i have an entire bookshelf dedicated to books that i own but haven’t read yet. i was browsing this shelf today and pulled out eat, pray, love by elizabeth gilbert. i’ve read several articles on her new book, committed, which i really want to purchase so that i can add it to this shelf; for some reason i’m always intrigued by cynics’ views on marriage. the romantic run-of-the-mill opinions fail to attract my interest, and cynics (particularly on this topic) always seem more like realists to me.
so i picked up eat, pray, love and read the description on the back cover (feeling like i needed to read the book that was the precursor to the book i was actually interested in reading). yes, it sounded interesting. i bought this book from a thrift store during the summer, despite the admonition from my male friend who was with me that the book wasn’t good. he had merely heard that it wasn’t good, and couldn’t give a reason why it wasn’t good or even remember who had told him it wasn’t good. with such a lack of empirical evidence, i decided to take a chance.
i flipped through the pages, taking note of all the underlining that the previous owner had done, when i came across a receipt on page 13. it was from the nfl sports bar in the san diego airport and was dated march 1 2009 (a good six months before i purchased the book). apparently the waitress’s name was winnie, and the purchaser paid with a twenty. the purchased item on the receipt is listed as “1 dft20 sam lager,” which i can only assume is a samuel adams lager.
i had a moment of visceral excitement, thinking that a man, a beer-drinking cash-carrying man, could be open-minded and tender-hearted enough to be interested in, and purchase, a non-fiction book about a divorced woman traveling the world to find inner happiness, a book that is most commonly (and condescendingly) classified as “chick lit.” but my excitement subsided quickly when i realized that there was no reason to assume that just because the receipt i found was for beer, that it belonged to a man. why did i automatically assume that beer = man? because i’ve been conditioned to think that beer is a masculine drink, and that women only like fruity cocktails? such an assumption only reinforces the prescriptive gender norms and stereotypes that our patriarchal society has set in place, norms that don’t really have any rhyme or reason. everyone should be able to be themselves and act in a way that’s in harmony with who they are, even if it could be perceived as strange or a deviation of the norm. why couldn’t a woman go to a sports bar and drink a beer whilst maintaining her femininity? why couldn’t a man read chick lit in an airport, a public place, and still feel secure in his masculinity? the reasons are arbitrary. and sometimes it’s difficult to recognize these things, let alone recognize that the reasons are arbitrary.
it’s dangerous to assume anything. because when we assume, it makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’