The Romantic Code

This morning Jack prepared to depart into the basement and pursue renovations, but before he headed down the stairs he updated me on the boxes and bags of trade-ins people had brought, that he “hadn’t had time” to get to yet.

Among them were a bag of romances from one of our regular customers, a woman we call “The Lady.” Always well-turned-out, this elderly woman brings in her exchanging romances in rubber-band-wrapped bundles of five, and takes her time going through the stash to see what she’s read.

“We had that dinner on last night [The SOUL FOOD OF LOVE] so I didn’t have time to help her look, and I asked her to come back today. It would take for bloody ever for her to go through our romances.”

I gave him an odd look. “She only has to look for her initials.”

He gave me a befuddled look, as if I had suddenly spoken in Yiddish with a lisp.

“Don’t you know how women keep track of which romances they’ve read?” I asked, laughing. “Six years in the book business and you haven’t got this?”

“I rather left them to get on with things at that end of the shop,” Jack said, looking at the floor.

So I have now let him in on the secret codes, ladies, and I realize normally we don’t share the rules with men, but heck, he’s a bookslinger, so it’s in your best interest.

And in case anyone else didn’t know about this, think of it as the equivalent of that intricate hobo hieroglyphic system, the one that distinguishes nice women from people with mean dogs, etc. Women initial, or leave stickers, or write a shortened version of their first name, in romance paperbacks they have read, before returning them to second-hand book shops.

IMG_3605“The Lady” actually looks for the initials D.J. in the books she reads; as she said, “If D.J. liked it, so will I.” But she eschews ARD (a scrawl run together).

“That ARD woman.” The Lady said, shaking her head over a Sandra Brown mystery. “I don’t understand her tastes. Who wants to read such garbage?”

Follow the signals, and you can’t get too far off the trail.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, small town USA

6 responses to “The Romantic Code

  1. Havign worked in public libraries for many years I cna confirm that both men and women put their intitials or other mark in books – it could be a circle round the page number on page 31 or tiny initials inside the dust jacket. Men used to do it on cowboy books and detectives, women on Mills and Boon romances. It was easier when times were bad and we had single copies, the days of multiple copies upset them! Mobile library drivers would often choose books in advance for people by looking for their “mark”. Those were the days……

  2. Mimi Crosby


  3. I’m with Mimi — Giggle!

  4. I do this with my own books so I don’t start rereading something I already finished.

  5. Mario R.

    Whereas I have a (very hugely populated) category called “unread” on LibraryThing. There is just no way I would ever mark up books — well, only very seldom, when I feel the need to correct an error or add a citation in non-fiction books, but then lightly, in pencil, in the margin.

  6. I wasn’t in on this code, either!

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