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Raise Your Standards

by Katharine Kistler

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends Friday nights with her nose in a book, not in some solo cup at whatever frat house has the best beer that week. Date a girl who can tell you everything about the waters the Pequod faced (though she has never been on a boat before). Date a girl who doesn’t know how to swim. A girl who took one dip in the Pacific and decided her bath and a copy of Moby Dick does the trick just fine. A girl who once read that Emily Dickinson never left her house, so why should she?

Date a girl who will tell you stories about the stories she read that day. A girl who would rather finish a chapter than finish an essay. Date a girl who chooses reading over studying. A girl who is now failing because she refuses to go to class. A girl who just wants to keep on reading. Date a girl who has been ordered by the court of her university and a jury of her peers to move out of her dorm room because she’s effectively no longer enrolled at her college. Date a girl who barricades her door with copies of Les Misérables (the unabridged version, with the whole section on the Bishop’s life before Jean Valjean shows up). Date a girl who uses those thousands of pages of musical-adapted French fiction to prevent the French government, that is, the resident assistants, from forcefully removing her from the premises. Who sings in a poor Anne Hathaway imitation as the R.A.s provide the beat with a battering ram to her door.

Date a girl who thinks only in John Green quotes. Who knows this minor infraction with the Southwest Department of Housing is only part of this infinity, and there are many infinities to be had. And her rental record will clear in five years, according to the letter she skimmed over from her court appointed lawyer. She thinks. She didn’t spend too much time reading it; she has a stack of books to get through!

Date a girl who doesn’t realize she’s dating you. A girl who thinks she’s still reading. A girl who can no longer separate books from human interaction. Date a girl who wears clothing made out of pages sewn together with the spines of first edition novels. A girl whose primary sources of nutrients are bleached paper and black ink. A girl who is unconditionally and irrevocably dedicated to reading. A girl who once dreamt of winning a gold medal in reading—but is now too busy reading to read competitively.

Date a girl who lives in a room made out of books. Whose barricades have come in handy, as her dorm was evacuated due to a particularly nasty book worm infestation. The walls were knocked down with a wrecking ball, but her eyes were preoccupied and couldn’t see, so this didn’t live long or give life to thee (‘thee’ being the ruins of cheap building materials and university tuition being raised to fund the building of a new dorm). Date a girl whose house dissolves when it rains, but can be rebuilt with new books in days. She read Book House Building for Dummies (Who Can Read Really Fast) in three hours, after all.

Date a girl who read all of the Harry Potter books in one sitting. And The Vampire Chronicles. And the Outlander franchise. She never stands up; she’s been too busy reading. The muscles in her legs atrophied years ago and now she uses her buffed-up-page-turning arms to drag herself from reading nook to reading nook.

Date a girl whose skin hasn’t been exposed to the sun in years. Descriptions of the sun in books and Walt Whitman poems is more than enough. Date a girl who will never bother to learn your name, but will call you Mr. Darcy in a bad British accent when she needs more books delivered to her doorstep.

Don’t settle for less: date a girl who reads.


Katharine Kistler is an MFA poetry candidate at Texas State University. She got her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Her poetry appears in the inaugural issue of High Shelf Press and she has been a featured speaker at Texas State University’s Lunch Poems series.

The Roadrunner Review nominated “Raise Your Standards” for a 2019 Best of the Net Award and The 2020 Best Small Fictions.