Yes, we get attached to fictional characters.
Books were my first love. I'd fall asleep surrounded by them, check out several dozen from the library at a single go, and figure out how to carry them all home. As a sometimes child insomniac, I'd get out of bed in the middle of the night to stack my books in piles that only made sense to me.
Books have always been a companion for me, and admittedly at times even supplanted people as what I relied on when things were rough. I don't know exactly what that says about loving me, or trying to, but here goes.
1. We have book husbands and boyfriends.
2. We have author BFFs.
Sometimes, a certain writer just gets us. We don't need to know him or her to sense a kinship. Hell, the writer in question doesn't even have to be alive. But yes, the writers who in a single quote seem to address all that ails us become reliable friends time and again.
3. We're maddeningly multifaceted.
A true book lover is, first and foremost, probably curious. And the thing with devoted readers is that one thing you read opens up doors to other things you'll want to read. One of mine, recently, was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, written on a dare while she was hanging out with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. That put me on the path to Byron's poems, and then to the Prometheus myth, and so on.
Many of us have very "But what's in THERE?" personalities, and our minds can be overwhelmed by our disparate thoughts, interests and even selves. But the good thing is, beneath all our wanderings, there's a constancy of conviction about what we love best, and if it's you, you're in luck.
4. We have specific ways of reading you are NOT to mess with.
If we love reading, we probably have ways of doing things: If there are five books on the nightstand in various states of having-been-read, there's a reason. And we can, in fact, keep track of all of them, thank you very much. But if we're readers who must finish one book before starting the next, don't kill our vibe and recommend something new until we've read the last page. And don't dog-ear a page if we swear by bookmarks. Know our ways and honor them.
5. We have a preference for paper or e-book.
I call myself bi-textual. I like reading on the Kindle or in a book form, but I'm picky about what I read electronically and what I read on the page. I soon plan to start War and Peace, and yes, I'm going to lug around the big-ass tome, even if that makes no sense whatsoever. But faster, easily digested reads for me are fine on Kindle. Still, never buy a Kindle for a woman who insists on hard copies, thinking you're lightening her load.
6. We will liken you to characters in books.
Sorry, you're going to get compared — sometimes favorably, sometimes unfavorably — to people who don't exist. But that's better than being compared to the jerks we know IRL, right?
7. We only seem calm on the outside.
If you make us lose our place, there's hell to pay. But beyond that, never think a book-loving girl is everything you see on her often quiet, studious exterior. Readers often gravitate toward books because we have a surfeit of feeling, and channeling them into books, and feelings for the books, is our way to process them.
We don't go gently into the dark night, not ever. (Yes, I know Dylan Thomas was writing about death and not a woman's moods, but I've read enough to take liberties.)
8. We like you to be readers, too.
Maybe you're not a reader like we're readers, but you can't be one of those people who say, "You read FOR FUN?" (For those who say that, what's wrong with you? I read because it's like breathing.) There's a John Waters quote: "If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't f*ck them." That's absolutely enough said and perfectly so.
9. We want to get inside your head.
The human condition is the subject of great fiction because it's the subject of great truth. And whatever we read, fiction or non, is because we're seekers and we want to understand (and be understood). In other words, it's OK to be a little vulnerable with us. We're interested in far more than your covers.
10. We will become lost sometimes. Mostly in bookstores.
My husband has spent a lot of time trying to locate me within the shelves of a bookstore or library. In fact, he once told me that if there's a rewards-based afterlife, it will be comprised partially of enjoying that moment right before he spots me. (It might have been a limbo-type afterlife, come to think of it.) But you'll also lose us to the pages sometimes, and you can never take it personally. It's just who we are.
11. We're big over-thinkers.
As you see, I couldn't just dash off this list with snappy bullet points and little else. I want to be as clear as I can and be understood: We're nuanced thinkers with respect for characters who are more than just one thing. Examining different points of view and perspectives, including our own, is just part-and-parcel of who we are. Just, every so often, remember that we need you to pull our heads out of the books and draw us back into the here-and-now.