Back in my day (I can’t believe I’m old enough to use that phrase without people laughing), a typical guy pretended to be into certain books and authors to impress a beautiful girl. I spent two years carrying around No Exit by Jean-Paul Satre on my college campus trying to subtly convince every co-ed I passed that I was smart enough to date, that my choice in reading meant I was going places, that I would be interested in more than just a one night stand. I would want to talk plays and existentialism and Paris and all that other crap that comes to mind when you think of Satre. I was under the impression that if I positioned the book at the end of the table in the cafeteria an unsuspecting girl with a flowing chestnut mane, beautiful blue eyes and an incredible body mind, would be lured over to my table and forced to sit down and engage me in conversation. That is the power of a book. It’s bait for smart girls. In my mind, the conversation would go flawlessly, of course. I would say something clever. She would laugh. She’d want to know what else I read, and I’d pull a copy of A Moveable Feast out of my back pack. Her heart would flutter. I’d cast a devil-may-care look. She’d decry the ridiculous conventions of romance. I’d agree. She’d ask me out for coffee.
I’d chuckle and say, “Aren’t you silly, we’re in a cafeteria. We’re already having coffee.”
I’d tenderly touch her arm.
She’d pull back and bite her bottom lip. “I can’t! I can’t!” she’d cry. “I’m dating the captain of the football team.”
“Relax,” I’d reply. “It’s just coffee.”
She’d look at the book and get a faraway look in her eyes, “And Satre.”
I’d smile and say, “You can talk Satre with your boyfriend. I’m sure he…”
She’d interrupt, “Stop!” Her shoulders would sag and she couldn’t dare look me in the eyes as she proclaimed, “He reads The Bathroom Joke Book, and he only reads it when he’s in the bathroom.”
A moment of terrible silence would come between us before I reach out and touch her again. Slowly, I’d stand and exit the booth.
“Where are you going?” she’d ask.
“But you can’t go. The conversation. Your wit. Your charm. I want more…”
“Shhhh,” I’d say putting my index finger to her lips. I’d slide the copy of A Moveable Feast to her and say, “We’ll always have Paris.”
She’d hesitate before laughing.
I’d walk away.
She’d start “But…”
Without turning, I’d say “My phone number’s on the title page.”
And that, my friends, is how I imagined the right book would lead to me finding the love of my life. It never worked, but still, with that book on display, I had hope. I believed that book would help me achieve all my dreams just by holding it. I also believed that the right book demonstrated to the rest of the world that I was more than just a shy kid from a small town. I was suave and sophisticated… James Bond-like. The question is, with the inevitable death of physical books; how will guys like me (no money, not particularly good looking, and no rap at all) impress girls and everyone else on college campuses? You can’t place your Kindle at the end of the table and show off your intellect. The Nook, the iPad and the others, none of them carry any cerebral cachet. How will those quaint little interludes between the gorgeous girl and out-of-his-league guy ever take place without the book cover that signals “I’m a much better catch then your empty-headed boyfriend!”
I’m begging you, for the sake of guys everywhere who don’t know how to approach women, don’t let the book die. It’s the only thing we have that gives of some small inkling of the prospect of romance and love and nooky. Don’t take that away from us!