I first read aloud, in a way that was recognized in a truly congratulatory way, in church. See, I was a "good reader" and this meant that I was called upon (in my Catholic grade school) to do readings in church. I remember being coached by teachers and nuns about how to do a reading well. I remember being given readings in advance in order to practice them. I remember practicing.
I did one of the readings at my first communion. I did one of the readings at my confirmation. I read at countless masses that had no such great significance. I remember being annoyed that I was never chosen to bring forth the wine and hosts for offertory, as I had to be "a reader." But I've been reading, publicly, performatively, since I was a child.
And I really like reading publicly, performatively. It's something I know how to do, and it's something that I've grown to really enjoy doing.
But it's weird, because how many people, and how many jobs, count "reading aloud" as a skill?
In my last super-serious relationship, we read aloud to one another. Indeed,that's how I experienced the bulk of Infinite Jest - my boyfriend would read until he was sick of reading and then I would read. Let's note that this was his idea - that we'd read aloud to one another - not mine. But it was lovely. When we stopped reading, the relationship was over.
And here and there I've read a passage or there to various suitors, though never so much as I did with my last super-serious relationship, and never because I was telling a suitor a story as I was with my super-serious person, but rather because I read something with an agenda or seeking a reaction. When a girl like me selects a passage for you, she does it with intent. That's not the same thing as reading a story.
Today I participated in a reading event. This event was organized around a Great Work of American Literature which it takes 24 hours to read aloud. I arrived, I watched, I read my 20 minute segment, and I hung around for hours, being read to. I have to say, the portion that I ended up reading was absolutely perfect for me, and I did well. And much of what I heard after was read in a lovely way - it showed me this novel in a way that made it matter to me, made it matter to me in a way it would not have if I'd read it silently on my own, and has not done when I've tried to read it on my own.
I guess this experience made me realize, though, how much I really miss it when somebody is just reading to me. And I miss being read to and having it mean something specific. I miss reading to another person and having it mean that I love them so irrevocably.
Yes, I've got a job where I get to read aloud, where I get to feel aloud through words. I get a job where I get to practice this talent. And the fact that I get this? It's irreplaceable. But I wish that I had someone to whom I felt compelled to read, and someone who would read to me. I wish that I weren't just... outside of stories with happy endings.
4 years ago