How to break up with a book (and other stories)

Finding a book you can be happy with is exactly the same as finding a lover.

First, you assume there will be serendipity. You go to all the right places; you see what covers take your fancy. The lighting is all wrong in a supermarket (and you are not swayed by ‘3 for 2’) and it’s hard to read in a club; you hope, then, for recommendation by a mutual friend. Your friends think very hard for you (they are happily committed to their books; they can’t wait to meet the book you eventually decide upon), perhaps even suggest a name or two, but the hope is short lived and your friends find your taste unpredictable.

You sift through memories, then, of all the books you’ve read in the past (some will multiply this number by seven, some will divide; there is a certain pride reserved for those who have taken years to read one single book), and think about what exactly you would like to be different (or the same), this time. Some people slip up here, and re-read previous tomes; this never ends well and if you once were together and then decided to part, each shrinking backward, then warning horns should be blaring; the readerly experience cannot un-yellow in absence alone. That is basic fact. Continue reading

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Online dating: great, but actually a little bit rubbish

(I once read that one clear symptom of being British is that it is impossible to intone the word ‘great’ without sounding sarcastic. ‘Great’ is a word most naturally reserved for sarcastic occasion. Ever since, in cross-cultural exchanges, and due to this absolute truth, I have performed a small inward giggle and self-enquiry whenever I allow the word to flutter free from my voice, which isn’t often (but the word is usefully efficient and gleefully positive, so it does get out now and then in emails, etc.); and also, unlike most of the people who self-describe their category of humour on dating sites, I don’t think sarcasm is a particuarly inspiring humble-brag, so I usually err on the side of the gentle, far more British and authentic ‘quite good’ or ‘quite nice’. Therefore, please take my use of ‘great’ in the above title as evidence of my uncertain and unstable opinion on the subject of today’s pondering.) Continue reading

Dating; not a series of picnics

Ah, dating, that awful, brilliant, awful thing…

I don’t ever want to be a heartbreaker. I’ve had my heart ‘broken’ (let’s say temporarily bruised/punched/squashed) a couple of times. It’s horrific to be on the other side of things, alternatively, and I have even taken breaks from dating in the past purely because I can’t deal with the guilt I’ve felt at being the one to turn someone else down (I know how I want to feel about the person I end up with, and I would rather not accept less). Feeling less for someone else than they feel for you is an awful feeling and communication of that fact is a delicate moment (and I know exactly how painful it is to be on the other side of it). Continue reading