So Gayle, who assumes EVERYTHING is always platonic and thinks that hanging out with some dude for a drink because the plan is to talk about counterterrorism jobs with nonprofits in DC and said dude's dissertation, and that is NOT DATE MATERIAL, and that was the PLAN, and thus there is NO DATE, but nooooooo what does Gayle know, had a couple drinks with some dude from her counterterrorism law class.
He thought it was a date. I was so not excited by that idea, and I made that clear by nonverbal signals, but lest I need to make it clearer, I will verbally do so next time. And, in an aside: Do not touch me. Seriously. What is it with the dude touching me - the light swipe on the arm, the hand on my back? What? No. Is this what dating people do, or at least where one person thinks it is a date? Do men show interest like this? Was I ever ok with this? Because I don't like to be touched anymore. It makes me feel like public property, and not in control of my own body (because, control issues, after the rape? I HAVE A FEW), which makes me not happy. There will also have to be a verbal discussion about the touching next time.
But! Ok! Two paragraphs in and I will attempt to find my point!
We made conversation, this dude and me. The dude asked me what are my favorite movies, and we had a good discussion about that, although he asked what my single favorite movie was. I responded there is no way on god's green earth I can answer that question, who can?, so we discussed genres we like, and how I like doing retrospectives with my Netflix, like Herzog and Almodovar and now Hitchcock, and he was with me on this, and I mentioned I used to be a movie reviewer when I lived in NYC, so we talked a bit about newer, edgier movies, and we connected on our love of the classics: Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, On the Waterfront. So, ok, I am thinking, I can be friends with this dude.
(Oh, wait, but he did say two of his favorite movies were Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music. Readers, can I tell the truth? I have never stayed awake to the end of either of those movies. And I have tried MANY times. Such that, a couple of years ago, someone wrote about the racial politics in the Sound of Music, and I was like, WAIT. There are Nazis in that movie??????)
But then I asked him his favorite books, which to me is actually a more interesting question. And he said, "Anything written by Tom Clancy. I also really like everything Robert Ludlum has written."
My response was ". . . ."
Lest you charge that Gayle is passing judgment without cause, I have READ a Tom Clancy. In 7th grade. And the only thing I remember about it now was that I thought it was complete crap, even then. AND I have read a Robert Ludlum book. Recently! There is a story. Lucky you!
At some point when I was living in Morocco, two friends of mine, a couple, had moved in with me (I had a ridiculously large apartment) because their lease had ended, but they were going to stick around for a couple more months. During the time period they were staying with me, they took a vacation through I think Eastern Europe. When they returned, the lady, first thing she did, was thrust Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity into my hands and say, "Holy shit, you have to read this. It is the WORST. BOOK. EVER."
These two had been hostel hopping in wherever, and most hostels in Europe have a couple shelves of books in all different languages that people can leave if they are done or grab a new one if they need one. I myself have still a couple hostel-picked-up books. The gentleman of this couple had finished his book in one such hostel, and the only English language book there in the book exchange was The Bourne Identity, and he thought: awesome. That's a great movie. So he started reading it. And then he started reading it aloud to his partner. And they laughed. And then he gave it to his partner, who read it, because it is SUCH a bad book, it reaches a level best described as HILARIOUS.
And then it got handed to me and I read it, because it was supposed to be so uproariously bad. Which it is. It reads like what I think would be a parody of a bad action novel, but it is sadly not a parody. The dialogue is even worse than in fucking Avatar, I tell you. We spent the rest of the time they were living with me quoting bad dialogue lines to each other and laughing.
So. Robert Ludlum is just in fact a shitty writer.
Now, I have noooo problem with people whose favorite writer is Tom Clancy. I don't. I don't look down on those people. Because we all read for different reasons. Some very smart people I know love to go watch exploding-things movies, and like Transformers, because it is a lot of fun. They want to be entertained, and they would like it to be mindless. Some people watch, I don't know, Grey's Anatomy, and know it's trashy, but use it as brain candy. And so I guess some people read their books like that as well - just for sheer entertainment value. And that's cool - look, life is hard, and if you read for mindless pleasure, then that's how you take a break. I understand that.
But . . . we're not going to be close buddies if these are your favorite books and kinda all you read.
Well, ok, if you say your favorite book is The Celestine Prophecy, The Secret, or The Alchemist, we're not going to be friends period, let's be real. But . . . literature is a really big part of my life. Because intellectualism is a really big part of my life. Being a nerd. Discussing theory. Talking about art and books and music beyond their entertainment value. Fuck, I can't even talk about pop music (hi, Lady Gaga) with folks without lapsing into long dissertations on her as a feminist figure. I'm sorta academic about stuff, and the people I am closest with are academic about stuff, and that is how we move through the world and interpret it. It's just how we do shit. And I really do just enjoy reading smart things - Delillo, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Roberto Bolano. And I don't think I'm better for it. And I don't think anyone is worse for liking Tom Clancy. And most people change it up between the two. But if you don't, and you hang out with Robert Ludlum all the time, we're just not going to have that much to talk about at some point. Which . . . . happened last night. So there we go.
People have called me an elitist for liking Shakespearean plays or not watching TV or reading what I read. And that is NOT the definition of elitist. Elitism is NOT liking literature or fine arts; it is sneering at people who don't. And I really do get that some people take brain breaks with Transformers or Tom Clancy. I just . . . won't have much to say to you, after awhile, probably, if you are a primarily Tom Clancy reader. We speak our lives in different languages. It doesn't mean we can't communicate and enjoy each other. It does mean, though, that we're not going to be having sleepovers and staying up painting our toenails while gabbing about gender and race theory, in between discussing the latest Boys Are Stupid story or wondering fucking magnets, how do they work?* And that's ok. Rock out with your Tom Clancy, dude. And may you find a lady that does in fact want to go on a date with you AND can discuss with you her favorite Bourne book in the series.
Although, seriously, if you like The Alchemist, I judge you.
*Answer: Magic is everywhere in this bitch.