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Monday, November 1, 2010

All the Single Librarians (Put Your Hands Up!)

From time to time, and with various motivations, patrons question me about the status of my romantic life. Perhaps they are simply trying to make conversation. Perhaps they themselves are interested in dating me. Or perhaps they want to know which Hollywood librarian stereotype is more realistic: the lonely spinster librarian as perpetuated by Donna Reed in "It's a Wonderful Life," or the free-spirited, free-loving librarian as perpetuated by Parker Posey in "Party Girl." (I'm not sure where I fall on this spectrum, and quite frankly, I don't want to examine it).

As a general rule, I avoid discussing my personal life with library patrons. This is to maintain a sense of security, privacy, and professionalism. Also, it's nobody's daaaaaamn business. When I'm faced with questions related to romance, love, and boyfriends, I try to give vague, non-committal answers and move on to the next topic. (Incidentally, this tactic also applies to questions about politics, religion, or sports - that last one is because I know absolutely nothing about sports. Maybe that's why I'm not married?) Depending on how uncomfortable I am in a situation, I might just smile sadly and say: "I'm sorry, but I don't talk about this at work."

However, since I am a horrendous liar, there are times when I cave and answer honestly when I'm directly asked: "Are you married?" There's really no wiggle room with this question, so I am pretty much forced to reluctantly say that, no, I am NOT married. The reactions that I get are diverse - most comments are innocuous; many are inappropriate; some are downright offensive. For example, one older gentleman asked if I was "scared" to be unmarried at my age. He wondered aloud if my time was running out. The term "biological clock" was thrown around with gusto. (If memory serves, in order to get out of this particular conversation, I pretended that a co-worker was calling to me from another room).

A few misguided patrons have said that I'm "too nice" to not have a husband - because nice people are never mistreated by their spouses. Nice people are never unhappy in their marriages. I have even received a marriage proposal or two from overzealous patrons. (Sadly, I turned down these Reference Desk Romeos. I guess I'll always wonder about what could have been).

However, the most memorable marriage-oriented conversation I had at the library was with a sweet, well-meaning nine-year-old girl. She likes to hang out with me at the reference desk for extended periods of time when she comes in after school. One day, she grabbed my left hand and examined it, critically. Noticing how conspicuously bare my ring finger was, she gave me a puzzled look.

Her: "You're not married?"

Me (cheerfully): "Nope."

Her (skeptically): "Why not?"

Me (struggling to find the right response): "It...just hasn't happened yet."

Her (concerned): "I wish you were married."

Me (amused): "Why?"

Her (resolutely) : "So you can be happy. And have a baby."

Me: *headdesk*

Where is Gloria Steinem when you need her? (Oh, that's right - she got married. I guess I'm left to fend for myself).


  1. Ha! Great post. Kids are so funny about that stuff. Before I was married, kids would assume that all single teacher were dating eachother if they made eye contact in the hallway. In HS, girls always want to know how you proposed and things like that. It's weird how interested some people are in the lives of others. Keep writing! :-)

  2. I had a patron suggest that I freeze my eggs so that I wouldn't have to worry about my biological clock running out. She also told me that a husband and kids, no matter how terrible they are, are better than being alone. I was scared - very scared. - Tracey

  3. Your post left me a little confused. Yes, I know, i'm easily confused. Is marriage a touchy subject?

  4. You're much nicer than I am. Patrons who are nosy about my personal life get freezing glares and tight-lipped "I'm being polite to you because I have to" responses. Everybody else gets one of my well-rehearsed diatribes. Been several years since anyone has touched on my marital status, or lack thereof.

  5. hehe, great post!
    I used to work in a library during summers when I was in college, so I love reading your blog!

  6. Ah, kids. I work in a school library and they always ask if I have kids first (NO), then if I'm married (NOOOO), and lastly if I have a boyfriend (yes). When they find out I have a boyfriend, they tell me I should make him marry me. I told my boyfriend that and he said I should tell those kids to shut up.

    Kids, aside, I'm always amazed at the liberties adults take when asking about marriage and relationships. It's pretty jerky.

  7. Thanks, Laura!

    When kids do this, I don't mind so much because I know they mean no harm. But when adults do it, I have to bite my tongue to not say something inappropriate for a librarian.

    Charles: I hope you are being sarcastic. :)