Sunday, April 19, 2009

Crap Books

When I was younger, I moved in with my boyfriend. It was my first real experience at playing house and I was determined to get it right. I saw myself as a domestic goddess.

Our first night together I cooked a chicken dinner that I carefully arranged on our kitchen table, covered with a linen—the cloth kind, not the vinyl!—and lots of candles.

I ran the bath and tossed in fake rose petals. I’d gotten a subscription to Good Housekeeping as I was practically a housewife now, and such details like romantic bath preparation seemed high on the list for a domestic goddess such as myself.

The boyfriend was due home from work anytime, so I slipped into a red teddy and, to play up domestic goddess look, added an apron. Which was green with a hideous paisley pattern, and it clashed horribly with the silk red lingerie. But I wasn’t bothered by such minor details.

Then I waited. The minutes ticked away slowly on the clock, and I filled the time by painting my nails and going through boxes trying to find romantic music. I finally settled on a Kenny G CD.

What I was most excited about, however, was the books. The boyfriend told me he loved to read, as a matter of fact he read just about all the time. This is when I knew I was in love with him. I’d never dated a guy before who was interested in literature. I envisioned us cuddled together each night on the couch, reading aloud to one another all the classics—Hemingway and Salinger for the long winter nights and in the summer, we’d stay up late discussing Tolstoy and his weird obsession with the name Ivan, which would lead to passionate arguments that we’d continue in the bedroom.

I was a silly girl. Who would think Russian lit leads to erotic nights, anyway?

I’d spent the day unpacking and organizing the books. I’d carefully picked out a few of my own, which I stacked neatly on the dinner table next to a glass of Southern Comfort, a favorite drink of the boyfriend’s. I was hoping we’d have a romantic dinner, followed by an intellectual conversation over the books—had he read any of them and if so, which were his favorites and why?

When he came home, he looked around the room. “Wow,” he said, kissing me on the forehead, “it’s really dark in here! Didn’t you call the electric company yet?” He flipped on the lights, and I blinked fast, tripping over the shoes he’d kicked off in the middle of the room.

“I got you a drink!” I said, proudly handing him the glass. “Thanks, baby!” he exclaimed, tilting his head back and finishing it with one big gulp. He burped and started laughing, “Oh my god,” he said, “What are you wearing? That’s hilarious.”

“Thanks,” I said, self-consciously removing the apron, “I was um, hoping you’d get it.”

He looked around the room. “I made dinner!” I said optimistically, “and I picked out some books I thought you’d like to read.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Do you hear that music? Where’s it coming from? It sounds like we’re in an elevator.”

“It’s probably the neighbors,” I replied, casually hitting the “pause” button on the stereo. “Anyway, why don’t you get washed up and we’ll have dinner. I ran a bath for you.”

He peeked into the bathroom. “You’re so sweet,” he said, then furrowed his brow, “there’s some kind of…floaty in the water…what is that? And the water’s pink!”

“Crap!” I exclaimed, pushing into the room for a closer look. The fake rose petals had sunk to the bottom of the tub and stained the water pink. “Um…sorry...” I said, flipping the switch to drain the water.

“It’s OK…” he said. “Where are the books? Are they unpacked yet?”

“Oh!” I said, excited, “They’re in the bookshelves! Come see!” I grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the living room.

“Awesome.” He browsed through the books, which I’d painstakingly organized by genre, then alphabetically by author’s last name. He then selected Mafia for Dummies, grabbed the entire bottle of Southern Comfort off the kitchen counter, and walked into the bathroom.

I found this disturbing for three reasons:

1. He’s drinking liquor straight from the bottle while on the toilet

2. Of all the books available, he chose Mafia for Dummies and

3. Worst of all, it appears he is a Bathroom Reader

I sat on the couch and fretted over this worrisome discovery. An hour later, the boyfriend emerged from the bathroom, the fan still going at full strength.

“That’s better!” He grinned. “I’m starving!”

Dinner was cold, so I re-heated the chicken in the microwave. The candles had flickered out ages ago, and under the harsh apartment lighting it was obvious the chicken was still frozen on the inside. “I’m sorry!” I cried as the boyfriend laughed. “It’s OK,” he assured me, “just promise you’ll leave the cooking to me from now on.”

The truth was, I was relieved we had to toss the dinner. The table was uncomfortably close to the bathroom and I wasn’t sure my gag reflex would allow me to choke any food down under the (smelly) circumstances.

I should’ve known this night would be a precursor to the rest of our time together. While it was true that the boyfriend was indeed a reader, it turns out he was solely a Bathroom Reader—every night, he would come home and head straight to the bathroom, enjoying his literature from his porcelain throne.

I was devastated. My dream of cuddling together and reading aloud from the same book would never happen. I decided to make the best of the situation, though, and learned to work around it.

When the boyfriend came home and shut the bathroom door, I would settle down with my own book at the kitchen table. Together, we would read, lost in our own worlds.

I never gave up on sharing books. Among his growing collection of “…for Dummies” that were stacked on top of the toilet tank, I would slide in some of my favorites, hoping maybe he would read The Alchemist or The Bell Jar.

It bothered me, those books in the bathroom. No matter how often I used Clorox wipes to scrub the shit out of them, they always seemed tainted to me. Even when the books rotated out of the bathroom and into the bookcase, I knew which ones were “toilet treasures.”

Once, a friend came over and asked to borrow the boyfriend’s Why Men Have Nipples.

“You don’t want that,” I said, wrinkling my nose, “it’s a crap book.”

“It’s not good? You’ve read it?” The friend asked innocently.

“Yes,” I replied, “that’s what I meant…it’s no good…it’s…crap.”

I tried to bond with the boyfriend over the books. Sometimes, I’d hear him laughing in the bathroom. I’d lean up against the door, breathing out of my mouth. “Are you reading David Sedaris?” I’d ask eagerly. “Which part do you like?”

“I just farted,” he’d announce through the door. “It was a really gross one.”

When we split up, I kept the books. I felt like I’d won, until moving day came around. Several boxes of heavy books suddenly didn’t make me feel victorious. And after I’d settled in to my new place, and organized the books just how I wanted, I found I couldn’t unpack the crap books. No matter how much I cleaned them, they were still tainted, taunting me with their shitty memories.


jennicki said...

I wonder what ever happened to that Kenny G CD...

miss amy said...

I seem to have lucked out with a bathroom reader myself....sigh
Great post.

Nautilus said...

Nothing wrong with reading in the toilet. Why would we have a bowel, if not to provide some much needed book time?

Great post Jen, one of your best!

Barnesm said...

Jenny that’s a great story, sorry I mean that’s a crap story,or rather that's a great story about crap books no what I mean…

Okay starting again that’s a story of a horrible, horrible experience brilliantly told. So many of my friends when they moved in together and when they combined their libraries resulted in multiple copies of the same books. Today my_reason for living and I when we pick up some of our books go ‘Is this your copy or Mine? The combined Penguin classics now fill a complete bookshelf. Though eighteenth and nineteenth century women’s writers you can probably count on being hers and any Russian novels mine.

But Jenny first you admit over on my blog to contributing to Stephen Myer’s profit margin and now to reading Hemingway. Good lord woman, I almost began putting together a good reading care package and considered sending it via the red cross.

And I have no doubt you would have look ravishing in a red teddy and green apron with a paisley pattern.

Another wonderful story.

and coincidentaly my word to verify I am not spam for this entry was PROSE.

Simon said...

Brilliantly – if painfully – told, as always. A warning to us all.

Lou said...

Really great post Jen.

There are readers and then there are readers *sigh*

You're a great writer - I felt your pain when the night didn't go as planned. I'm sure you'd make a great domestic goddess if that was what you set your mind to {{hugs}}

Tim said...

I've got to learn not to read your posts when drinking any sort of beverage, as it either goes down the wrong pipe or out through my nose when I start laughing.

lmao! This is sitcom material, Jen.


How old are you? My goodness, but you've already led an adventurous life!

If you meet another bathroom reader, try introducing him to the wonderful world of, magazines. They're disposable.

Keep smiling, it gets better. :)

Barnesm said...

So is phoning you on a mobile while in the bathroom a no no as well?

beeso said...

I'll read anywhere, as my dad will attest to when he saw me reading on a road with what seemed like 20cm corrugations. The book was shaking like a leaf but it was a good bit, so i kept going.

uamada said...

I lent a book to a mate once and when it came back, it had a black curly bookmark.
I didn't lend him anymore books

Tim said...

Hmm, phoning on the privy? Well, I use an old cell phone to play video games while, uh, doing my business.

Does that count? lol

Chaz said...

Jen always a mistake trying to bond in a literature sense with you partner.

Most of the book at home are mine I'd say 3.5 out of the 4 book cases we have.

yankeedog said...

A nice writeup of, all in all, a very sad story.

And everyone said romance is dead. I think your ex had it on life support.

Indantatia said...

You need to be putting these in magazines. These are awesome!

BrianC said...


Im a dunny reader, i guess our love was never meant to be. sigh.

You have such a great prose, i do indeed enjoy your blog.

If you dont mind id like to wax lyrical about the crapper read.

It wierd i know, and im concious of the wierdness, though if it helps the book im reading on the dunny is "On Killing by Dave Grossman" Maybe its a guy thing or maybe its just me, but if i touch a serious philosphy book when im off the crapper, i just cant bend my noggin around it.

I must of read "On the Genealogy of Morals" like 5 times before i started reading it on the crapper one week while i was waiting for the amazon man,(who for me in my ageing years is taking on a icecream man like god-hod)and i finaly got it, i got what Nietzsche was grocking about, and i did it on the crapper.

Dont give up the crapper read just cause this one zero broke your eloquent little heart.

and with i think everyone knows just how wierd i am now.

Girl Clumsy said...

Great yarn. ;)

My Dad always enjoyed motoring magazines when visiting the gents' for a solid afternoon's work.

Thankfully my beloved is a "get-in, get-out" man. I couldn't handle the stress.

Flinthart said...


Oh, my. Heh.

Well, I've usually got three or four books on the go simultaneously. But given the way I live, it's really not possible to 'schedule' reading time. It has to be stolen, when I can get it.

It's not really feasible to carry the same book with me constantly, so I just leave books in the places where I get to steal a bit of time. Currently, there's a Gene Wolfe novel in the upstairs bathroom. On the dining table, there's a bizarre history of a Venetian spy named Gerolamo Vano. Next to the bed is a YA science fiction novel which I'm not convinced I'll finish.

If I could figure out how to read and drive at the same time, I'd be completely happy.

Flinthart said...

PS: I'm going to pretend you never admitted to owning a Kenny G CD. That way I can continue speaking with you, without having to hire someone with calluses on his eardrums to rearrange your musical tastes.

Steve said...

It could be worse, you could've admitted to owning a CD by that untalented ass clown, Michael Bolton.

A female friend of mine was in the bathroom at the office we worked at, at the sink, and a woman we both know entered, with a sandwich in hand, entered one of the stalls, did her business, and apparently finished the sandwich, because she did not have it when she left the stall, and she was licking her fingers.

My friend immediately left and told several of us what she just witnessed.

The Rhino said...

Damn, Girly, that was hilarious.

Maybe he just needed a 12-step program? I can just see the meetings now, "Hi everyone, I'm the Rhino and I'm a bathroom reader".

Nah, maybe not.

Katherine said...

That was great, Jen. Seriously, why don't you have a recurring article in a chick magazine? :)

The story of the woman eating on the toilet was hilarious as well. And we thought reading was bad...:)

Therbs said...

That was hilarious! Great writing.
A grungy share house with all sorts of reading material kept in the dunny quickly got me out of that particular habit.

jennicki said...

miss amy - thanks! sorry about the bathroom reader, though!

Naut-thank you! And good point...sure the bowel exists solely to allow for some quiet (or not so quiet) reading!

Barnesm--Thank you! I concur with the Stephanie Meyer comment. It is embarrassing I've read and sort of enjoyed the Twilight saga...but Hemingway?! How can you not love Hemingway? I bet he was a bathroom reader...and he treated women pretty a matter of fact I probably would've been in love with him. I seem to fall for that type.

Simon--thank you, wise sir!

Lou--Merci! In my mind I've got the "goddess" down--it's the "domestic" that keeps tripping me up!

Tim--Mucho gracias! I'm 28...not really that adventurous...just trying to find the humor in some pathetic moments of my life. :D

Barnesm--No! I don't want to know if you are talking to me while on the toilet! Ignorance is bliss!

Beeso-fair enough! I wish I could read like that--I get motion sickness so can't read on planes, trains or automobiles.

uamada--EWWWWWWW! That made laugh, but EWWWWWW!

Chaz: Lesson learned amigo, lesson learned.

yankeedog: Thanks! Oh the ex took romance to a whole lower level!

Indantatia: Thank you gorgeous!

Brian--thank you! And thanks for sharing! Also, thanks to you I learned a new word--"dunny!"

Girl Clumsy--Thanks! Ya know I did get the ex a subscription to Playboy, thinking he'd like that in the bathroom, but he didn't care for it! But I sure loved the articles. ;D

FH-I'm the same way. The older I get the more ADHD I become...always have different books in different rooms, in my car, in my purse, even keep a book at work for breaks.

P.S. I'm so ashamed myself of once owning it (alright--I do still own it. I know it's around here somewhere) I almost omitted the Kenny G part.

Steve: That story was so gross! And kinda funny!

The Rhino: Thanks! And yes he does need to be in a couple of 12 step programs (note he took the whole bottle of Southern Comfort with him--that did become a daily occurance).

Kat--I wish! Thank you! ;D

Therbs: Thank you, amigo! :D

Steve said...

You can be thankful he didn't take the heated-up dinner plate into the bathroom with him.