the wrong side of the bed

Monday, July 23, 2007

a tiny thing that might lead someone to think i am unhinged

my roommate and i got the keys to our apartment early. my roommate is excited because she has an unpleasant living situation in a house with too many people and too many vermin. she has moved in most of her belongings. i am okay with that, really, except that i am not. i won't be bringing my large furniture over until somewhere around august 3rd. she is going to have tons of time to become used to tables and chairs in specific locations. it shouldn't matter to me, it is just stuff, but i am increasingly tense and nervous about this. my big concern is my bookshelves. i'd really like to not have bookshelves in my bedroom. i'd sort of like to have as empty a bedroom as possible. it would be nice to have the place where i sleep as tidy as possible, at least this one time in my life. i want my books downstairs.

my roommate thinks i am nuts because this is all i talk about. where will my books go? we have some built in shelves, but they are very shallow and my books may not fit. my comic books are certainly too big. my larger playmobil landscapes won't even fit. i don't know what we will put on the shelves. we will have to scrounge through our stuff like pigs after truffles to find the right knickknacks.

the only other problem with this is the embarrassment and shame i feel when people, strangers and friends both, look at my book collection. i have always had a difficult relationship with books. it is very easy to read a title or catch an author's name and then make a quick judgement about a person. what would you think of me if, walking into my apartment, the first thing you saw was a shelf of romance novels? a shelf of books like the secret? management books? i somehow recently acquired about 10 books by ursula le guin that were in a free pile or on the street or something. i took them because i read most of them when i was in middle school and junior high. i'm not in love with the books or anything, but i am going to keep them anyway. if you saw those books on a shelf, what would it make you think? what if you saw all of my (now useless) sociology books?*

i have had this problem at least back to kindergarten. the first time we went to the school library, we were told that we should stay in one particular area with the very early reader books. it was explained that some books would be too hard for us and we might become frustrated. as we advanced in our reading skills, our teacher or librarian would tell us we could move on. no one ever told me that i could move on. i don't think i was a bad reader, but i know i was very quiet and was probably just overlooked. as a result, i felt that i could never leave the picture book section of the library. i eventually felt like it was easier to blend in with my peers if i made furtive trips into the older kid areas, but i would take whatever i grabbed back with me to the tiny tables by the easy readers. it is a wonder i ever got past hop on pop. even in high school, when visiting the public library, i would have to spend a good 15 minutes in the children's room before i could dash out and grab books for young adults or even, gasp, regular old grown-up books (mostly stephen king). i stopped being comfortable in libraries when my dad told me they could keep records of things i checked out, after all, they have to know who needs fines levied against them.

even now i get very nervous in bookstores. i get sort of twitchy and on edge. i look around to see if anyone is watching before i take something off of the shelf. i hate running into people i know. if that happens, i usually can't buy anything and leave the store immediately.

yesterday i moved some things into my new place while my roommate was out and about. i was talking with a friend on my cell phone (miraculously, i did not drop anything). he asked me what books my roommate had. see! first thing people want to know. what kind of person is she?** well, let's check what books she has on her shelves.

it is absolutely reasonable that i freak out about books. i am being watched.

* seriously, i feel like i should have an essay contest for incoming grads to the department. whoever can convince me they deserve the books gets a stack so big it will save them at least $1,000!

** this is not to say that the person i was talking to was using her books as a criteria to judge her. we were talking about my books and he asked what was on her shelf. it is just a natural question. if i had been talking about my dishes, he probably would have asked about hers, etc. just because i was uncomfortable about the book thing doesn not mean that my friend was trying to make me feel guilty or uncomfortable. in fact, i don't believe he knew about my book problem. i also don't think my roommate would care if i told anyone about her books.


8:34 AM


If I saw a shelf full of Ursula Le Guin books I would think you were awesome!!! Why would you be embarrassed about her books? They are really smart feminist science fiction. Her recent collection of short stories is sooooo gooooood.
Blogger AK, at 11:45 AM  
well, even if you like what you saw, i would be freaked out. what if you think i am smarter or cooler than i really am because you saw something you thought was smart or cool on my bookshelf?
Blogger dorotha, at 11:54 AM  
This is kind of freaky because I was about to type my comment:

"If I saw a shelf full of Ursula Le Guin books I would think you were awesome!!!"

Exactly those words. Even the same number of exclamation points.


Don't worry about the book judgements. Imagine this scenario: I see you have Le Guins on your shelf. I award you 145.9 points of coolness as a result. That's a lot btw. "But Henry!" you say, "I am way less cool than that! Don't add the 149.5 points! I am maybe pushing 52.3 total!" And this is what I say to you in return: "But Dorotha, I looked it up in the book. Having Le Guins = + 149.5, it doesn't matter what you think. You are this amount of cool added on, and that's just how it is."

Them's the breaks.
Blogger Henry, at 1:31 PM  

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