Before entering the Annual Gathering of Men-sa at the Sheraton Park Central Hotel, Our Reporter checks his intellectual equipment. He’s heavily armed with bookish catch phrases and toting a virtual armory of egghead ammo: Marx., .Freud.. .categorical imperative... social Darwinism. . .He’ll need it. These folks, 1,5UU strong, score in the top 2 percent in the nation on IQ tests.
So Our Reporter is gladdened, by the sign that greets him outside die Mensa meeting rooms: "The Rocky Horror Picture Show will not be available for viewing." They’re watching movies’! Perfect! And they’re not just watching Bergman and other high-toned fare, but The Blues Brothers and Top Gun and that marvel of morbid bad taste, Harold and Maude] And what’s this? After midnight, the id asserts itself: Debbie Does Dallas, Behind the Green Door, Emmanuelle’. So Mensans take off their pants one leg at a time, just like us masses.
But upon talking with several friendly Mensans, Our Reporter realizes that Mensa’s Annual Gatherings are primarily social events at which the point is not to swap my-favorite-logarithm stories. They have twenty-four-hour hospitality suites, free Alka-Seltzer for die over-indulged, and a session called "Bawdy Broads." (No men allowed, so details unavailable.)
"We do get stereotyped," says Max Fine, a Mensan from New Jersey. "Sometimes it’s fun to talk about trigonometry and Arnold Toynbee, but sometimes it’s fun to watch a movie." Fine adds that Mensa is miles from being an "elitist" group. "One out of fifty people in the country is eligible to join Mensa," Fine says. "How many clubs do you know with 5 million eligible members?"
"Mensa is the first social setting in which a lot of high-IQ people can feel comfortable," says Amy Shaughnessy, national chairperson of Mensa. "They were "the brain’ in school and had to have the answer. Here, it’s okay to say, ’I don’t know that, but 1 know about 4,500 other things, so that’s all right.’ "
Shaughnessy stresses that Mensans have little in common besides their towering IQs. They are professors, truck drivers, policemen, farmers, and unemployed. Any Mensans in Congress? "I’d like to know that they’re eligible," Shaughnessy laughs, "but so many of them like to come across as a good old Joe." Anyway, she says, "Those people are already socially connected up to here. I’m sure Henry Kissinger is qualified, but what does he need us for?"
The sheer diversity of Mensans made for a dizzying array of topics on the Dallas agenda. Discussions of the Holocaust, artificial intelligence, and nuclear energy fit the Mensa stereotype. But armadillo races? Massage? Bird rehabilitation? Tomato wars? Brains, it seems, just wanna have fun.
The Mensa folks offer to give Our Reporter the IQ test, just for fun, but he, uh, has to get back to the office. On the way out he spies a sign announcing a "Borderline Mensa" meeting in October. Maybe there’s hope.. .but no: the borderline, it turns out, is between New Mexico and Arizona.