Turns Out Mensans Are ‘Wicked Smaht’ and Social

Young Mensans played Monopoly in the game room at the annual Mensa Convention in Boston.
Young Mensans played Monopoly in the game room at the annual Mensa Convention in Boston.
SARA HENRY/ BOSTON.COM

The t-shirts for this year’s annual Mensa convention read, “Wicked Smaht” and that described the attendees perfectly.

The annual Mensa convention, “Brilliance in Beantown,” took place July 2-6.

Mensa, according to their website, has 110,000 members and is “the high IQ society that provides a forum for intellectual exchange among its members. There are members in more than 100 countries around the world.”

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To get in, you need to score within the upper 2 percent of people taking the Mensa admission test.

Only Mensa members were allowed to attend the gathering, but Boston.com went behind the scenes into the world usually occupied only by geniuses. And you know what? It wasn’t as strange as you might think.

“I met my spouse through Mensa at the second event I ever attended,” said Nancy Farrar, 59, from Montgomery Village, Maryland. Farrar has a bachelors degree from the University of North Texas and a masters in business administration from UCLA.

Farrar mentioned that she “loves” Mensa for the friends she has made and for the social interactions.

Geniuses being social? You bet. And to all of you who bullied “the nerds” back in the day, maybe you just weren’t getting their jokes.

“Mensa comes from an old Latin root,” said Richard Lederer, a Mensa member who was sitting behind a table of books he had written and was selling. “It means he who got beat up in high school.”

See? Jokes!

Lederer, who was speaking at the conference later in the day, says he has written more than 40 books. He’s also a columnist for the Mensa newsletter and a former teacher. He has a bachelors degree from Haverford College, a degree from the Harvard School of Education and has a doctorate in linguistics from the University of New Hampshire.

Wow.

And speaking of wow: “’Wow’ is a palindrome. Flip it and you get ‘mom,’” Lederer said.

His wife was a Mensan, so he wanted to take the test and join too, and said he felt tension during the five weeks it took him to find out if he made the cut.

“I like to be around people who have the same little mice on the treadmill as me,” he said. “It’s a social club.”

And it’s not just a club for adults.

Kimberly Barnhart, 45, and her 10-year-old twin boys, Trace and Jack, are all members of Mensa. Her sons joined first and she followed.

“My children were having difficulty in school,” Barnhart said. “They were just underchallenged.”

Her boys used their elementary school tests scores to get into Mensa, and she was able to use her scores from grade school as well.

According to the US Mensa website, there are two ways to get into this group:

1. “If you’re age 14 or older, you can take a supervised, standardized test in your area with one of our certified member volunteers.”

2. “And anyone can submit evidence of prior testing in the form of scores from a supervised, standardized test like the Stanford Binet, the Miller Analogies Test or the GMAT.”

Barnhart said she and her two boys attend lots of local Mensa events where they have made friends and can spend time with “people who think similarly.”

Trace and Jack Barnhart both like math and physics. Trace aspires to become a “rollercoaster engineer” and Jack has plans to become a chef or a “rollercoaster designer.” (They talk about opening up their own theme park and said they can’t decide whether they would cook their own food or just tell someone else what to make. They have some time to figure that out.)

Trace and Jack can also recite 50—yes 50—digits of pi. (Or at least they claim they can. Fact checking was not possible because of the speed at which they spoke.)

Kimberly Barnhart, who can recite 30 herself, said they learned it from a YouTube video that puts the numbers to a song. The chant is, she said, is “infectious.”

Clearly, Mensans get other Mensans.

The local Mensa chapter has about 1,200 members who reside in an area spanning from east of Springfield to the Cape. Ed Meyer, Boston Mensa’s Chairman, said that he had two personal reasons for joining Mensa: to be with people who think similarly and to be with people who understand his jokes.

Meyer has been in Mensa since 1968 when his wife showed him an article about the organization. He could have been admitted on ‘prior evidence,’ but he thought it would take too long to get his old test scores. Instead, he took the Mensa administered test and passed.

Meyer doesn’t boast his Mensa status and many people do not know his genius status.

“We are not any better than anyone else,” he said. “There is no need to tell anyone.”

Meyer said this year has been “outstanding” and that it “looks like it is the largest event in Mensa history.” There were over 2,200 people there and counting.

Next year’s Mensa event will take place in Louisville, Kentucky.