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You Should Date a Girl Who Doesn’t Read by Charles Warnke

Beautiful piece of writing by Charles Warnke–read to the end or you will miss the message.


Image by Lina Scheynius

You should date an illiterate girl. Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in a film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her. Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale or the evenings too long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice. Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same. Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love. Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent of a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, goddamnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick. Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived. Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness. Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so goddamned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life of which I spoke at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being told. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you.Or, perhaps, stay and save my life.”

*ED NOTE: The original ending replaces “Or, perhaps, stay and save my life,” with “I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.” People asked me to change it…yet when I did, a lot of other people felt the piece had less of an impact, so I’ve decided to change it back. Please do not plot to kill me, thanks.

126 replies »

  1. You should fix your blog, mate – it shows no thumbnail when sharing to Facebook even if I use the “Share” button here… Otherwise – thanks for sharing this amazig piece of art!
    P.S. I liked your ending more than the original one :)

  2. Excellent writing, and style! Reminds me of a tee-shirt I once made that read: “I’m looking for a nice girl. Must be able to dance, vote liberal, and read.”

  3. My friend sent me this beautiful piece. Your words are passionate, loving, strong, amazing. Thanks for speaking to me the “Girl that reads”. Your words come from the soul with such flair & character. Enchanting to say the lest my dear writer.

  4. This is sad. You will maybe never understand why you love someone. Not entirely. This story is sort of like if you try to fall in love with someone who is very mean or angry due to a hard life. You are eternally attracted to them because they are so hard to attain and to show yourself too, and show them themselves in the doing- which is really what they want to see, but the challenge is part of the allure.

    Some girls are easy and some girls understand your heart like no one else, but the part of your heart that is tenacious and stubborn wants more of a challenge. So you date the spiritually dead girl, or the one that will ruin you, and take all your things, or the one that will never appreciate you, and you do all this because you are afraid that you might find marital bliss.

    It does exist I think by the way, but more often it requires an understanding of ego on both people’s parts- which is rare even in someone who has already had it. And that’s because of fear. Money is easy really, it comes with time and passion, eating is pretty easy, shelter is fairly easy to attain, letting go of your pride and expectations is very hard.

    I say let her leave on the train and marry somebody who has already read those books and troubles in another life. Marry somebody who is ready to die, but who wants to live.

  5. I liked the first part as a traditional romance simply said. It seemed like an outline, somewhat insignificant I suppose. That did not cross my mind at the time. I am a bit perplexed now. I thought it reflected that time does not pass slowly when in love. Love is full. That love stops time in a whirlwind of pleasure, hardship, AND reading. I did not exclude verse, arts, conquering the Malaysian jungle… My imagination filled in the gaps between the events. I found nothing boring. It was sweet, reminded me of how a loving older couple’s tale might be. I think we may not always see the gaps in others’ relationships.

    In a hetero-normative way the dinner and champagne is part of the old fair-tale ending, loaded with the want and desire to please. My boyfriend does ridiculous things like that sometimes. I enjoy the gesture. So sweet; I get wrapped up. I do cheesy things too. It’s fun. I don’t think the engagement specifically is thoughtless. Maybe safe. I can feel his sweaty palms, short breath. There are times in a relationship that the cliche experience happens. True love does not need to critique and deny the pleasure of such experiences.

    Though- I did not see myself in the story. I felt disoriented; the approach unnerving. Don’t marry a girl who reads. Don’t marry a girl who reads. Again and again. I don’t like that thought.

    In between the lines lay.

    Thanks you for the point made. And, I won’t marry a guy that doesn’t read.

  6. from a girl who reads to the boy who writes…rarely is there enough oxygen in the room to support both of us.

    and yes, that tangle that is scott and zelda, or any other coupling of readers and writers and lovers who ache for all the things which we willfully pass, (but do so knowing that life winds up being more about everyday than ephemeral), there is only the dictate that says to keep reading, keep writing and stay wistful about all those bits in between.

    most writers write the things they will never be. most readers read what they will never have.

  7. I am not afraid of female intellect, nor have I ever met a woman who couldn’t read. This self-indulgent rant is pretentious and sexist.

    • Hi Rupert, The author is not arguing against female intellect nor is he claiming to be fearful of it…rather, he’s saying the opposite–he’s celebrating it! It’s also not being literal, i.e. not referring to a woman who actually cannot read, but rather that choses not to. And yes, those women do exist. Are they doing themselves a disservice? The author believes so, but that is his opinion. The larger point is about enriching relationships, and how so many of us settle into comfortable, boring relationships because they are easy…when we could have so much more.

  8. Change the ending back to the original! Please? My personal feelings are that you should re-publish the version that the author published, which ends with “I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.”

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