Monday, March 14, 2011

Librarians: Check It Out

Sometimes I wish I were a sassier librarian.

Being the youngest on staff and also being female seems to imply that every lonely guy wandering through thinks he's being original by hitting on me. To be honest, sometimes it's funny— the best 'pick-up' line recently was this guy who gave me the eye-over and then asked with a laugh, "Hey, are you Mother Nature or sumptin?"  I wasn't sure how to take it so I looked him in the eye and gave a curt, "No." Unphased, he laughed again and remarked, "Aw man, I was hopin' I'd get to ask you about the weather!" 

Screeeeeet. Wait a second, back that up. You were hoping you'd get to ask me about the weather?

I can't even begin to describe the seemingly countless men who have sauntered up to the desk and asked me, "Where can I find this book?" only for me to lead them into the isolation of the stacks where they proceed to get increasingly sketch. Sometimes they'll start off with what I like to call the availability questions:

"How long you worked here, beautiful?"
"You married? No? A'ight!"
"How old are you?" 

Other times they'll jump straight to the point:

"Can I get your number, girl? Forget about the book, I just needed an excuse to get you alone!"
“You wanna, you know, go somewhere?”
Or, one of my all-time favorites: "Roses are red, violets are blue, angels are perfect and so are you. How ‘bout a hug, dear?"

The directness can either result in extreme awkwardness or immediate shutdown, depending on how confident or patient I'm feeling on any given day. My inner voice is shouting, "I'm working here, and not a street corner, so get the hell out of my bubble!" But I am too introverted to give in to the temptations of these outbursts, and would probably find myself blushing with embarrassment and tripping over my words if I even tried. Besides, anger only spreads anger, and I'm sure that if I negatively shut down some hopeful guy there’s a good chance he’d spread that negativity to the next lady he came across. Yes, my feminist side dies a little every time I have to ignore a crude comment. Fortunately, I have a very active imagination which I use to pretend I’m a taser-wielding, crotch-kicking, badass dreaded librarian who rides around on a motorcycle tracking down perverted men to obtain revenge for their womanizing deeds. Ok, yes: basically I imagine myself as a dreadlocked version of Lisbeth Salander from the Steig Larson trilogy.  Hey, a girl can dream.

I know the whole “sexy librarian” fetish may be an explanation for some of this behavior, but I honestly don’t understand how a gnarly headed girl in corduroy pants and lumpy wool sweaters can act as a magnet for so many men. There are a number of guys who visit on a near daily basis just so they can “see my smiling face.”  There are others who stare at me and try to start conversations and then awkwardly stumble away mumbling to themselves.  And then there are the guys who are interested, but will vocalize aspects of myself that should change to better fit their fantasies or preferences. I find one visitor particularly entertaining—he’s a big biker dude with tattoos crawling up his neck from below the collar of his t-shirt, with a pitted nose that looks like it’s taken a few too many punches. Not necessarily a bad looking guy, but he definitely has a good 30 years of age on me.  Anyway, he comes in regularly to read the paper and look at hot biker chicks on the internet, and about once a week he’ll make the same comment to me:

“I don’t get that hair of yours. I have this girl, looks just like you but without that hair. She could be a model if she wanted to. But with that hair… I just don’t get it.” Then he’ll launch into some variation of the same lecture about what makes a woman beautiful and how a woman should look and act if they want a guy to pick them up. Somewhere, a ‘subtle’ hint will be dropped that I should get rid of the hideous deformity covering my scalp or I’ll end up an ugly spinster.

Thanks, buddy. Unfortunately for you, I’m not interested in what supposedly makes a woman beautiful in your perspective.  I can do whatever I want to my hair and no amount of influence from you will convince me otherwise.  Besides, it's presumptuous on many levels to assume I'm looking for male attention.

Then there’s the guy who comes in several times a week and will loiter around my office or the Reference Desk waiting to tell me his latest stories. He always manages to slip in some comment about me ‘being his girlfriend,’ and I’ve given up trying to correct these delusions because it only launches him into a frenzied monologue about how he wants to take my boyfriend into the wrestling ring and fight for my undying love. That might be considered chivalrous to some damsels in distress, but not this dreaded librarian.

Working at a public library has forced me into some exceptionally awkward situations, but over the past 18 months I’ve learned a lot of life lessons that explain a lot of classic “stern librarian” behavior:

1.      Don’t smile very often—it only encourages romantic delusions.
2.      Do not engage in ‘normal’ conversation. This means asking no questions other than those related to library services, maintaining persistent and (hopefully) intimidating eye contact to dissuade creepy behavior  (the whole “I’m watching you sternly over the top of my spectacles” thing), and attempting to “shush” people into silence when they start awkwardly asking personal questions (Excuse me sir, you’re being too loud. Sorry, but this is a library).
3.      Wear lumpy, shapeless sweaters even in the summer time to hide any suggestion of feminine form. 

Yes, sometimes I wish I was a sassier librarian, one who would stand my ground and shut down interested individuals in a Lisbeth Salander kind of way. However, doing so would probably result in the loss of my job. For now, I’ll just have to make due with lumpy sweaters and stern glances over my plastic-rimmed glasses.

Despite the potential judgmental (and overly stereotypically heterosexual) nature of this blog entry, I intend it to be humorous and hopefully non-offensive. Additionally, I would like to conclude with a giant kudos to all these gentlemen who, of all places, choose the public library to try and pick up girls. To me, it implies that they are seeking intelligence and potential nerdiness above superficial characteristics, which is rather flattering. Perhaps that is a personal delusion of sorts, but I like to occasionally give in to the benefits of doubt. 

So to all of my gentlemen admirers-- stay classy, and best of luck finding a nerdy partner. Now please leave me alone!


  1. a joy as their credit, at least they have good taste :) love you molls

  2. Ha, this is a funny one Molly! I especially like the last shout out to gentlemenly men who use the librabry to pick up girls in a classy way. I would love to be picked up at a library. Or pick some one up at a library. Hmm, that's an idea. "Oh!" (to an attractive young man) "A book on . I'm just fascinated by that topic myself!" But yes I understand your discomfort with male attention. I have the same problem where I want to be a raging feminist about it and give them a piece of my mind, but I think that your point that hate spreads hate is true. Maybe saying something not hateful but still reprimanding could educate them a bit at least? Just this morning as I'm sitting here volunteering, no less, at the hub a man walked in and then later referred to me twice as the "lovely assistant" which I resented a little, though it's nothing compared to your encounters at the lib! Interesting read indeed.