I am going to tell you something that may shock some of you. Not by any means an unusually different woman, I cannot and don’t drive a car.
Apparently there are psychological reasons for this, but time, money and space does not allow for an extensive explanation on this conundrum that does affect a minority of men and women, mostly women, one might add. I could rather begin this post with a positive affirmation that, yes; someday I will be driving my own little car. And, of course, there are a number of positive but necessary reasons for wanting to do this.
One of the most important reasons has to do with family. I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. What happens when my mother and father grow too old to get about on their own? At the moment, for men and women of their age, they’re doing remarkably well. They get by and can do a lot of things without any help from anyone else. The other evening, however, it was my elderly father who gave me a lift home in his elderly car. We happened to drive past my favorite bookshop in the town where I’m living. Eager to make conversation with my silent father, my imagination sparked into life once more.
Here’s what unfolded. I remarked to my father that I ought to spend more time at this bookshop, not necessarily to browse and buy new books, but to attend the regular book launches and book club meetings that this famous book lounge holds. Books are too expensive for my little pocket these days and I’ve simply run out of space to add more books to my large library in my small flat. I would need to sift out some older, well-worn and, by now, well read books first. And then there are still a number of brand new books standing on my shelves, collecting dust without a cover having been opened.
And then there are still nearly one hundred books already packed into bags ready for delivery at the charity shop next door to my library which is just down the road from this illustrious and flourishing bookshop. Of course, this was long before I discovered that you could flog unwanted goods on the internet. Nevertheless, I still want to make a difference, so off they will go. With the internet and the publication of material thereon, the retail environment for the traditional printed versions has been under a lot of strain over the years. But then I came across a very encouraging note in regard to the fact that many women (and some men) are returning to old fashioned and aesthetic values.
This goes beyond the actual reading of beautiful words on the page. It also has a lot to do with the reading experiences. Those who have never touched a book in their lives will never quite understand this, will they. While reading in our favorite corner, seated in our favorite chair, we love the way the book smells. We also love the shape of the material we are holding. And when we have finished reading a page, we enjoy the quiet rustle the page makes as we turn it. I never remarked on this during my car conversation with my father who simply nodded his head, focusing on his experienced driving.
But this is what I said to the wise old man instead. I remarked to him that I’m missing out on a lot of opportunities by not going to regular book launches and book club meetings. I’m missing out on meeting likeminded women. I’m also missing out on meeting the man of my dreams who also just happens to share the same interests as me. Granted, he may have different stories in mind, but that just adds more vibrancy to our cultural diversity, surely. And what if I was ready to leave full-time teaching one day and focus only on writing or editing and assessing manuscripts?
Hard work, to be sure, but editors and publishers get paid a lot better than teachers. Of course, it’s not just about the money. It has a lot more to do with broadening one’s horizons and expanding your repertoire. Depending on how you choose to look at it, it’s also about expanding your world view and your outlook on life. Going to these busy meetings surely means that you are going to be encountering many different people who are also so different from yourself. One day, you could be meeting a great African philosopher who just happens to have produced a magnificent interpretation on our need to be as culturally diverse as possible.
And on another occasion, you could end up meeting a celebrity, a well-known actress or prominent ex-politician who has completed a written account of her memories for all the years she has served us. Food lovers are always going to have opportunities to meet their favorite celebrity chefs. These gastronomic events, often decked out with prepared dishes for us to try, are usually well-publicized and also well-attended. There is also the exciting prospect of meeting a bright new author who could just be the next Man Booker or Pulitzer Prize winner. So, now you see, Dad, this is what I’ve been missing.
Silly me. As I thanked him for the ride, gently climbing out of his car, he wisely wished me well for the next few days.