I stumbled across an article called “You Should Date an Illiterate Girl” that seems to be making the rounds of Google+. With a title like that, how could you possibly not want to read further? Here it is.
And then, if you keep scrolling down, you eventually come across the rebuttal.
All of which makes me think: it’s so tempting to be called “A Girl who Reads” because that role carries powerful possibilities – if you read, you are deep and desirable in your remoteness; you have the power to embitter slightly melodramatic young men; all your irritability and antisocial episodes are magically imbued with more meaning than you can shake a stick at.
These essays are flattering. How can you not love the idea that you can’t be pinned down to a lifetime of fighting about fungus in the shower curtains, and that your bad decisions and erratic behaviour are really some kind of Kerouacian prodrome? But really, how different is this from the Mills and Boons formula everyone denies reading, about the strong but vulnerable woman who fell for the strong but vulnerable cowboy who also happened to be incredibly rich and hunky, and quite unusually, single (except for that illiterate and not-at-all deep hussy who obviously has issues)?
Why do I read? Because it bends my mind backwards, blurs the edges of myself and where I am. It is a personal choice, it is a symptom of who I am. It does not define me for the simple reason that it is but the means to an end.
We have no clear understanding of this cause and effect relationship, but all these arguments assume that reading breeds self-awareness rather than, perhaps, the other way around. Meanwhile conveniently forgetting that other people have both different ends and different means. The only thing they all have in common is a desire for a happy ending.
That Girl Who Reads will want to go dancing when you want an evening in. She will bargain with you to let her read when you want to go out instead. She will buy books and clothes. She will ask if she’s fat. She will cry sometimes, even when the movie was contrived and terrible. She will leave hair in the shower. She will have arguments with you about the moldy curtains and her only nod to Hemingway will be the pithiness of her ranting. She will cook for you. She will want you to clean. She will love you as best as she can. She will leave if she wants to. So will the Girl Who Dances In Clubs, the Girl Who Studies, the Girl Who Sings, and every other type of Girl.
There is love to be found in that sweat-soaked bar, in that arranged marriage, in that friend of a friend. There is also a desperation that arises in the best relationships; there is a need to be alone, an urge to escape, and nothing is ever gained by pretending it doesn’t exist.
You will fail. She will misspell. You will wake up to find her crying at 2 a.m., clutching a book to her chest, and shake your head and go back to sleep. She will tell you the strange things she dreamed when you want to get back to your movie. She will walk through the world in a daze from too much Murakami, and when she regains consciousness she will find you hadn’t looked away from the PS3 long enough to notice she was gone. But it’s all good.
So date a girl who reads, or doesn’t, or can’t. Date a guy. Date whomever you want to. Read if you feel like reading. Read what you feel like reading. All our swords are wooden, our armour is tin; our sweat is tinged with terror and our bladders are threatening to burst but we are joining the battle anyway. And if all that we can bring to the fray is our presence and our honesty, it’ll work out okay.