History Class

equal-opportunity dater

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Confessions of a Raging Biblioholic

“If you go home with somebody and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck ’em!”

-John Waters

Learn it, love it, live it. You hear me, readers? I know you agree with me, because your idea of procrastination is to read this blog, and not more inane pop-culture, like watching President Obama singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ on YouTube for what is probably the 36th time (don’t lie, you know you’ve watched it).

The esteemed and ever-wise Mr. Waters also said, “Being rich is not about how much money you have, or how many homes you own; it’s the freedom to buy any book you want without looking at the price and wondering if you can afford it.” With that wisdom in mind, I can tell you right now, I’m tired of being broke. I can’t really afford proper groceries most weeks, let alone something as luxurious as a new book with that delicious, musty smell. But thank Seuss, the internet goes above and beyond altruistic leanings by granting me the intellectual riches of potentially illegal e-books [via onread.com].

I’m Grace O’Malley, and “X” marks a mountain of leaked manuscripts

A part of me feels a bit rotten over reading online for free, manifested via the angel on my left side scolding that I’m stealing away countless authors’ just desserts. [When I’m finally published, I damn well better get my royalties, since I bank on them paying off the debt I’m currently accruing while writing in the first place.] But then the sneaky literature ninja on my other shoulder pipes up about the potential hell of not having anything to read if I stop. The debate promptly fizzles out. All parties console themselves with digging up something new to read, and dig our collective moral grave a few books deeper. It doesn’t weigh too heavy when the voices all “ARRR” like the literature pirates they are, and continue consuming volumes like barrels of written rum at an alarming rate. Does that make me a raging biblioholic, rather your general library-variety bibliophile? Discuss.

Anyway, I tend to embody Waters’ attitude quite thoroughly. I understand that not everyone likes to read, and certainly not all the same genres. But I’m an equal-opportunity biblioholic, as well as dater, so I should have something in common to discuss with most random strangers on the street.

This makes the warm-fuzzies in my tummy explode like a well-shaken bottle of champagne.

Case in point: I was waiting for the bus two months ago, and one of the older men that hang around Columbia Heights came over to wait near me. After discussing my ancestral background, because he and his buddies had a running debate every time they saw me and evidently liked how pale my skin is compared to their varied shades of brown [they had narrowed it down to Ireland, Scotland, and, oddly, Ukraine], he got really excited. Apparently his bet had correctly been on Ireland, and he asked, “So, do you like to read? Since you’re Irish, you must like James Joyce! He is one of my favorites.”

I have to admit now that I recognized the gentleman from outside the health clinic on 14th, and in his ratty clothes and a seeming lack of income, I figured he was unemployed and/or homeless. And asked me if I like James Joyce. What?? After an astonishing discussion of how much more he liked Dubliners than Ulysses, my bus came to take me away. I told him that I usually keep a book on me, so he should come up next time he sees me go by and I’ll lend whatever I have to him. I would gladly play the mobile library for someone like him. I haven’t seen him since, but it’s still one of my favorite DC stories.

So I take literature as a pretty serious part of my identity. Ever since I was a wee munchkin and exhausted my elementary school library’s collection on mythology and practically everything else, I’ve been titled the family bookworm. Doesn’t matter that my two sisters read nearly-if-as-much. My aunts and uncles know they can still fall back on an Amazon gift card, and I’ll be a happy camper. My idea of an ideal afternoon date would be going to a bookstore. Seriously. One of my To-Do List Dates is to spend a few hours in Second Story Books in Dupont and salivate over all the rare tomes I could never afford. [A girl’s gotta dream, right?]

And here in DC? Everyone is well-read. I’m in heaven. It’s gotten to the point where stating that you love Douglas Adams, Robert Caro, and Gabriel Garcia Marques is just redundant. You’re in Washington: of course you’ve read Life of Pi. So, being the absurdly ambitious Washingtonians most of us are, it becomes a competition. “Well, if you like him, then you’ve gotta love *name drop stupidly obscure title here*… Oh, you don’t know that one? Yea, it’s twelve times better, I swear. I’ll bet you an *equally uncommon beer* on it.”

I would’ve gotten laid a lot more in college if you’d been allowed to dress like that in the library.

It’s all a factor of DC’s special brand of geek chic. And while the Preening Peacock Syndrome (PPS) typically pissed me off, it manages to make the cut when exercised in reference to literary endeavors. Want to talk about the brilliance of Dante’s Inferno? It’s going to be done over martinis, because we’re going out. You had to prioritize books over clothes on your cross-country move to DC and decided wardrobe replacements would be cheaper? Better cancel any plans for the night, we’re going to be here awhile. The best proof of this is in my current dating interest.

The Classicist is one well-read guy, and it’s totally suckered me. On our first date, we ended up in a discussion on how the mistranslations of the Bible have fucked up the world. The chemistry was explosive. Date two consisted of trading our favorite poets and how we want to read them in their original language. It was even better than date one. We’ve been seeing each other for about a month now, and our version of pillow-talk is arguing over the proper usage of transliteration and how much we adore Michael Moore’s Lamb. He leant me a Tom Robbins, and I’ve been laughing like I’m crazy on the bus for the past week. He gets it when I make some dork reference to Dune in casual conversation, and makes me light up with his plans to recreate classics for the modern-day.

Bottom line: he fascinates me. And that ain’t easy, folks. We all know about my RADD lifestyle, and how most love interests have a rapidly approaching expiration date. But this one– my Classicist– he’s an intriguing individual, and potentially my intellectual counterpart. We’ve a solid shared foundation, and complement each other elsewhere. I know Socrates and Plato, but his Master’s-level knowledge of the Greeks offers whole new avenues of thought. He understands the Middle East and developing world as much as any average Washingtonian, but still has questions to ask me. We never run out of something to talk about. My Classicist and I trade book titles like baseball cards, and are still mutually captivated. It’s fantastic; there’s still so much to share. We’re open books, but are enjoying the process of taking our time to read each chapter thoroughly.

And his bedroom is chock-full of books, so you know what that means.

Does size matter?

I swear I’m going as her for Halloween one of these years– any takers to be my Roger?

Get your minds out of the gutter– I’m talking about height.

As a rather tall woman myself [stretching out to an often-contested but even 6″], height has played quite a role in my life. But hey– if Jessica Rabbit was a statuesque sex symbol with a shorter, adoring man, then anything is possible, right? I keep repeating a favorite book quote in my head while thinking about this post, “We’re all the same height lying down.” (Kudos if you comment where it’s from!)

There are some pretty ridiculous variables that go into attraction and compatibility, so there’s no point in borrowing trouble and making up new ones… but size is undeniable. Tradition– and basic animal instinct– dictates a larger male/ smaller female dichotomy. But is it required, or just a socially-learned habit?

I don’t know how many times girlfriends joked that it would be great if I were a guy, because I’m their favorite height. Or guy friends tried flattering me by saying they would totally date me if I were shorter– as if that would make a girl feel better, you goobers.

My new standard response. LOVE IT

Apparently it doesn’t bother one of my guy friends (let’s call him Theon, because he’ll like that). He’s dated girls an inch or so taller, and had no problem with it; he actually thinks it’s girls that are ones uncomfortable with the role reversal. A girlfriend and I responded that we always thought it was guys with the height hang-up, and that taller women make them feel less manly or something. Theon laughed and said that he always feels like a man, so he doesn’t have a problem with it… for the most part. “Only, when you’re holding hands with a taller girl, your arm lengths are mismatched and it gets tiring bending your elbow all the time. It’s very hard to look cool with the awkward elbow…”

Awkward elbows aside, I’ve heard the same from several other average-height male friends. My co-worker [of the “Shit Charming Guys Say” article] says that taller women have a certain attitude that he finds attractive– he often tells me that he loves the way I walk around the restaurant with this calm confidence that says “don’t mess with me”. He then proceeds to attempt an imitation, and always fails miserably with a huge grin on his face. But his bottom line is that height doesn’t matter so much as body type. The taller women he’s dated were up to four inches taller, but curvy or slim; compared to his built, stocky figure, it matches. So I’m thinking that Pop-eye and Olive Oil might have been an appropriate representation?

Men don’t have to be taller to be charming.

My romantic history is in no way restricted to 6″4 giants– I’m an equal-opportunity dater! A number of past interests were just my height (which means slightly shorter, since I’ve great posture and a lot of guys don’t), and a few shorter. One was even significantly shorter– by a good five inches. I mostly attribute that to the fact we were friends first (persistence really can earn you a ticket out of the Friend Zone!) Another factor, though, was body type. He might’ve been shorter, but he was stocky and muscular, and I never felt big around him. Despite our reversed vertical roles, he always made me feel properly portioned and feminine.

My problem has always been that dancing and music play very big roles in my life, and mechanical issues arise with shorter guys. Especially since I also like wearing heels on occasion. So it has a lot to do with attitude and self-esteem. Do you have the confidence to date someone of the opposite height-expectation? It worked out the one time with my shorter guy, we danced naturally and had a blast with it. If you’re attracted to them and get along, isn’t the rest just a bunch of details to iron out later? You can always figure out a way to hold hands without the awkward elbow somewhere down the road.

Last night, I met up with a guy that I knew was an inch or so shorter [let’s call him the Classicist, over our shared love of ancient history]. He’s rather cute, and intriguing as hell, so I rolled with it and figured I’d have interesting conversation over drinks at the very least. It went better than well– by the end, we both admitted we hadn’t had such a great time talking to someone in a long while. And he dances; when the subject came up, he jumped on it enthusiastically. At the very end, as we decided we both had fun and would like to meet up again, he leaned in for a good night kiss– that also went very well. So I think we might be able to figure our vertical differences out… we’ll see.

Social Butterflying

Yes, DC and I have been hitting it off swell lately. It’s been night after night of wining-and-dining-and-dancing. Minus the wine and food most of the time. In a city of high-energy overachievers, the work hard/party hard mentality is practically a required lifestyle for residency.

Unfortunately, I’ve always had trouble choosing from which awesome thing to do with my life, and that includes my social life… including how to structure this whole writing idea. So I’m going to go with my usual plan, and say whatever comes to mind, even if there isn’t an obvious continuity to it.

Deal with it.

So one of the first things I was told upon arrival in DC was that there is a huge gender disparity. Being accustomed to being one of the few females in a circle of ambitious, political guy types, I assumed it was the same here.

Apparently that is not so anymore, for the 20-something crowd. Some single girlfriends told me there is a huge lack of eligible, intelligent, SINGLE guys here. There is a huge influx of women, and most of the guys already have girlfriends. Bad news bears to a single girl, right?

I don’t know where they were getting their intel, but that’s not the truth. At least, not how I’ve experienced it. I’m thinking they’ve a much more selective taste, whereas I’ve a broader interest.

I’m an equal-opportunity dater. And that isn’t just race, but religion, background, profession [or lackthereof], partisanship…. pretty much anything. Except those of the Westboro/Tea Party persuasion. *Imbeciles need not apply.*

Beyond that, most people find the nook they fit into and feel comfortable, and coast along happily. I tend to bounce around from group to group– depending on my schedule, the weather, or whatever strikes my fancy– so it broadens the possibilities.

The key: you have to take risks. Whether it’s going to a house party/bar you’re unsure of, meeting up with people you met only once weeks ago but have invited you out, or walking up to that cute guy across the bar that hits some secret nerve electrifying your spine– just do it. Don’t say no, don’t think, don’t rationalize… just do it. After a few too many life-altering “learning moments” over the past few years, I’ve come to embrace ‘carpe diem’ not only as a motivator, but as a true lifestyle.

Because of that, I’ve made friends with everyone from the Mexican guys living in the group house on the corner of my block to White House staffers and diplomats on Embassy Row. I’ve asked a cute street musician for a drink because I liked his bluegrass, and been on ritzier dates in Dupont with guys well above my pay grade. I don’t let things limit me.

And you know, I’m happier for it. DC and I are getting to know each other much faster and more profoundly than we would have otherwise. Even if it’s something simple like stopping to take photos of a half-renovated church, or giving my lunch to someone hungrier than me in a park, it’s worth your while to stop rushing around the city inside your own head and actually take a LOOK at the real one around you.

It might not smell like roses, but DC is beautiful, and this butterfly likes the perks of being more than just a wallflower.