- Mensa and Match.com join to launch an exclusive dating service
- Mensa members can also identify themselves to all Match users
- Dating expert: You're not entitled to love just because you're smart
- Single Mensa member: "I just want someone who can keep up with me"
It takes a special person to join Mensa.
For one, the elite society only takes individuals with IQ scores in the 98th percentile, meaning just 1 in 50 Americans is eligible.
This exclusivity -- some might say snobbery -- is part of Mensa's lore. Early Mensans in Britain walked around with yellow buttons, organizational publications once referred to non-Mensa members as "Densans," and last year, a top Mensa member and tester called anyone with an IQ of 60 a "carrot."
In short, you don't always join Mensa because you think you're smart. You join to be set apart from most people, who are, as one member put it: "mundane."
But a new partnership between American Mensa and online dating giant Match.com offers a new, enticing reason to join the society of geniuses: true love.
Beginning this week, members of the brainiac group can connect through a separate, exclusive dating service called Mensa Match. In addition, Match.com members can add a special Mensa badge to their profiles, signaling a specific interest in connecting with a single person with a confirmed genius-level IQ score.
Smart dating struggles
Anne Sereg is one of those geniuses.
The 55-year-old Florida woman is an IT project manager who graduated high school in three years, college in two-and-a-half and has a law degree from Georgia State University.
"It's been a long time," she said about her dating life. "I went hermit-y for a quite a few years. I just didn't find anyone who's been interesting enough."
Sereg found she does not connect with people who are athletes or sports nuts, for example.
"I'm looking for people who are intellectually curious. And when all you're talking about is sports teams and barbeques ... when you're talking about physical traits and not existential philosophy, I'm not going to get the vibe."
Sereg admits this attitude can limit her relationship options. But one expert thinks the results could be much worse.
Ali Binazir is the author of The Tao of Dating, and penned a 2009 article, "Why the Smartest People Have the Toughest Time Dating."
A Harvard graduate, Binazir said highly intellectual people can frequently feel "entitled" to love. And sometimes this means unwilling to make the compromises for a successful relationship.
"IQ tends to be pretty one-dimensional. There's no way to say if this person interacts well with others," he said. "For a relationship, it matters more how that person implements that intelligence in the real world, for jobs and parenting and exchanging of ideas."
"You need to remove the barriers to love. And when you exclude those people, as smart people tend to do, that's when you become lonely."
According to Match's data, 80% of singles say they "must have" or find it "very important" to be with someone of the same intelligence level.
Sereg has decided a college education -- not a Mensa IQ -- is her basic requirement for a future mate.
"I just want someone who can keep up with me," she said.
The new Mensa partnership will give Match.com users a new way to find common ground, said Helen Fisher, a professor at the University of Indiana and Match.com's chief scientific adviser.
"If you're proud of being in Mensa, if someone (else) is also proud of being in Mensa, then you're already in the same clan," she said. "It's not unlike saying I read a lot of books and I'm looking for someone else who reads a lot of books. There's an automatic filter."
In their announcement of the partnership, Mensa and Match.com included a heat map of the U.S., listing where the "smartest singles" live, based on the cities with the highest percentage of Ivy League graduates on the dating site. The top 10 is dominated by college towns such as Durham, North Carolina; Ithaca, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Boulder, Colorado; and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Fisher cites numerous studies that suggest relationships with a brainy mate could come with great perks.
"People who are smarter tend to have a higher income, tend to be creative, coordinated, and good at solving problems," she said. "So not only could you have a better conversation during dinner, but dinner could be in a nicer place, and (you could) leave in nicer car."
Binazir does not believe Mensa members are better at relationships than anyone else. But the partnership with Match.com provides another way for people to find common interests, which is always positive, he said. "I think it's a step in the right direction."
Anne Sereg hopes he is right, but she won't get too excited just yet.
"One of the most recent marriages in our Mensa group came through finding each other on Match.com, and that was before the partnership," she said.
"I'm hoping that it (works). I don't know if it will. But you can't go anywhere if you don't have hope."