Stop me if you’ve been here: you’re talking to an acquaintance, someone who does not really know you. It comes up that you enjoy reading, and the other person looks you up and down a bit before saying something like, “Oh, well, I just don’t know how you find the time for that. I’m way too busy to read.” Sometimes this is followed by a little self-ingratiating sniff or eye-roll, showing that the comment is obviously meant to be insulting (and sometimes the person really means the sentiment, but they usually word it a bit differently- I’m not talking about those people).
I get this a lot now that I have small children, and it’s almost always from mombies (moms who are also zombies). My twins are almost 8 months old, and while my reading pace certainly took a hit when they were born, it’s returned to (almost) what it was pre-baby as they’ve gotten older. They now spend a lot of time sitting while trying to fit their feet into their mouths. They just don’t need me for that. But occasionally, I’ll get another mom giving me the “there ain’t enough time for books” line (with the sniff)(as if DARING to have a passion outside of your children means you’re neglecting them or something, when in fact showing your children that they aren’t the center of the universe is probably a good thing *end of that rant*).
I’ll admit it- this makes me defensive. This condescending attitude implies so much- that reading isn’t worth the time; that whatever thing THEY’RE interested in doing is more important than the thing I’M interested in doing; that I’m probably a bad parent because I have hobbies. Of course, all readers get this sort of thing, whether they are parents or not, single or not…whatever…or not. It’s just that babies are a magnet for strangers who want to share their opinions about everything with you AT ALL COSTS. Anyway, when I get this barb, I usually try to change the subject, especially if I don’t know the person well. But if they push it, the conversation goes something like this:
Them: “Blah Blah reading is a waste of time. I’m just too busy doing more important things like picking my kids’ noses and telling them they’re my special little snowflake.”
Me: “Uh-huh. Well, I’m a blogger and a freelance writer, so you could say it’s part of my job. Anyway, what school do your kids go to?”
Them: “I mean, how can you stand to just SIT there and not DO anything when there’s so much to GET DONE around the HOUSE?”
Me: “Well, it’s not 1950. My husband helps around the house, but anyway, have you been to that new resta-“
Them: “And BESIDES, books aren’t even REAL LIFE!” (this is usually the last straw for me)
Me: “How much television do you watch? You know, that box that involves you ignoring other people and sitting on your ass and not doing anything, watching things that aren’t real?”
Me: “And since when is showing my kids that intellectual pursuits are important ‘a waste of time?’ And, I’M SORRY, but maybe I read because going to your Mommy and Me group sounds like my personal vision of Dante’s icy hell.”
Them: *backing away slowly as I menacingly hold Anna Karenina aloft*
The television thing always works- the last bit is just icing on the cake of my temper tantrum. According to The Nielsen Company, the average American watches over five hours of television a day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with watching television, but the next time someone gives you crap about how much you read, try pointing out how much TV they watch. It’s probably the same time commitment, if not more. Even the most dedicated readers I know don’t read for five hours a day.
And hey, some parents are really too busy to read. I totally get that. But I’m guessing that if you have time to harass a stranger at the mall or at the party of a mutual friend, that person is not you.
So, am I alone here? Do you guys get this judgment from people who don’t read? What’s your usual response?