a really, really awesome prospective partner? Someone you'd actually love to get to know? Are you really going to let them go because they aren't a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, etc? Don't regret it and let them get away. Take a chance. It's as easy as agreeing to a coffee date. And if it doesn't work out, then, hey, at least you tried. But, I feel like we need to be more open-minded (myself included), beyond those strict superficial "requirements" we usually have in a partner.

Love is more than just someone's profession. Love is more than where someone went to school. Love is more than just someone's income bracket. When you look for a partner, you don't engage in a relationship just because of their education or income (unless you're a, well, gold digger, obviously), right?

You want to love the actual person, not where their diploma came from.
Because at the end of the day, you come home to someone you love. You don't come home to a credential.

So, be yourselves. Be your wonderful, kind, normal, thoughtful selves. Education is one thing - but in a prospective love interest, boyfriend/girlfriend, life partner, it isn't the only issue on the table. Showing yourself to be genuine, interesting, and nice person matters more than your profession.

Your heart, your personality, and your actions, speak more about you than a university degree ever will.

Remember that the next time someone catches your eye, yea?

"I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff."
— Jon Katz

"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain."
— Emily Dickinson

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."
— Oscar Wilde

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