Jun 27, 2005

you can't judge a book by its cover, but...

"Well what do you make of me?", my host offered. This weekend my wife and I were kindly invited to dinner at the house of an old colleague of my wife's. I have a terrible habit of looking at the bookshelves of people I just meet. I find you can get a very decent high level read of that person and figure out if there are any commonalities between you and that person. Obviously the host felt the same and knew exactly what I was doing.

"I'm not sure we have much in common", I responded. His book collection consisted primarily of political nonfiction and current day best seller nonfiction (e.g., The Tipping Point). A smattering of classics thrown in. The titles suggesting they were more than likely vestigial books from college English courses so I discounted these. I had read very little of what he had. And sure enough through the evening I decided we had very little in common. He was a very nice and interesting person but there was no soulful 'click' that you feel when you meet someone who you'd be happy to see again.

There are a few other tell tale signs. Music is an obvious one. But it's hard to read CD titles unless you get up close. Furniture is an odd one that works often as well. Perhaps not furniture but the rather sense of style of their abode. How you live says something about you.

This got me thinking as we walked home. Is this entirely fair? Some of my best friends read very little or listen to music very little. Maybe I become judgmental when I see that someone doesn't have similar tastes or interests. Thus, putting the kibosh on any chances of a relationship. Did I just shut this guy out because he didn't have the right books. I'm not sure. I don't think so. But I do think next time I am invited over for dinner I'm going to check the bookshelf out at the end of the night.


Anonymous said...

i do the same thing and go through the same thought process, fwiw. but then again, you and i have many of the same books on our shelves. ;-)

i don't think it's a totally unfair way of approaching things. we all have to make social assessments, especially in highly populated urban environments. if we didn't, we'd never have time to think. you'd always be going out with people trying to figure out if you wanted to go out with them again.

i also have connections with people who don't read (much) or who have different musical of literary tastes. usually, in these circumstances, there is another historical thing that binds us. when it comes to meeting new people, though, this doesn't count (by definition).

failing a common (or shared) history, books and music are a pretty decent place to start for someone with a passion for these things. perhaps it also has to do with the fact that, realistically speaking, we have very little time with which to assess people in our busy lives, and so we need shortcuts.

Iron Yuppie said...

First, not to be too adulatory, but I do appreciate a fairly personal point on your blog. It's always interesting to see how others view the world.

Second, I do not think it's necessarily a bad way to measure at all... but you should reflect on how you approached the rest of the evening. If you felt that you determined this individual's compatibility with you solely based on his books, you probably sold him short. That's not to say you would have found him more compatible; just that he did not really have a shot. I don't think it's wrong to use it as evidence, but it's a nice mile marker.

Chookster said...

What's funny is I'd never have gone out with my wife. She doesn't read much and what she does I wouldn't touch. :). Good job we met at work.