Go to a dingy cafe, the kind with Penguin Classics rotting in a corner, where the staff’s disdain makes the coffee perfectly bitter. Sit opposite a guy with floppy hair who looks like he doesn’t believe in the beach. You figure you’re bored and wouldn’t mind getting laid later, so you strike up a conversation. Obviously you will have to do this, shy and dull have converged equally beneath his ironic glasses, perfectly wrinkling his Heathcliff brow. Just make sure you act sufficiently awkward to avoid intimidating him. Then you’ll get to listen to him talk at you about books.
Only smile occasionally during this conversation, nod a lot to show you’re interested. Mentioning the occasional philosopher will probably get you a decent hand job later. Disagree with every third thing he says to give the illusion that you’re interacting on “his level”. Now he knows his friends will be suitably impressed. You even used the phrase “Marxist dialectic of the material self”, you’re in! For God’s sake, use big words and don’t make too many jokes. Sarcasm about the plebs, however, is a must. Drop in that you’re a feminist because your second favorite author is Woolf (second, of course, to Hemingway).
If you say “I think” enough he’ll end up believing it and take you to a quiet bar with inadequate lighting. He will be unable to order, yet insist on doing so, now believing that he is the one pursuing you (a fantasy you obviously are obliged to indulge). Over wine he will continue to listen to himself outline the plot of his unfinished novel. Believable criticism works best at this point, if you intersperse the conversation with “compliment – critique – compliment” you’re bound to at least get some decent wine out of him. For example “I love the way your idea captures the real struggle of fractured post-modernity, but don’t you think the characterization of John could be more three dimensional? I love the ending though, that imagery is truly beautiful”… he’ll be putty in your hands.
After he’s had enough wine he’ll start believing that this is somehow special, that because you have the capacity to articulate intelligent ideas you must be only slightly less of a genius than he is. You will be walking home, mid-sentence, outlining the virtues of the sonnet form (a rebuttal to his affinity for beat culture) and he will clumsily cut you off to lean in for a kiss. Thank god, you will think, there are only so many ways to say that Kerouac was a tosser. Afterwards he will call it “making love” and you will let him because that sounds nicer than the bumpy, awkward truth.
He will write lovely things to you, txt you his thoughts and appreciate your ideas about his favorite movies. At this point you’re allowed to not like something, this means you’re opinionated (just don’t be opinionated about One Direction). It feels pretty comfy up on that pedestal now, doesn’t it? He’s made hierarchies into an art, and suddenly you’re at the top. Ignore that he’s placed your friends way down at the bottom, ignore that you’re the only two people up there. Soar on the wings of his promise of genius. Of course he loves you, he’s an artist. Get used to staying in.
Don’t go out dancing, it’s a cliché. Don’t listen to obnoxious music, unless of course you’re being ironic. Move in together and dance alone to old jazz records, but never in a crowded bar. Stay in and read together in bed and tell yourself that this is what you want. You like reading, right? Your degree, your achievements, your creations, he loves you for them because he tells his friends. They say “it’s good to have a smart girlfriend” while you bring them literary sandwiches.
Don’t get married, it’s a cliché. Don’t expect grand romantic gestures in restaurants. He will try to get his work published while you get some cash doing something he finds acceptable. You wonder why no one else seems to think he is the genius he assured you he was. Tell yourself this is how all great artists live, tell yourself that you don’t really need money. Tell yourself you never liked those friends anyway, you’re fine. His are clearly much better because they’ve read Hemingway.
You will live in a small apartment, reading small words that no one else will hear. You will have long debates about semantics and ignore the creeping smell of mould. You can help him with his work though you’ve got no time for your own. It’s insensitive of you to talk about your minor issues when he’s struggling with an existential crisis. You will try and ignore the cloud of sadness and loneliness that artistic isolation shrouds you with. You can read some more books to escape. But only good ones, and mainly Hemingway. You’ve never tried Mills and Boon, but he’s sure you’d hate them, so you probably would, right? He knows you so well.
You will stay in that little flat full of sad manuscripts that will never be published and make the best of things. You used some big words at one stage and liked the sweet sound of a lie he told you, one he wouldn’t tell anyone else. You’ll grow old and wonder at his lack of achievement, especially when you’ve done so much proof reading. In this little flat, childless, this is where you will die, a faded version of somebody else’s dream… a dream that just wasn’t quite as good as he thought it was going to be. Maybe it’s because he just loved you too much?
For goodness sake, stay away from those awful men with their terrible muscles in their loose-fitting singlets. You’re classy, you’re not going to go for someone who offers to buy you a beer in a crowded club (how crass!), who stands next to you on the bar, singing your favorite rock song louder than anyone else. You don’t even like obnoxious motor-bikes. And you’re definitely far, far too clever to be taken in by gorgeous dimples and a stare that makes you feel like a Victoria Secret model.
Don’t date a guy who hasn’t read Hemingway, he won’t be artistic at all. He will stand in awe of your achievements, but he won’t be able to correct you on them. He will only appreciate them because they are important to you, and he wouldn’t even know how to tell his friends how very, very clever you are. He won’t be able to engage with you intellectually, so he will end arguments with a joke, or by pulling a funny face. He will laugh with you for hours at childish cartoons and you will be genuinely impressed by his Cartman impersonation.
He will buy all your friends tequila shots and help hold back their hair. He will make bad puns with your Dad and play X Box with your little sister. He will probably do something terribly cliché like propose on top of the Eiffel tower (because he knows “you like that romantic stuff”, not realizing you meant 18th century English literature). You will probably do something like get a house and have kids, disgusting! He will have a BBQ and you will have a study, he will tell the kids to be quiet while you’re working.
Instead of wrestling with you intellectually, he will tackle you to the bed. Instead of correcting your recitation of Milton, he will marvel at how you understand all “that poetry stuff”. He will hold you when you’re crying, even though he might not understand how reading can make someone sad. You will write a poem about how your daughter has his cheeky dimples when she smiles. Even though he doesn’t understand that it’s Shakespearian in form, he will love it anyway and hang it in the living-room. His dumb jokes will make you smile when you’re in the nursing home together, and he will tell your grandchildren about when you were young and crazy. He will know, because he would have been just a crazy as you.
What has happened to your books and your poems, what is the point in getting a tertiary education if not to impress the boy in the coffee shop? You’re doing all this reading, surely it’s to attract the first guy? Look at him, with his paperback of ‘The Old Man and The Sea’, wouldn’t you like to listen to what he has to say about it? Wouldn’t you like your intelligence to go towards making his life better? Don’t you want to be a bauble, momentarily decorating his deliciously narcissistic view of his own genius? What else could you be doing all that reading and writing for?
Stay away from the second guy, maybe he is just a pretty face. A six-pack and sea-green eyes might not actually mean love, this whole future could well be a product of your hyperactive imagination. You’ll just have one great night, but the rest could all go horribly wrong. If you take that chance, he might get on his motorbike and leave forever, and then where would you be? Well, I guess you could write a pretty kick-ass story about it, and maybe read a book.