College taught me something amazing. As it turns out, there are some women who are attracted to the appearance of intelligence. I don’t say actual intelligence. One need only see me vomiting outside a Philadelphia dive bar with my nineteen-year old sister—who I snuck in—throwing up next to me a couple weeks ago to understand that my actual intelligence leaves something to be desired. No, what I mean to say is that there is a sort of woman out there who is less impressed by the disclosure of your finances, or your bench press max, than by the disclosure of what books you would take with you to a desert island, or what authors you would entertain at your dream dinner party. There are women out there who are more interested in the content of your library than the content of your character (or that find the two inextricable). But if we’re all walking around with Kindles and iPads and (God forbid) Nooks, how am I supposed to demonstrate this to sexy, librarian-looking strangers?

Now, all I see are gray metallic plastic chunks barring my way: “Do Not Disturb” signs. What am I going to say? “Nice iPhone case. I love Michael Kors, too.”

Love was so much simpler before the rise of the e-book. Some of my most erotic undergraduate moments began with “mmm…Faulkner, nice.” Or “Virgin Suicides? Much better than the movie, right?” My roommates and I had a huge bookshelf that occupied the middle of the wall dividing the living room from the kitchen in our college apartment, and any date that ended in the bedroom could only get there by way of that bookcase. Be she a psych. major, lit. major, or even (God forbid) a business major, the foreplay would begin as the guest would stride over, rifle through the tomes, judging as she went, and talk sweetly about Russian lit. with the lucky roommate.

We have officially come to the end of that era. Even a couple years ago, when I first arrived in New York, there were still moments when the girl in the blue sundress and that dumb-lovely hat would pull a book from her tote and I would see my way in. And if she pulled out Eat, Pray, Love (God forbid), I knew she was not the one for me.

Now, all I see are grey metallic plastic chunks barring my way: “Do Not Disturb” signs. What am I going to say? “Nice iPhone case. I love Michael Kors, too.” Or, “What a sophisticated Hello Kitty cover you found for your Kindle—did you by chance buy that from” My dating life is over. You think I’m exaggerating? You think I’m a Chicken Little, complaining about how my chances of bagging subway tail are falling? Let me tell your ass something.

A woman, looks about 25, gorgeous, sophisticated—but in a totally hot kind of way—gets on the train. Doc Martens. T-shirt. Jeans some color that isn’t blue. This is definitely the kind of woman who, in, like, 2005, would have been reading a real, paper and pulp book. She sits down next to me. And she pulls out an iPad.

I comb through the recesses of my mind for something say.

“So, is that a new iPad?”

“Were you looking in my purse?”

“No…I, um, caught it out of the corner of my eye.”

“Yeah. It’s an iPad.”

“How do you…like it?”

“It’s fine.”

“That’s cool.” 

This is a sorry state of things. And what’s the solution? It’s tacky to wear t-shirts with favorite films, books, or bands emblazoned on them. We all remember that dude who showed up for Freshman Orientation wearing a Catcher in the Rye t-shirt. Dude sucked. What the hell are we going to do? I will not talk to a woman about her yoga mat or her low-fat yogurt. I just won’t.

I don’t know what’s to become of our generation. I suppose we’ll just have to find the strength to talk to each other about current events or the weather or something. And that won’t even do the job of assessing whether or not we have a comparable level of cultural awareness. Maybe we’ll have to put ourselves out there blindly, take risks. Perhaps we’ll stop judging and treat all smoking hot babes equally. Or try online dating. Or discretely peek at her phone and see who she follows on Twitter.

Yeah, I’ll probably just do that.

by Brenden Gallagher (@muddycreekU)