You don’t have to be a “bookworm” to read, baby.  

Yeah, you could just be … you know, a regular worm.

Back at University, whenever friends, neighbours, or their guests dropped by my place for the first time, the usual reaction to the soiree of books in my off-k dorm was, “what the hell are all these books doing here!”

It was an exotic creepiness … observed almost as a fetish. The girl with a book thing. How could one human have so many books just hanging around? It didn’t also help that often I shared the flat with my older brother, a fellow book lover, who actually accounted for 70 percent of the books in there.

It was one thing for guests to absorb I owned more than ten books (I assume the subconscious legal limit), but finding me, sprawled on the floor on a hot Gwagalada noon, reading a novel (that wasn’t a M and B) … for fun? Now that was the limit. I needed an intervention, before I converted to geekism.

Some neighbours would exclaim at the lewd sight, as though I had announced a tragedy, “Why are you jacking like this!”

Sometimes it was pleasant surprise; as one would react to witnessing the unveiling of a secret talent; “So you jack?” often accompanied by a follow up mumble, (always in a mumble) “I didn’t know you were a serious student oh.”

Other times friends would exclaim in a fever, “Jesus, do we have a test on Monday?” … because reading, and not just reading, but finding un-coaxed pleasure in reading was an absurdity reserved for a bookworm with giant nerdy glasses peeking it’s absoluteness like a yellow blackberry smiley, a bookworm who needed real friends, a drink and then some, and/or a boyfriend.

My response was always to shrug and smile it off, but I was often sincerely flushed to be caught red handed enjoying the pleasures of words or indeed studying.

It wasn’t odd to hear the occasional, “So you are reading … someone really wants to pass exams.” UNDERTONE: So you are crafting a plot to graduate with a better result in the secrecy of your bedroom … pure evil…

In retrospect I have come to ruminate over the senselessness of those days. Why was being somewhat studious or having a genuine love for books associated with craftiness, and fetishized by the cool gang and why on earth where you lauded by the so called “nerds” who thought you to be a flawless gem headed for the good life and the pearly gates in the afterlife for no other reason but because you were an active reader. These same nobles wore the grimace of a disappointed parent when you were spotted going for a party or a night out with the girls… there was always this look of; oh dear, she has started losing her way. How sad, I thought she read?

Zebra’s only existed in the wilderness. In this forest of urban Uni culture, you had to pick one stripe.

Why did/do these inane polarities exist? Why is the idea of living and living one’s entirety the “absurd thing”, when leaving half of who you are behind isn’t really living.

Why must you be perceived as a gifted bookworm to qualify as worthy of simply reading a book?  Whatever happened to regular worms?


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