Like millions of people around the world, I struggle with a severe learning disability. It often causes me to say things that I regret, it wreaks emotional and financial damage to my friends and family, and costs my employer tens of thousands of dollars a year.
No, it’s not something trendy like ADD or ADHD or even AADD. It’s not something all successful people brag about having, like dyslexia. It’s an embarrassing and rarely mentioned disorder that I have long kept secret, afraid my friends, neighbors and co-workers would find out. I suffer from Stupidity.
No one brags about having Stupidity. There’s no pill you can take for that, there’s no support group, no summer camp. You just have to learn to live with it. Parents that have no problem telling the world their child has ADD or ADHD wouldn’t be caught dead standing up at the PTA meeting and saying, “My kid’s stupid. What special programs have you got for that?”
Even in this modern day and age, Stupidity still carries a stigma with it – some people even believe that stupid people aren’t quite as good as “normal” people – even though we’ve had stupid presidents, stupid socialites, stupid generals, stupid movie stars, stupid bankers and stupid CEOs. Stupidity knows no borders. Many people suffer from Stupidity and don’t even know it – teenagers, for example.
My friend Sal thinks the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore were carved by the wind. Yet he holds a well-paying job and has a family. His wife and many of his children are non-stupid.
Stupidity has never become a fashionable disorder. None of the morning shows has ever done a weeklong series on it, none of the hosts has admitted to having raised stupid children.
Little is known about stupidity, even though scientists say that as much as half of the entire population is below average. An exaggeration, no doubt, but it’s a well-known fact there are millions of stupid people. Stupidity is an equal-opportunity disability that strikes men and women, young and old. It strikes teachers and students, princes and paupers, politicians and voters, athletes and, well, a whole lot of athletes.
Stupidity can strike without warning. Who hasn’t married someone and then smacked their forehead 10 minutes later and said, “What was I thinking?” What CEO hasn’t paid himself $100 million and then fired people in a cost-cutting measure?
An especially tragic form of the disease is Adult Onset Stupidity (AOS), which can strike without warning. One day you’re perfectly normal and healthy, the next day you’re watching TV shows about bass fishing.
For years, I hid my Stupidity from my friends, my family and my co-workers. Only my wife knew about it, which is amazing, because I never even told her I was stupid; she figured it out all by herself. It used to bother me, but now, when I come home from the grocery store and she yells, “You idiot, I said ‘tuna fish’ not ‘Tidy Flush!’” I don’t take it personally. Instead of hiding my stupidity from her, I can relax at home and be as stupid as I like. She won’t let me cook or clean or do the laundry because I always “do it wrong.” While she does the dishes, I watch TV. Sometimes I think, “Who’s stupid, now?” But I’m not stupid enough to say that out loud.
Over the years, I’ve gotten good at finding ways to hide my Stupidity from others. When I misspelled the company’s name on this year’s Christmas cards, I blamed the stupid printers. When I bought the lead paint for the company’s Day Care Center because it was on sale, I blamed the stupid paint store. When I forget to mail things out, important things like bills and contracts, I blame the post office. My bosses always blame other people, so I figure it’s the smart thing to do. I don’t want them to think I’m stupid.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.