x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The curse of the bookworm

When a bookworm marries a guy who isn't that fond of reading, stacks of books tend to proliferate.

One Day, the movie starring Anne Hathaway, is finally out in the UAE, but I can't go watch it. Not yet, anyway. Not until I've started the book it's based on.

It's ironic that I haven't managed to look inside the cover, considering how long it's taken me to get my hands on the David Nicholls bestseller. It was sold out in every bookstore I tried in Abu Dhabi, and at least two places I checked in Dubai.

After a long search, a colleague took pity and lent me the book for as long as I needed to read it. "I'll have it back to you in a week's time, max," I assured her. "I'll have read it in plenty of time before the movie makes it to the UAE."

Except, that's hogwash, really. The movie has already graced our screens, and the white and orange hardcover book is gathering accusatory dust on my nightstand. Why? Because the reality of the matter is, much as I hate to admit it: being in a relationship means forfeiting the right to read.

This reality is not confined solely to those who belong to the Marriage Club. No, anyone who is in a new relationship with a significant other - and by new, I mean within the first 10 years, at least - will never be able to find a few stolen hours to escape into a good novel without having to contend with a back-breaking amount of guilt.

That's how I feel whenever I consider choosing between time with Mr T or time with a good read. It's not the first time I've lamented the fact that my husband is no bookworm, but I could never quite pinpoint why I felt so guilty for being such a book lover myself.

Clarity came from that same One Day-lending colleague, who enquired after my reading progress. It was stagnant, I replied, and she nodded knowingly.

"You feel guilty because what you really want is to be selfish," she said.

And it is exactly that. How do I say "goodnight" to Mr T, at 9pm, after I've only been home for 90 minutes? How do I say, "I'm going to bed to cuddle up with a book and read until I fall asleep", without hurting his feelings and indirectly saying I want to ignore him, and choose a book over him? How do I laze away a Friday afternoon on the couch and in a book, when my husband has been looking forward to spending the weekend together?

The result? My books are relegated to an untidy pile on my nightstand. They are stacked on bookshelves, unread, a constant guilt-inducing temptation. I can't stop buying them because I always think I'll catch up; I'm always adamant that I'll find the time. So, when an interesting title beckons from a shelf in a store, how can I possibly ignore it?

Which is the essence of my problem, I guess. I can't ignore the books, and I can't ignore my husband.

So far, the only guilt-free reading I can get away with is the kind I do on an airplane, with Mr T safely ensconced within the escapism provided by in-flight entertainment. We should really start planning more trips.