Friday, 2 March 2012

Women Who Read

Yesterday was World Book Day - a day beloved by kids and geeks of all ages. Lovely, lovely books, to be celebrated, shared and enjoyed. T'interweb was awash with it! I expected to write quite a light hearted account of my adventures in a blue wig touting a battered copy of The Tempest to teenagers, however (and feel free to skip off now if it's not your thing) instead I've landed myself with an opinion piece. Oops.

You see, This post has been flying around Facebook and Twitter. I'm a woman who reads, and writes. A lot. A woman who reads and writes for a living, for a hobby, and to relax. A woman who has worked damned hard for qualifications, for performance, for publication. Who feels to the very marrow of my bones that words, and access to words, are a basic human right.

The thing is, I just couldn't relate to this post at all - as a reader or a (married- so presumably OK at the whole boy-girl malarky) woman. I won't go into endless depths here, but I guess at it's crux is the idea that a (quiet, slightly dowdy) bright woman is a boon to a less-than-great partner because she can forgive, support and sort said partner out. No need for self-reflection or tough love. Indeed, if she reads, she'll internalise your faults as part of some romantic narrative. A kind of non-threatening intelligence of the ilk that stereotypes women but also perhaps patronises men. At the end, fair enough, there's a whiff of 'and don't you treat her badly' thinking- but that conclusion doesn't marry up with the indie-girl-sighing-into-her-coffee stuff throughout the main body of the piece.

Instead of dissecting it, I vented in the form of a response...

Do You Deserve A Woman Who Reads?

It's worth knowing a woman who reads. Really knowing, well, one individual woman who reads. Maybe that woman who, knows the history of every stitch she's ever worn - or maybe someone else who cares not a jot for clothes. Both carry beauty around inside as well as outside. Both treasure their books and fill their homes with words. All of these women relish what they're going to read, remember what they have read, and understand the secret of enchantment. There are many; all are worth it.

Find a woman who reads. You need to understand that it's not something done by sight alone; some are proud readers, holding books like banners, some shy (a slight novella slipped from the slim handbag on a train) and some take it for granted as they do the blood in their veins. She might be studying in a quaint dusty library, but then again she may well run the library - or be redesigning it, or teaching there, or...well. You get it. Listen. Question her. And of course, expect her to question you back; this is the double edged sword you parry with when you engage a quality mind. If she doesn't, please realise her quiet smile is merely one of satisfaction as she holds her treasures gently, close to her heart.

At no point have the temerity to assume she hasn't understood something that she has read. 

She knows her own mind and it is wonderful. She's been proficient since she was a girl. When she tells you she understands something you don't, or understands something differently, be curious, inquisitive, probing. Nothing will please her more than to share her gift.

It is not easy to date a woman who reads. It is worth it. Give yourself over to knowledge and language. Understand that this is not Mills & Boon and you'll not be respected for your face alone. Bite the bullet; try some Austen. You'll realise why the quiet, gentle ones are actually the wittiest. You'll need to work to keep up, to earn your place in her heart and her mind. Treasures earned give the greatest satisfaction.

Let her know that you understand the difference between words and action. Excess exposition is a cheap trick in stories, cheaper in reality. Create a narrative, but realise that she has her own story to weave and edit. 

You have to earn your place in her tale, somehow.

Be truthful. She can tell when you lie and don't you forget it. A lover of language loves truth and clarity; if you fib, you'll become a child in her eyes. Her standards will be higher than yours, having known the best and worst humanity can offer and every fallible character between. Why do you lie? Because you lack the skill to to persuade her? Your loss.

Fail her if you will, but know this. Women who read enjoy holiday trash too - they may not shout about it, but they do. The only thing is, they tend to finish with it in three days then chuck it in the charity shop bin for someone cheaper to pick up. If that's what you want, be trash. The choice is yours. 

You know your mind. There's a risk she'll try to mould you, because women who read tend to be headstrong. Be open and honest, but never be tricked into becoming a lapdog. It wasn't good for Macbeth and it won't be for you (or her).

You'll need to be assured enough to let her mind wander - or dart at yours from the left field. You know when they say 'everyone knows...' or 'any right thinking person feels...'? That's like a red rag. Once you know her, you'll understand how passionate an arched eyebrow can be, or how an adamant yell of protest comes from the tenderest love for her cause. You don't have to agree with her, but whether she calls it chivalry, democracy or plain good manners, by Jove you'd better agree with her right to her vision. I won't lie to you; it might end in explosive debate on religion, or urgent tones and impromptu study late into the night over whether that was a reference to The Dark Lady or a wealthy patron. However, I have never, ever found a friend as vehemently loyal when the chips are down as a smart woman who feels worthily esteemed. 

If, after some time, you make the grade, you might propose. Or she might decide to marry you - if you both believe in marriage. And that's what's heartening about women who read - I can't predict who you'll be in five, ten, twenty years time. You won't be cookie-cutter folk (well, unless you choose to be- and then you'll have sprinkles).Whether it's the lure of the modish, the wild abandon of the romantic, the reassurance of the classical or the rigours of the academic which will influence your home, family, health and wealth, I cannot tell. Some wise women are cautious, some terrifyingly daring. What an adventure.

And there lies your choice. Does it intrigue you? 


  1. I'm surprised there are no comments on this post. I found it very thought provoking and I can see why you got so fired up to write it. I hope you write more posts like this when the mood takes you.

  2. Holy shit,stunning post!You write beautifully! I went and read that post you linked to,and it was somewhat belittling.I'm a reader,and I'm pretty sure that makes me a worthwhile catch!
    You frigging rock! I will I was as eloquent as you,but despite my love of words,of language,an frequently lost for them!!!

  3. I hadn't seen that post before. I think your response is simply wonderful. It kind of grates on me that the original furthers stereotypes. I am a girl who reads but also one who buys clothes. In fact the reason I am busting my house at the seams is because of the amount of both books and clothes. I have a PhD in BioChemistry yet it doesn't mean I want to read War & Peace whilst on the beach, give me some trashy thriller any day, I never have found interest in 'ChickLit' nor Jane Austen for that matter. It always surprises people that the girl with the Vogue can hold her own with dusty old professors twice her age, yes most of them men. So I will just say 'never judge a book by its cover'.


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