When It Comes To Dating, I Can't Be With Someone Who Isn't A Reader
Being a "book nerd" has always been who I am, and so it's only natural that books have always had a presence in my dating life. The "Favorite Books" section of my OKCupid profile is so long it has to be furled out like a scroll. The first words out of my mouth on any date are usually about the book I'm reading. Henry Detamble, the librarian from The Time Traveler's Wife, is my dream man. But, in spite of all this, I've only recently realized how truly important it is to me that my partner be a reader. I need to be with someone who gets why I need to stay in on a Saturday night to tear through a novel. I need to be with someone who has a stuffed bookshelf, just like me.
I'll admit, it's been a while since I was in a relationship, but when I look back on all the people I've connected to throughout my life, it's always been the readers that have most affected me. In fact, I associate each one of my romantic interests with a different genre of literature.
For instance, let's examine the guy I was head-over-heels for in college. He was my "post-modernism phase." We would spend hours every night chatting about David Foster Wallace, Don Delillo, or Haruki Murakami. During that time, I read all 1,047 pages of Infinite Jest, and I was prone to lecturing people about Wallace's "This Is Water" commencement speech. OK, so maybe I was a little bit of an asshole, but in that phase of my life, it was super meaningful to me to connect over those authors.
Next, let's examine my Fantasy Man. He and I never actually technically dated, but I think we both wanted to, and I, at least, fantasized about it. I hadn't read fantasy in a while, but talking with him about his favorite books renewed my love for the genre. He turned me on to Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson — still among my favorite authors. As I read The Way of Kings, I texted him about my reactions to the twists and turns of the book. During that phase I also discovered two writers that would become my favorites: N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor. Coming back to fantasy felt like coming home. I think that's what I liked about him, too: I felt comfortable and safe, but also ready for the next adventure.
Of course, this proved true in reverse, too. There was, for instance, the guy who loved classic Russian literature and gushed over Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. I was never a Russian Lit fan... and for some reason, our relationship never quite hit its stride. Coincidence? I think not.
I often think about an episode of Parks and Recreation when Ann, played by Rashida Jones, sells her belongings in a garage sale. She has a box assigned to each one of her boyfriends: Andy marked her "grunge phase," Chris coincided with "exercise phase," and so on. But for me, every one of those boxes would be filled with books.
Realizing all this about my romantic life has made it clear that my love life has been defined by reading. Being a bookworm is not just a hobby to list among my enjoyment of hiking and karaoke. Reading has been an integral part of who I've loved and how I've loved. Without all those late night conversations about David Foster Wallace or the hours spent gushing over fantasy, my relationships would have been entirely different. I would be entirely different.
Maybe we should all take that "Favorite Books" section of our dating profiles a little more seriously. If you're both readers, the books you love together could shape your relationship. That's not to say that you should only date people who read the same books as you. Quite the opposite—I urge you to date people who can introduce you to something new. But maybe you can look at that "Favorite Books" section as an indicator of what discoveries may be on the horizon — so what books do you want to fill your box?