The girl who reads

“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?

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23 responses to “The girl who reads

  1. I want to be the girl for whom the book is written too. Wonderfully worded.

  2. Since the beginning we use excuses to protect ourselves. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. Today, my excuses are just as cheap and careless. It’s like trying to hide my nakedness with leafs. A joke really!

    Thank you for reminding me that there is a book, in which much is written for me, about me by the master author of life. This is wonderful!

  3. Re: Ending relationships…

    Kinda sad, but I feel I’m in the middle of one right now with a good friend (very good friend, actually) that I had in college. My excuse? Not even sure. We disagreed about an issue, and he has distanced himself from a lot of people (my family, his old friends, etc) and truthfully, I haven’t made as much of an effort to simply “be his friend”. It’s sad and something I’m ashamed of even admitting.

    More than anything in your post, your simple, final question struck a chord with me. I have been making excuses (“he was wrong”, “he hasn’t even called me”, “he de-friended my family on facebook”) in this friendship and hadn’t even realized it.

    • Too often, in relationships with friends and family, I take “no” or silence for an answer, and they just slip away. I don’t actively pursue them if they aren’t in synch.

  4. my excuses are shallow and vaucuous. i didn’t like the way a person looked, etc. That type of stupid stuff. I never told anyone why but being honest with myself that’s what it has been. I’ve since realized that I do this and try to make a more conscious effort not to let the shallow excuses win.

    relationships, romantic or otherwise, take hard work to maintain. i pray that I continue to put the time necessary to form deep friendships with those around me, those I work with, those I have casual relationships, those different than me, those that are similiar to me, those I meet online through blogging.

    thank you for being friendly, Kristin. i do consider you a friend, in the short time I have been reading your posts.

    • I’ve justified my ending of friendships, dating relationships, family relationships, etc by all sorts of excuses. It’s easier to excuse than to do the hard work of maintenance, doesnt it?

      thanks, Douglas!

  5. Kristin,

    You said:
    “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.”

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I am in love with those comments and will probably steal them later on. (I’ll give you the credit, of course!)

    It is true we that read The Scriptures. We walk in its stories of ancient times, we cheer for the young shepherd who slays a giant, we marvel at a man swallowed by a whale, and we hold hands with the red-lettered words of our Master and Lord.

    We laugh, we cry, we get upset, and ultimately we find peace upon peace in The Scriptures.

    But we need to understand that The Scriptures also read us. The Scriptures lay it out there and then watch to see our reactions. When we react with doubt or fear, The Scriptures point us to another of its Truths to assuage the worries of our frail spirits and place its heel upon our fallen humanity.

    Good stuff, indeed. I’m diggin’ what you’re throwing out here, Kristin. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you Donald. I appreciate your perspective, here. Especially that their stories are our stories. It’s so easy to assume we could never live up to the bastions of faith from Hebrews 11 or from the heroes of the OT, but we’re called to the same Kingdom.

  6. >>That’s going to require me to just get over myself and stop making elaborate excuses.

    Did you say that about me or about you??! 🙂

    It is so easy for me to get caught up in myself and my problems. I make tons of excuses for myself, but in my heart of hearts, I know He expects more of me because it is He that lives in me, and empowers me to do all things. Especially the hard things, like love others as I love myself. Like, not keeping track of offenses, which I’m so apt to do. 😦

    My biggest excuse for ending a relationship…we just “grew apart”. I’m finding that there isn’t room for this excuse in the Kingdom of God. And, that is really, really hard for me. Not all relationships are mutually beneficial. Most of them are really hard. And, God calls me to love others, especially when they’re unlovable. I just wish it wasn’t so hard for me.

    I’ve found that for me relationships with other women can be particularly difficult. So easy to read into things, to compare, to idealize, to demonize…all those things, and more. I don’t know why women are so hard on eachother, but it has been some of the greatest relationship pain I’ve endured.

    • I’m right there with you on female friendships. I don’t know why we’re so hard on each other, but my most intense rivalries and squabbles have been with other women.

      I can also echo the keeping track of offenses thing. I do that. unfortunately, i so do that.

  7. Your beautiful, Kristin. I had to look up the word denouement. Let’s be honest, I had to listen to audio pronunciation.

  8. Very insightful post.
    It reminds me, albeit in a different way, of one time when I read aloud a Hugh Heffner quotation – something about what men are looking for in a woman. It was years ago and all I remember are bits. Something about being scrubbed clean with soap, and not sullying her mind with too much reading or complex thought, and so on and so on. I read it aloud to my husband because I was so incensed and was looking for some agreement, and he just shrugged. ‘So. What’s wrong with that?’ I wanted to grab the biggest book I could find and hit him upside the head with it.
    But I didn’t.

    Whenever I start comparing my life to a story (especially a romance) I remind myself of the differences between stories humans write and the stories God writes. And I remind myself that He is the author of my story, not myself. And then I feel very relieved because I’m certain I could not do as good of a job.

  9. Scrubbed clean with soap.
    In case you’re wondering why I remembered that particular line and why I found it so offensive (because hey, who doesn’t like a nice shower, or the concept of being clean). Because the quotation came from Mr. Heffner in particular and because of my past issues with pornography and stuff, to me he was painting a portrait of a centerfold girl. Scrubbed clean and shaved and plastic and made up and nothing at all like a real woman.
    That’s all I meant by that.
    How did one comment end up going on for so long on on such a weird tangent? Sorry! It’s the raging feminist in me shining through!

    • I don’t blame you a bit (especially for the book whopping desire)!

      I struggle with being a people-pleaser, especially to men-people. I don’t exactly know why, but I read stuff like that and am reminded that whatever they think of me, they are but shadow of the amount of thought and love I get from God himself and the qualities men-people like and God likes are vastly different (in my experience).

  10. I really liked the post, and I have definietly vacated a relationship because it was….just not something “do-able” in my eyes; but I did have a ‘justified’ reason to leave her…I was moving to UT Austin again back in 2008 and she was too busy to ever have much time for us to spend together…so I figured that we were wasting our time when we could have both found someone who made us more happy in the…had we both been single. Another time, I had a great girl friend but she was just not at the same line of thought I had.

    Needless to say, we could have worked things out with the help of a serious, sit-down converstaion about it all; and it would probably been smoothed over the next day…but we went our separate way without trying to address the issue that led to the break-up (at her request).

    I do enjoy the literary devices you utilize – they work well for you; and your usage of them. The mark of a real English lit major 🙂

  11. See? I told you I’d comment on this…just three days later. 🙂 Not only do you have a propensity to read (I don’t think I’ve ever written that word before – I KNOW the word – I do read – I just haven’t written it), but you have a way of telling your story that is continually weaving your point through layers of storytelling. Love it!

  12. “I want to be the girl for whom the book is written.”

    Preach!

    In my session this weekend at the relationship seminar, the “denouement” of my teaching (if you will) was this statement:

    “The measure of maturity is not how often or how well you agree, but how well you are able to maintain relationships.”

    The entire Bible is a book of love and relationships. It doesn’t matter how much of it you know and can recite by memory, if you cannot maintain relationships through struggle and conflict, you are not living out the very essence of what was written.

    • I don’t always do a great job in maintaining relationships. Part of that is because I want to manage relationships — I dont want to have too many making demands on my time, and those few I pursue, I want them to go my way. Letting go of that control makes those relationships more real, though, and real is what I want.

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