Category: culture

Did Blogger Freckled Fox Commit Fraud? A Legal Analysis

March 29
21 Comments

I predict this post will set off a storm of emotions, because it’s going to cover cancer, death, fraud, and blogging. It’s a long post, ready?

Today we are going to discuss whether Freckled Fox blogger Emily Meyers deceived people who gave her donations after her husband died in June 2016. Emily remarried in September 2016, eighty or so days after her husband’s death, but still accepted donations made after she had already remarried.

Could Emily be implicated for fraud? She seemed to accept charitable donations for her widowhood while omitting the crucial information that she had already remarried and was going on a honeymoon. I’ll analyze this issue using the common law fraud cases I have read in law school.

Emily Meyers Freckled Fox instagram picture

All pictures are from Emily’s Instagram unless they are screenshots of the donation pages

Background: Freckled Fox is the name of Emily Meyers’ lifestyle blog, where she posts about fashion, family, and hair. Two years ago, her husband received a devastating stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

When her husband Martin eventually passed away from the cancer in June 2016, Emily was left as a widow with five children. I can’t imagine the suffering and grief that this young family has undergone. I have nothing but empathy and condolences for Emily and her five children.

As you can already tell, there are so many facets to Emily’s story. That’s why I have to write very narrowly, because I am only concerned about the donations given to her after the news of her husband’s cancer diagnosis.

I will not be discussing Emily’s children, the cancer, or the fact that Emily was just shot by a gun a few weeks ago (long story short, Emily was shot by her new, second husband; she’s ok even though she has some knee damage. You can’t make this stuff up).

Emily Meyers remarriage after husband's death from cancer

Before we get anywhere with this discussion, let’s get some disclaimers out of the way.

“Hasn’t Emily suffered enough?” some you might say in response to this post. I know she’s been through a lot. Cancer and death are tricky subjects to write about. That’s why I’m not going to write about them. I promise I will only focus on whether donations to the Meyers family were received with honest intentions.

If you have problems with any blog post involving a recent widow, or cancer in general, I can’t appease you. Nothing I say will convince you that, yes, even though a very tragic thing happened, there are objective issues around the touchy subject that could warrant legal analysis.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand when tragedy strikes; as a lawyer-in-training, I have to learn how to deal with the issues underlying people’s tragedies. I’m actually writing this post because the topic of internet fraud came up in my Fraud class at Harvard Law. I ultimately decided to do my presentation on blogger fraud.

Emily Meyers and husband Martin's death

Look, Emily’s story is upsetting and her husband Martin’s death is tragic. Period. Again, this post isn’t about Martin or his untimely death. I am not trying to impugn the reputation of a recently deceased person.

But using cancer as a shield against any analysis is also distasteful. This post is about money and fraud. If you were defrauded, or scammed out of money, you would probably not be satisfied if the fraudster used the defense “you can’t criticize me because someone in my family had cancer! That justifies everything! Go away!”

I also think that charitable fraud is more despicable than regular fraud. I am less offended by regular fraud (“hey, wanna buy this authentic Chanel bag for $50?”) than charity fraud, which uses a sad tale to trick us with emotional appeals.

People like to donate to charities because they feel that the money will help someone in a hard time.  Wouldn’t you be furious if someone took advantage of your empathy to make money for another cause?

Emily Meyers remarried after husband Martin died

“Who are you to criticize how a widow spends the donation money?” some critics might say to me. Now we get to the actual analysis about the donations. This question requires us to start in April 2015, when Emily’s husband Martin was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.

Martin and Emily tried a variety of treatments, even a experimental treatment in Mexico. As Martin’s condition deteriorated, kind-hearted neighbors and fans of Emily’s blog set up fundraisers to help Emily out.

As you can imagine, treatments can be very expensive and the Meyers also had five small children to take care of. There is no doubt that fundraisers and donations during Martin’s diagnosis were deserved and righteous.

Martin sadly passed away on June 15, 2016.

Emily Meyers remarried to Richard Carmack

Eighty or so days after Martin’s death, on September 9, 2016, Emily remarried a man named Richard. The picture above is from Emily and Richard’s wedding photoshoot in September.

I initially did not want to give details of how Emily and Richard got married, because it would distract from the story. But the details are just so crazy that you need a summary. Emily knew Richard from high school and when they were pen pals.

Once Martin had died, Richard traveled to her doorstep to give Emily a letter. His reasoning was that he did not have a stamp, so he hand-delivered the letter. Richard and Emily revealed this to their Instagram audience during an Instagram Live segment.

Emily Meyers the Freckled Fox blogger remarried after husband's death

I’m not judging anyone who decides to remarry quickly. Grief makes you do weird things. But the timing becomes problematic because there are only 80 days between Martin’s death and Emily’s remarriage to Richard.

  • This means that the sooner Richard and Emily hooked up after Martin’s death, the longer the courtship period where Richard can get to know the five kids who just lost their father.
  • It sounds like a good thing for Richard to take his time getting to know the kids, but the tight time constraint means that he would’ve had to basically swoop in quickly after Emily became a widow.
  • On the other hand, the longer that Richard waited for Emily to grieve, Emily would have had less time to make a rational decision about remarrying.

I’m not sure which scenario I want to believe. Both are equally dubious to me.

After Martin’s death, there were ongoing donations and fundraisers set up to benefit Emily. Let’s see if any of them overlapped with her remarriage. Then we’ll analyze whether this looks shady.

Donations to a pop up shop for Emily Meyers and her children

One of the fundraisers was a pop-up shop whose proceeds would go to Emily. This pop-up shop posted a call-to-action approximately one month, or 30 days, after Martin’s death. Emily could have started dating Richard at this point; it sounds crazy, but meeting Richard 30 days after Martin’s death would have left them only 50 days to date before they married. So 30 days after Martin’s death is in the sweet spot when Emily and Richard could have reunited.

But doesn’t that sound problematic? Emily could have already started seeing someone when this pop-up shop was raising funds for her late husband. And because the money from a pop-up shop doesn’t transfer immediately, Emily would probably not have received these funds until her second honeymoon (edit: Emily commented below letting me know she did not have a honeymoon, just a wedding).

Was this Emily Meyers paypal donation fraud?

Another fundraiser was started by Emily’s friend Camille. Camille posted that she could accept cash Paypal transfers on Emily’s behalf. There are no details when Camille ended the fundraiser, so again, it could have been going on while Emily was making plans for a new husband to move in.

Hope for Martin fundraiser benefitting Emily Meyers and her family

And yet another fundraiser “hope4martin” raised money independently; it’s unclear when this fundraiser started and ended (sometime in September), so I’m including it in the timeline.

And lastly, Emily had a Youcaring page that asked for online donations. In this case, there is no debate that donations were solicited well after Emily remarried. The YouCaring page was up until at least October 9th, and there is a comment on the page at the bottom from December 16th that made it look like it was still open in December, 3 months after Emily and Richard were already married.

Some of the comments on the Youcaring page show that Emily was already married before donors found out. Yet the page remained open for business. Although the page posted updates about how much had been donated so far, at no time did the Youcaring page reveal that Emily had remarried.

Martin Meyers YouCaring page

Edit: a commenter got feisty in my comments so I’ll copy word-for-word what the YouCaring page said: 

The demands of being a mother and a care taker have left Emily with no time to work and help bring in income to pay their bills both medical and every day living expenses. This has been one of the many burdens she faces with this difficult trial! I know there are so many of you who desperately would like to help this sweet family out! If you feel you can or are willing to donate, every little bit counts!

Donors to the YouCaring probably expect the following to be true:

  • Emily has no time to work
    • so there is no adult able to work in the household
  • she has no help to bring in income
  • and she has no help with the kids
  • donations are being solicited for the “sweet family” of “Emily Meyers & Children.”

We’ll see that some of these assumptions were already false while the YouCaring page was open.

As you can see in the revised timeline below, all of the fundraisers could have lasted until Emily and Richard had already made plans to marry. At this point, was the money going to Emily’s care of the kids, or would any of it be used for the wedding and honeymoon?

Emily Meyers the Freckled Fox blogger remarried timeline

Some of you might want to argue “so what? A widow isn’t obligated to tell you what’s going on her in life!”

Are you sure you want to defend that logic?

Sure, Emily didn’t have to tell the pop-up shop anything about her financial or personal info. But don’t lie; there is something about Emily’s story of being a recently-widowed, stay-at-home-mom of 5 children that motivated people to donate.

If you heard Emily’s widowhood story, you’d probably donate because it sounds like her world is shattered. Her husband and income earner has died. It is crucial and important to sustain the 5 children and help the stay-at-home-mother when the breadwinner has died.

You’d be fuming mad if you found out that the widow had actually inherited a million dollars. Or if the widow was actually a Kardashian/trust fund baby and she never needed a breadwinner in the first place. Or if she was hiding a gambling problem and was going to use the donation money to play blackjack etc.

If anything about the story changed, your willingness to donate would change.

Let’s also spin it the other way: if you think that it didn’t matter to donors whether Emily was remarried or not, you’re basically saying that donations would have stayed the even if Emily revealed that she had remarried. But if donations would have stayed the same regardless of what Emily said, then why didn’t Emily reveal the truth that she was remarried?

It’s precisely because you know deep in your heart that donations would DEFINITELY have been affected. Donations for a remarriage aren’t as generous as donations for a widow losing a husband to cancer.

Emily probably did not tell the fundraisers about her new status because it might have hurt donations. The simplest explanation is the easiest.

 

Emily Meyers remarried second wedding dress photos

Picture from Instagram showing off Emily’s second wedding dress

Besides, for crying out loud, the name of the YouCaring page was “Support Emily Meyers & Children” up until the day it closed. The title is meant to manipulate your emotions to make you feel like you could help out an unfortunate family of little ones. It never disclosed that this family had a new father and support.

Of course, Emily might have omitted the crucial info because she was too busy grieving or planning a mountaintop wedding, But as her instagram pictures reveal, she had time to hire retain a photographer (edit: Emily commented below that the photographer shot their wedding pictures on a mountain for free), buy a dress, and post blog-worthy shots like the one below.

Yet she didn’t have time to send a quick text to the fundraisers to let them know they might want to update their info? Supposedly the people holding the fundraisers are her closest friends, right? So if these close friends didn’t even know about the second wedding, who did? Why was it such a huge secret?

It’s starting to look like they were counting on people not being aware of the remarriage.

Emily’s donors don’t need to know her personal details, but it’s only fair for them to know the scope of her financial needs. Some of those donors were donating when Emily already had another caretaker and another potential source of income.

 

Emily Meyers and Richard Carmack remarried second wedding pictures

Pictures from Emily Meyers’ second wedding

So should this count as fraud? Donations are generally considered gifts and not subject to fraud (with some exceptions that I won’t talk about), but let’s take a look at what the common law on fraud says. In the common law, there are several elements that need to be fulfilled in order for a court to find fraud.

I’ll explain the elements by using the example of a kid who asks for field trip money even though the field trip is actually free. The kid really wants to spend the money on candy.

  • There has to be a representation of fact
    • Kid: “I really need this money for a field trip.”
  • The representation is false
    • The field trip is free, but the kid wants spending money for candy.
  • The representation is material
    • The parent gives the kid money because of the kid’s statement. The kid’s statement is material because it affected the parent’s decision.
  • The kid has to have intent to defraud.
    • The person trying to trick you has intent to defraud if they are aware that they are omitting key information or saying something that isn’t entirely true.
  • The parent has to have reliance on the kid’s statement
  • The reliance is reasonable
  • The parent has been injured or damaged by the trickery.
    • See, e.g., Strategic Diversity, Inc. v. Alchemix Corp., 666 F.3d 1197, 1210 n.3

Reading the comments on the YouCaring page, you’ll see that a lot of people are complaining how they felt defrauded:

Donors alleging fraud on Emily Meyers YouCaring donation page

Let’s see how Emily’s actions stack up against the common law elements of fraud.

  • The YouCaring page seems to represent that the money was needed since Martin was the breadwinner and Emily needs help with childcare costs.
  • The representation could be false.
    • The YouCaring page was not closed when Emily remarried Richard, a new breadwinner and caretaker. Emily did not seem to update the page when her financial situation changed, which could basically be a lie by omission.
  • The representation is material
    • The comments show that people were motivated to donate because they thought Emily was a widow in need. So Emily’s representation affected their decision to donate.
  • Emily could have had the intent to defraud
    • You can kind of argue this one since the YouCaring page and pop-up shop were started by people other than Emily.
    • But that’s no excuse for why Emily did not notify them that she was already remarried when they wrote her a check for the funds.
    • You can also defraud through omission, or failing to tell someone crucial information
  • The donors had reliance on Emily’s word:
    • The comments show that quite a few people relied on Emily’s interpretation of the events to make their decision to donate.

Emily Meyers Freckled Fox remarried and donors to her YouCaring page are alleging donation fraudEmily Meyers remarriage and donation fraud?And finally:

  • The reliance is reasonable
  • The donor could have been injured or damaged by the trickery.
    • People gave up hard-earned money for a cause that turned out to be not quite truthful. They were financially damaged.

If all of these elements can be met, a lawyer could make this into a reasonable case for fraud. In other fraud cases I’ve read, the remedy is usually to return the money to the people. I don’t know if it’s possible at this point to return the money to the donors who felt like they had been tricked

(EDIT: Emily commented below that all the money donated after her marriage was returned. I asked why the fundraiser simply didn’t disclose the remarriage instead of going through the hassle of returning the money later).

Maybe the best solution is to use Emily’s situation as a cautionary tale. Consumers should do their research before donating their money. And maybe we should stop trusting bloggers altogether.

But the frustrating thing about this particular case is that someone who DID do research could still have been tricked because the second wedding was kept as an air-tight secret.

 

Emily Meyers - remarried and shot by new husband Richard Carmack

That’s what provoked me to write this post, because the fraud here seems more heinous than regular ole “here are some magic weight loss pills!” Emily knew her fans would grieve for her, and she used her tragedy to solicit funds—even though eighty days later, she was no longer a widow and she had a new income winner that no one knew about.

Bloggers form personal connections with their readers, so this is less of a stranger trying to defraud you and more like a best friend tricking you. It feels like a betrayal. It makes me less likely to trust bloggers. And less likely to donate to cancer fundraisers.

Now that I’ve been burned by Emily, other deserving families will not be getting my donations because I’m scared they are also hiding something. As a grad student, I can’t afford to give my money away to people who are willing to hide material facts from their readers.

I wish Emily and Richard luck in their new remarriage (here is where I tell you that Emily was shot in the knee by Richard in March 2017, but they are still together), although I will no longer be reading her blog after this distasteful YouCaring incident.

I feel like what I’ve written is fair, and actually, if you compare this post to the one I wrote about Stylish Petite, you’ll find that this post is far more gentle. Emily has suffered and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but there is no question that she has severely damaged the relationship she had with her readership and possibly hurt other cancer families from getting the donations that they need.

 

Bell Sleeves – When Trends Go Too Far?

February 5
2 Comments

When your blog is focused on new fashion, you see some alarming trends come through. Sometimes, I can only stare in bewilderment as my Instagram feed fills with the latest odd item, like I’m the last non-zombie person in a dystopian wasteland who does not own a furry sandal or rose gold sneakers.

One trend that’s coming in hot for spring 2017 is bell sleeves. Sometimes this trend is mixed with last year’s off-the-shoulder trend, creating a garment that is perfect for the woman who has skinny shoulders and fat wrists.

As all trends go, this one can look innocuous in small doses. In fact, some bell-sleeve items are totally work appropriate:

Bell sleeve spring 2017 trend wear to work

1: Black dress  // 2: White pom pom top ($21) // 3: Houndstooth bell sleeve dress //

However, the trend quickly became a mockery of itself, spawning the offspring below:

Spring 2017 trend: bell sleeve wrap tops

1: Gray top ($20) // White tiered bell sleeve top ($21) // Pink top ($23)

How are you supposed to take anyone who wears this seriously? How are you supposed to walk up to the woman wearing the white monstrosity above and say, “Hey Karen in accounting, can I get my tax forms back when you finally disentangle yourself from the jellyfish that are consuming your arms?”

And when the trend is taken to the extreme, the clothing looks like a downright hazard:

Bell sleeve spring 2017 trend

1: Blue gingham dress // 2: Black and white top // 3: White flare sleeve top with bows ($43)

“Oh Karen, I’m so glad you found that picnic blanket that I misplaced! You seem to be wearing it!” At this point, I think the only people that could get away with wearing a trend like this are bloggers who don’t have do any work during the day. How do you type at a computer with such large sleeves covering your fingers? Or write legibly without smearing your ink? If women want to be taken seriously in the office, we can’t go to meetings looking like we have giant flappers for hands, and we shouldn’t look like we are reenacting that romance novel with the hunky pirates on the cover.

But even as I puzzle over how absurd this trend is—who the hell needs 2 yards of fabric for one sleeve?—maybe this trend is actually the ultimate ninja garment. Maybe covering our fingers is a type of office subterfuge, where you cover your work so that Greg can’t steal your ideas and take credit for them. Men can’t manspread on the subway when your sleeves take over the entire subway bench.

And even as I complain about this wasteful trend, I kinda want that white top with the giant sleeves and the unnecessary bows. Giant bell sleeves may not be the most practical, but I would be happy to indulge in a micro-trend that allows me to swoosh around like I have something hidden in my wizard robe sleeves.

It’s Still Summer, People

August 31
2 Comments

Michael Kors Gabriella bag and off the shoulder white topOff the shoulder white blouse and ripped jeansWhite off the shoulder top and purple Sam Edelman flatsBow tie faux leather chokerMichael Kors straw picnic basket bag and roses

Top: Lulu’s, similar here from Urban Outfitters // Jeans: Charlotte Russe // Shoes: Sam Edelman // Bag: Michael Kors // Necklacehere from Asos

Youth is wasted on the young, they say. In the same way, the end of summer is wasted on the fashion industry and the blogosphere. In the past week (mind I remind you that we are still in August?), I have seen countless blog outfits featuring boots and scarves. Retailers are pushing thigh-high boots while I am still by the pool, tanning my thighs in the sun.

Let us enjoy the last of warm weather, I say; summer does last 3 more weeks. Why are we in such a hurry to rush through life? We as a society make Pinterest boards for weddings when we are years away from being married, start making pumpkin spice products earlier and earlier each year, and take Instagram shots of sweaters and booties in 80 degree weather. Autumn will come, as will all things: age and time and death claims us all in the end (*dramatic music*).

I’m being hyperbolic, of course, but there is more to existence than pre-shopping for the next season. This outfit is a perfect example of how I’m soaking in the warm summer sun in preparation for being buried alive in scarves until next May. Now, join me outside by the pool!

My Perfect Fashion Blogger Life

April 1
8 Comments

Perfect fashion blogger life morning teaLast weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. It’s always a treat to wake up to a cup of tea but even more so when there are fresh blooms in the room.

Gold diamond hoop earrings pink turtleneck sweater NYX Istanbul lip cream

Easter weekend was absolutely amazing!!! We had lots of Easter festivities and everything felt happy. It was kind of a stressful and really busy few days leading up to the weekend so I was really excited to escape a couple hours with friends. We had so many laughs, yummy food and rosé while out in the spring sunshine all day. White hollister off the shoulder dress This white dress is an absolute favorite of mine. I think everyone needs a classic white for spring and summer! Also I love this dress from Nordstrom here. And here. And this dress. And here, here, or here. I also found a similar one here, or one for $30 here, or one with a v-neck here and here and here. Momoya sushi lunch special Friday & Saturday nights are our date nights. We tried to take advantage of our time together this weekend! It’s cheesy but one of my favorite things to do is go to dinner! And get a smoothie. For dessert, macarons are the way to go. Along with a plate of donuts and cupcakes arranged artfully around my shoes on the table. This nail polish is one of my faves – I love the way it looks. It’s so stunning and will go with so much of my wardrobe!

Here’s to a smooth-ie start for the day. #smoothie #strawberrysmoothie #strawberries #tropical A photo posted by Brittney (@beautyvbrainsblog) on

After a long, hard day of running errands and brunch meetings, I love to relax with a spa day and a face mask. I put on The Bachelor and do my nails.

Gosh, I’m so relatable, with my life of leisure. I can’t wait to take pictures while twirling in a flower field, before getting some avocado toast. Thank you so much for stopping by!! <3

 

 

 

 

Ok, so this is pretty obviously an April Fool’s post making fun of how bloggers write and showcase their lives. In case you thought I was being over-the-top when I wrote this post, I mostly just copied and pasted from blogs like Gal Meets Glam, Barefoot Blonde, and The Sweetest Thing.

The best satire is the truth, usually. Us bloggers sound like a superficial and insipid bunch.

This April Fool’s, I wanted to pull the curtain back on blogger behaviors so that we aren’t fooling anyone. Sure, bloggers portray an aspirational lifestyle where apartments are bright, and where desserts are colorful yet doesn’t make anyone fat.

The reality is a little muddier. Bloggers work with affiliate programs that teach us how to take the perfect Instagram shot (so we can sell more products). Instead of presenting original content, often bloggers are tempted to sell out and became mouthpieces for established clothing brands. When readers get tired of the sponsored content, bloggers often censor comments and ignore “haters.”

How fashion bloggers take Instagram pictures

Today, I’ll show you some of my reality. This is how many shots it takes to get the perfect Instagram picture to show off the flowers that I bought. I kept the flowers alive for a record 9 days (so I could reuse them in more photos).

IMG_8329

Brittney, in real life, doesn’t pose perfectly with one hand in her windblown hair, looking off to the side. The real Brittney smiles like an idiot for an outfit photo (without realizing I still had the tag on my sweater) (and completely oblivious to the child face-planting in the background).

Labbit birthday cake

What’s real-life Brittney’s most treasured possession? It’s not shoes or bags. Instead, it’s this stuffed rabbit with a mustache on its face (seen here attending my little sister’s birthday party). Sure, these styrofoam plates aren’t Insta-worthy, but this day was surely more memorable than some picture of latte foam art and my #bagoftheday.

IMG_8333

The real Brittney sends tons of weird selfies on Snapchat (follow me 👻: beautyvbrains). My Instagram and blog are “curated” to present a clean, streamlined image to the world. But I’m never as well-dressed or as pensive as I might come across on social media.

The truth is that I oversleep for class, I stress-eat entire chocolate bars and then skip breakfast to make up the calories, and I have had to crop my blog photos because I still have pasta residue on my face in some pictures.

I’m a mess, I laugh at Vine videos in the middle of class, and I listen to old Jonas Brothers songs when I’m at the gym.

I think I’ve had enough of the year-round April Fool’s joke that the fashion blogging industry has perpetuated: no blogger goes to brunch every day (always ordering the same boring mimosas and avocado toast) or come out of Pilates class with dewy makeup on. No blogger maintains their size 2 figure by eating all the macarons and donuts and ramen on their Instagrams. Some bloggers aren’t even size 2 to begin with, but we photoshop so well that you can’t tell the difference.

So I’m going to continue being the snarky jokester, exposing the fashion blogging stereotypes that have become a tired riff, and I hope more bloggers will join me. After all, it’s not hard to laugh at bloggers when we are constantly writing the jokes about ourselves.

 

Giving Up “Brains” for Love

October 22
6 Comments

debate champs

I was 18 when I was certain I would end up with my high school boyfriend. And there was nothing my parents could do to force me to attend a better college, in a city far away from him.

Looking back at my silly high school self, this story seems so irrational (and unbelievably out-of-character). Sometimes, I don’t even believe that I ever acted that way, until my parents bring up the stories: “Do you remember offering to clean the house so that we would let you go to the same school?” “Do you remember fighting over schools for an entire month?”

I could blame the whole thing on teenage hormones and drop the subject. But now I realize what I didn’t know then: my willingness to give up mind-broadening opportunities for love is something that plenty of women do everyday. And women compromising for men may be a new externality of the dating market—an unavoidable consequence of women being too darn smart for their own good.

The most romantic prom photo ever.

When I was in high school, being in a solid relationship was #goals. I wasn’t popular, and I desperately wanted to believe in true love, the kind that would post “flair” on my Facebook wall and write me poems set to rock music. My favorite movies (A Walk to Remember) idealized young romance, the kind that went straight from graduation into marriage. (I’m having trouble typing these words. Young me was a USELESS romantic).

High school Brittney had plenty of good grades and plenty of awards. What I really wanted was a boyfriend, who would prove that love might exist for nerdy, awkward girls.

The problem was, the boy I started dating at the time was astonishingly different from me. If he didn’t do well, he complained about the fairness of the test and blamed the obstacles surrounding his failure. This was completely counter to my family’s attitude that systemic obstacles could always be overcome with a little work and cleverness. Soon, I too adopted his attitude: there was no point in trying if the whole system was rigged.

This attitude soon manifested in ugly ways. My boyfriend and I took Comp Sci together, and although it was one of my favorite subjects, my quiz grades started slacking. Like Cady from Mean Girls, I couldn’t seem like I was out-doing my crush, so I sabotaged my own success (Ironically, this boy is now a Comp Sci major, so at least one of us enjoyed that year of Comp Sci). I also tried to get him into competitive academic events, but when he announced that his intelligence couldn’t be measured in a timed test, I too gave up that event (although I retained my domination in other events that he had no interest in). And perhaps most shockingly, I never had my varsity letter jacket embroidered because my boyfriend had never lettered in any event. I couldn’t seem like I was better than him, could I?

I studied non-stop—when my boyfriend wasn’t there.

Things came to a head when love-struck Brittney told her parents she would rather attend the public university where her boyfriend was going, instead of a prestigious private college. My parents, who didn’t believe in true love knew better than an 18-year old, trotted me off to private university. And even by the end of my freshman year, I knew they had done the right thing. A guy should never stop me from achieving, right?

The trouble was, I didn’t stop my bad habits once I got to university. I started dating another guy, a bright engineering major. He wasn’t into competitive events either, so my decision to join Speech and Debate was hard on our relationship. For Debate, I travelled almost every other week to other universities to debate in 3- or 4- day tournaments. I missed a lot of school, a lot of social events, and I really didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked in my “college love story.”

My college debate team, looking smooth.

I was just about to drop Speech and Debate when the relationship ended, which was actually a great breaking point for me: I was able to throw myself into my passions completely, and achieved success at the national debate tournament. I also started writing a fashion column for my college newspaper, and became interested in Asian-American advocacy work, landing two back-to-back internships in Washington D.C.

You’d think that I would have learned my lesson. But maddeningly, I kept making the same mistake over and over: “dumbing” down my achievements in order not to intimidate my new dating partners so I could become more accommodating to their time demands. When I was accepted into schools and internships, I actually found myself comparing the distance between them and my then-boyfriend’s place of work, just so that I could be closer to him. Never mind the academic credentials of the institution!

capitol

Here we are doing very important internship business.

Each time, my parents or my better judgment would prevent me from making the emotionally-tempting decision to give up my ambitions for my love life. But I kept coming back to this tug-of-war. Wasn’t I an educated, smart woman who shouldn’t be bound by these constraints? And why did none of my dating partners think of moving or changing career paths to accommodate me?

Sad thing is, I’m not alone. Even now, at law school, plenty of my female classmates and I discuss whether to search for jobs in a smaller, secondary market just so we can be closer to our boyfriends/fiances. A few female law students wonder how many years they’ll last in the workforce before they will have to leave to start families.

Other female law students bemoan a slightly different problem: the lack of educated guys who can keep up with them. The ironic thing is that they maybe be objectively correct: there is a lack of educated men in the dating pool because more and more women are being admitted to college, which makes dating more difficult for seemingly brilliant women.

highlights

These law school ladies are smart AND their highlights look amazing. What more can you ask for, men?

Does this mean that I had the right idea to hide my intelligence to get more guys? I want to say the answer is “NO,” and of course the answer should be “no.” But when a woman’s intelligence might lead to increased chance of singledom, and when studies show men are intimidated by smart women even if they say they prefer an intelligent partner, I’m actually really confused whether my 18-year old self was high on hormones, or if she was onto something deeper.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to people seeking a life partner who “prioritizes their life in a way that’s compatible with how you prioritize yours.” Unfortunately, women are the parties who are likelier to accommodate others. Maybe there is a dating discrepancy for smart women because men haven’t gotten around to the idea that they can change their life to support their female partners.

leadership

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, because I wanted to show my little sister and her friends (hi guys! thanks for reading) that women shouldn’t have to give up academics for love, and that chasing intelligence is just as rewarding as beautifying one’s appearance. But really, the answer is much more complicated. Maybe you’ll have more dating opportunities if you don’t intimidate men with your grades. But do you really want to date a guy who would disappear if you beat him in a math competition (happened to me…)? Or a guy that says he can’t “do long-distance” with the implication that I should move to a new city (also me…)?

Rice graduation Jones College robes

I decided the best way to let readers make up their own mind is to recant my own personal tale, up until this moment. I started dating my current boyfriend right around the time I got into law school. After calling my parents to inform them of my admission, I immediately asked the boyfriend if he would be okay with a long-distance relationship.

“I can just go to another school,” I had said, “if that will be closer—.”

“Brittney,” he said. “Are you crazy? You got into Harvard. Go to Harvard. I wanna see you kick butt.”

harvard

The enormous relief that I felt at that moment was overwhelming. I didn’t have to choose between my future success and my future romantic prospects. I don’t want to think about what I would have done if he had an actual problem with my plans, but I sincerely hope that I would have had the wisdom to pursue my academic dreams nonetheless. Now I feel free to show off, because someone wants to see me soar and my boyfriend will admire my success instead of letting it threaten his self-esteem.

Moreover, he keeps reminding me of how short-sighted I am when I try to downplay my achievements. (“Brittney, why in the world would you not accept that job with a prestigious law firm. You’re smarter than this.”) I’m hoping his attitude becomes more commonplace, so that we don’t live in a world where a girl’s grade in Comp Sci will send boys running for the hills.

I’m not saying it’s a fairy tale ending for me, yet. But it’s nice to know that those movies didn’t lie to me—love for brainy girls may exist after all.

“There Is No Boy Cute Enough or Interesting Enough to Stop You From Getting Your Education”

-Michelle Obama