Porno in the birthing wing. A social experiment is born.

When I’m on the streetcar, I like to keep myself entertained. In the winter, I count Canada Goose jackets. They are ubiquitous on the 501, as residents of Leslieville are big fans of sweating it out on public transport. I once counted 11 on a single car. Apparently, coyote fur is equally useful at staving off eye contact with crazy Jilly’s patrons as it is frostbite in the Arctic.

I also survey the crowd and imagine what people are like and what they do for a living. My brother and I first played this game as teenagers when we’d be waiting for our dad to emerge from Scotia Plaza. Crude stereotypes were common:

IT guy. Dresses like Gandalf on the weekends.
Investment Banker. Loves to high five. Was a towel snapper in high school.
Admin assistant. Has 15 pairs of little shoes under her desk.

This past weekend, in a variation of this productive musing, I got to thinking about the types of books people read, and where they choose to read them. This permeation came when I spotted a young woman pouring over The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Given she appeared to be normal, I found this curious. Of course, self-help or rather, ‘health + well-being’ titles sell like hot cakes. It’s just that people usually don’t read that stuff out in the open. Normal behavior dictates that you carry the mid-brow literature about the great potato famine on public transport, and save the Men are from Mars stuff for the bedside table.

A while back, Amy posted a link to Seen Reading. I love how they profile and describe the reader, like a bookish version of The Sartorialist. I believe their empirical data supports my theory. Everyone pretty much stays on brand:

Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers (Penguin). Southbound, Yonge and Queen Caucasian male, late 50s, with short, neat grey hair, wearing dark blue suit, teal blue tie, grey plaid scarf and Sorel boots.

Just Kids, Patti Smith (HarperCollins). Eaton Centre, outside Apple Store. Asian woman, mid 20s, with long, black hair and swooping bangs, wearing a belted army green jacket and yellow scarf.

Like clothing, what you read is a reflection of your identity. And your constructed, public identity can be very different than your private one.

This is the roots of a great social experiment. One my ex-husband may have inadvertently started when he decided to read Irvine Welsh’s Porno when our daughter was born at University College Hospital in London. The Brits do love their social norms, so it was the perfect testing ground for this sort of thing. As a result of the general mayhem of having a difficult birth in an overcrowded hospital, he left his book behind every time we got shuffled to a new wing. The cover is sordid. A nurse or midwife would collect it with a sympathetic glimpse my way and a terse “would this be yours?” We found this very funny.

Clearly, I’m on my way to coining a new dimension of social discrimination. Literary Intolerance.

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