I ranted on Facebook this morning. I do it occasionally, not as often as I used to, but I did it this morning. (For those of you who are my Facebook friends, I apologize if you are reading this diatribe twice, but this version will be so much better!). My rant all began with a rather innocuous statement from a friend of mine who was teasing me about a visit to the library. He said something about me not needing more books or don’t I have enough or something similar. It did not bother me but then I started thinking about it, and got mad about having to constantly defend my love of books (again, not at my friend, but in general). Here’s why I was angry:
It is totally acceptable in society to criticize or demean a person’s positive virtues (for lack of a better word), yet we cannot defend a person’s negative attributes, it might hurt their feelings. For example, you can call someone a nerd, tell them they read too much, or study too hard, and it’s perfectly acceptable. We can be told we have too many books or spend too much on books, and are supposed to smile. Because it’s a “good thing” no one is supposed to get upset, even when the statement is said unkindly. But on the flip side, if I were to say to a friend of mine, you drink too much, or eat too much, or buy too many Twinkies, then we are crossing a line and will probably lose a friend.
It does occasionally hurt my feelings when someone says “You read too much,” more because my true friends know this about me. What am I supposed to be doing with my extra time? Watching TV shows I do not really enjoy? Go out clubbing? I cannot understand how anyone can read “too much.” Yes, I am single, so maybe in my case, I am supposed to be out chasing a man or something, but a) that’s an entry for a different blog I have and b) I am way too busy to be chasing men right now. So, yes, when I get a spare hour or two, I want to curl up with a book. I then want to talk about that book with someone, or at the very least encourage someone else to read it.
The whole “you have too many books” thing gets to me, too. I support myself, I do not go out partying, drinking, or shopping (very often). Most of the books I buy, I try to get as part of a book sale or as a trade-in when I have textbooks to trade in. So, I truthfully do not spend that much on books. I will occasionally buy a book full-price, usually a new release I have been anxiously awaiting, but again, that’s my life. (Not intentionally defending my right to read or buy books here, but there you go). My favorite is, “why do you keep your books after you have read them?” First, I do not keep all my books after I have read them, just my favorites. Second, with that line of thinking, why is the DVD industry such a booming one?
So, why is it okay to criticize me and my reading habit, when I cannot criticize Mr. or Ms. X about their drinking habit? I cannot walk up to someone in the store and say, “Wow, you have a lot of Twinkies in your shopping cart.” I’m liable to get decked. My habit does not affect my health, nor does my habit create danger when I am driving (I do not typically make it a habit to read while driving).
It can probably all be summed up by insecurity. Many of the non-readers who say these things do not understand why I (and others) read so much, because they are more black and white than we are. A friend posited this morning that non-readers (he called them trolls) are intimidated by readers. I think he’s probably on to something there.
I think it is actually a sad commentary about our society that we can belittle intelligent people for being intelligent and pursuing that intelligence, but sympathize with addicts, criminals, or obviously unhealthy (by choice) people. The funny thing is though, I read for many of the same reasons an alcoholic drinks or an over-eater eats: I read when I am upset, lost or insecure; I read when I am happy, exuberant, or bored; but mainly……I read because I exist.