By Lisa Fary
Want to be a social oddity? Bring a comic book to a bar.
Last week I attended a teaching conference, and by the end of the second day, I really needed some time to myself. So, I headed down to my hotel’s lounge, planning to settle down at the bar with a book and a glass of wine.
I’ve brought books to bars before and it’s always a conversation starter. I don’t mean for it to be, but people seem to be curious about the nerd sitting there alone with her nose in a book. They always ask the same questions:
“What are you reading?”
“What’s it about?”
“Is it good?”
“Are you a librarian?”
The cringing starts when I say, “No, I’m an English teacher.” See, English teachers are more likely to shrewishly correct your poor grammar and less likely to do dirty things in stacks when the library is closed. All the stretching and groaning involved in re-shelving books is sexy. Red ink stained fingers and grumbles about your dangling participle? Not so sexy.
Two books found their way into my suitcase for the conference: Alan Moore’s novel, Voice of the Fire, and Planetary volume one. I grabbed the Moore novel and headed toward the door, but then I wondered, what would happen if I sat at the bar reading a comic book openly and unashamed?
So, I headed down with Planetary to conduct my little experiment. These are my findings:
A comic book in a bar will get you weird looks from near and far. Men sitting two stools over looked at me, looked at the comic book, looked back at me and made confused, scrunchy faces. Women who came up to order drinks looked at me and my comic book and immediately looked more confident (I’m reading a comic book, therefore I must be socially retarded, therefore I am not competition for male attention).
A comic book in a bar will ensure that no one talks to you except the bartender, and that’s just to take your order. Some people who came up to order openly stared at me and my comic book, wearing expressions of either confusion or disgust. No one asked the usual “book in a bar” questions.
The results may have been different had I been in my street clothes. A comic book in the hand of a girl wearing plaid Chucks, a newsboy cap, and printed tee with a talking dinosaur on it wouldn’t look all that unusual. But, it may have been disconcerting to see a woman in a suit with a glass of wine in one hand and a comic book in the other, not even trying to hide it.
Ten years ago, I probably would have been mortified by what went on around me and skulked out of the lounge within minutes to read Planetary alone in my room, never to show my face down there again. These days, I’m comfortable enough with who I am and what I like to stay down there and not only read it cover to cover, but to enjoy the hell out of it.
Lisa Fary’s early exposure to classic Battlestar Galactica in 1979 is largely responsible for her lifelong interest in science fiction and her childhood ambition of being an intergalactic space cowgirl. She thinks diagramming sentences is a fun alternative to Sudoku.