Killer Queen: The Queen’s Gambit and the price of genius

When Anne of Green Gables was young, more than anything, she wanted three things: to find kindred, to beat Gilbert Blythe, and for her vibrant red hair to mellow into a more refined Auburn.

One of the major themes in this series I’m watching is the isolation that genius brings—the burden that must come with the gift.

I think I knew this pretty young. And coupled with being female, it was even more jarring. I was the only girl in the advanced reading group, the only girl at computer camp and in computer classes. I was smarter than every single one of those boys and I had no problem telling them that.

And at home, it was the only thing I got recognition for, so I got very good at being cold-blooded. Beating the boys was the only thing I cared about.

Girls’ games I couldn’t even begin to understand and I failed at them all the time. Girls’ games were played at the lunch table…at sleepovers…on weekend trips to see movies in Tucson and walk around the mall. I didn’t care about the late night secrets, the intrigue, the subtle freeze outs, the mimicry, or the need to fit in as opposed to standing out.

I took my isolation for granted. But I dreamed that someday, someone would come into my life who could understand. And there were glimmers of it, girls who indulged the nerdy side. But they were never intellectual equals. I learned that, even in these instances, I had to hide a part of me or risk alienating these girls. I became resentful. I wanted to reject them before they eventually rejected me. I was contemptuous and bitter.

And then I found the perfect person to indulge in the genius and the resentment in a life partner. Together, we could push out the rest of the world and feel oh so self-satisfied on our island of exile built for two.

But even then, I was unhappy.

But after life taught me lessons the hard way, I realized that the loneliness was unbearable and it didn’t matter how smart I was if I didn’t have access to my humanity.

Now, at 41, I don’t worry about being the smartest kid anymore. I don’t offer up my gifts as proof of value. I’m always going to be a snob but it cuts both ways because people who find my vocabulary and conversation off-putting will quickly go their own way.

And the friends I do have, well, they get me. We’re all nerdy. We’ve all felt the loneliness and exclusion from the seemingly happy company of the sleeping masses. But, somehow, we aren’t sitting in the isolation and misery of the elite who call out their damage as proof of their special abilities. Those people still exist out there. They want to be known as gaping wounds. I see my former self in them and I am ok with my softened edges.

I have mellowed. I have kindred. And to those who would play games of who is smarter, as evidenced by who has it worse, I tip over my king. I resign. They win the title of suffering genius. I’m done playing games.

Comments

  1. Thank you for your post! I was wondering if anyone else had connected The Queen’s Gambit and Anne of Green Gables, so I searched and your site was one of the first. Both the Netflix series of TQG and the original Canadian/PBS miniseries of Anne of Green Gables (the series filmed in the 80’s), and both books, share so many connections and are just amazing.

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