I’m a pretty hardcore reader. It’s not just that reading is one of my favourite things, but that I actively prefer the company of many books to that of most people. If I prefer your company to anything I have in hardback, you’re pretty special in my book (pun absolutely intended). When it comes to reading, I’m aware that I am a teeny wee bit prejudiced in favour of the activity.
I am also aware that there are plenty of people who judge my addiction as an affliction. I remember what must have been the most cack-handed quasi-intervention during my first week at university. The other foreign student on my course approached me at the cafeteria, full of confusion and concern, and told me that I was always sitting alone reading at lunch. I told him that I was already aware of the fact. He asked me why. I told him that I liked sitting alone and reading at lunch. I saw that piece of information bounce off his skull and get lost in the distance. Looking more puzzled than ever, he explained that I didn’t have to sit alone; that I could sit with him and his buddies. And I had to explain that I was happier as and where I was. Thankfully that didn’t seem to hurt his feelings as much as convince him that I was a weirdo.
Significantly, I couldn’t tell you the poor guy’s name. I’m not even sure whether I forgot it or never bothered to memorise it in the first place. I can tell you, however, that I was reading Spider Robinson’s “Very Bad Deaths“, and I’d just got to the point where <<spoiler removed, read the book>>.
The guy went on to join a fraternity. I went on to read Heinlein.
So yes, I know I’m biased. I know I’m odd. But I’ve asked and I asked people on both sides of the equation, and I just cannot find an answer to the questions:
How is interrupting women reading books in public for romantic purposes even a thing?
How the hell is it supposed to work?
My confusion stems from the reasons why I read books in public places:
- I want to read something. If you stop my reading because you want to talk to me, you’re interrupting me in my fun. You’re starting on the wrong foot.
- I have to read something (homework, work, whatever). If you stop my reading because you want to talk to me, you’re interrupting me at my chores. Again, wrong foot.
- I neither want nor have to read anything, but I don’t want to talk to people, so I’m using the book as a barrier. This is apparently a mystery to a section of humanity, but earphones on + face buried in a book + avoiding eye contact is NOT the body posture of a person who’s looking to interact with anyone at that given point.
What this means is that if someone approaches me while reading in public I’m unlikely to be glad of it. More significantly, I’m unlikely to think well of them for it. And no, it’s not about how charming or handsome or rich they are: if Brad bloody Pitt interrupted me reading, I’d be thinking “Oh poop, turns out Brad Pitt is a bit of ass.”
[Post-comment postscript: Yes, there are plenty of people who read casually, just to kill time, and may be glad of an interruption/intervention/distraction. However, body language aside – and someone casually glancing at Grazia doesn’t look anything like someone involved in a novel or textbook – you’d think that the fact that someone’s lugged a damn book with them would be a bit of a hint to any onlookers. Bit like there’s a difference between someone playing listlessly on the phone, and someone setting up a laptop.]