“How can you let something you read on the internet affect you so much?” he asked.
I let the question hang there in the balance between the two of us, green shoots of conversation, withering without hope of return, until I burst forth with, “because it spoke to me.” I had read “You should date an illiterate girl” by Charles Warnke, an essay making the rounds of the internet. You can check it out, here, if you’re not easily offended by profanity.
It reads like the bitter angst of a man hurt deeply by a woman who knows books. I majored in English Lit. He advocates making a life with an “illiterate girl,” a girl who can give him the vacuous feelings of a completely shallow life. It’s a bit pretentious. I didn’t say I liked it; I said it spoke to me.
It bothered me. It gnawed at me.
Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.
It reminded me of how many relationships I’ve vacated because it didn’t follow the story I wanted to create. How many times have I walked away when my characters couldn’t perform miraculous feats of understanding? And then it started working on me on another level. I started to feel like a snobby jerk. Who did I think I was? The girl who reads? The arrogance of that realization stung me. I recognized it for the excuse it was. My relationships hadn’t failed because I was difficult or demanding or doleful, but because I knew the meaning of “denouement!” Excuses. A reason to give up. A justification for quitting too soon.
Rather than looking inward to discover my faults and fix them, I hid behind my propensity to hide in books. I took on the persona of the girl who reads and that explained it all.
I’d rather be the girl who reads the Bible and discovers the me that was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The girl about whom it is said:
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be – Psalm 139: 15-16
Instead of being the girl who reads, I want to be the girl for whom the book is written. That’s going to require me to just get over myself and stop making elaborate excuses.
What excuses do you give for ending relationships?