What do I do about my awkward book collection?
June 9, 2013 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm dating a nurse. I also have a collection of 400 nurse-themed romance paperbacks. When we started dating, I hid them under the bed. Can they ever come out?

I am emphatically not a nurse fetishist. I'm a book collector, and I have thousands of other paperbacks. I got a good deal on a hundred or so nurse novels a few years ago, and now I pick them up when I can get them dirt cheap. Nurse novels have funny covers, are campy, make for an oddball topical display, and can be had for like 50 cents a book. Mine are all from the 50s to the 70s. I have never read any of them, but they are not particularly sexy looking -- my impression is that they're chaste professional romances directed toward working women. My collection includes many other fetish-y or topically strange books but not in the same quantity as the nurse books.

I don't know how one might gauge how someone might react to a collection like this, but I do think that the nurse in question would probably be put off by the idea of me being a nurse fetishist, and I don't know how she could see the collection and not suspect me for one. It's the obvious conclusion, right? That's why I hid it to begin with. However, I'm moderately concerned that someone will mention it to her, since plenty of my friends have seen it, so hiding it forever may not be a feasible idea.

I'm a man, the nurse is a woman, we're in our late twenties in America, and we've been dating for a month and a half.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I think you have to bluntly and casually tell her about it before she sees it and, if she's worth it, you two will eventually see this is as hilarious as I do right now.
posted by Think_Long at 3:56 PM on June 9, 2013 [86 favorites]

I don't think it would occur to anyone that this particular collection has been amassed due to a particular sexual fetish. Although, if you bring it up, you'll most certainly make her think twice about it. Why don't you box it up, tape it up and label it "cheesy romance novels" and put it away for now. If anyone brings this up, "Have you seen guy's collection of nurse romance novels?" then you can adopt a quizzical expression and say, "oh yeah, I have this collection of camp romance from mid-century. They're in storage." Then change the topic.

If you act weird about this and like you've got something to hide, it makes it seem like you're being weird with something to hide. Under the bed is not a great place for a collection that you don't want someone to find and feel weird about.
posted by amanda at 3:57 PM on June 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

You have to judge whether you guys are close enough that she will both be pretty sure that you're not a nurse fetishist and see the humor in this. Once you are, let her know, "hey, funny story, just before we started dating..." and since she will have seen N weeks of you acting totally normally and being a generally good guy, she will take it the right way.
posted by goingonit at 3:59 PM on June 9, 2013

Seconding that there is definitely a way you can spin this that doesn't make you look all weird. I'd try something like this:

"It's kind of interesting, us meeting like this; I was at an estate sale before we met, and found something I just couldn't resist: it was this whole collection of -- okay, you know how there's whole genres of romances about things like Amish or Scottish princes or whatever? Well - would you believe that there's actually a whole genre of nurse romances? Weird, huh? So yeah, I saw at this estate sale that this guy had a lot of them and it was just so weird I couldn't resist - they're all really corny and stupid (like all romances are, right?), and I've been reading them for the yuks. But it hit me that maybe you'd know stuff that I don't, about how accurate they are or not - hey, maybe that'd make it even funnier, you knowing that they're totally wrong about some stuff. You wanna read any, ever? Lemme know if you do."

You know - pass it off like a joke, because for you it is, and make it just like this funny coincidence. Because in the world of dating, there are even weirder coincidences (one of my brother's girlfriends' fathers actually had the EXACT NAME that my father had "made up" as "a randomly silly name" to use when he told us about an imaginary friend of his).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 PM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

You know, if you have literally thousands of books, it really isn't going to be too hard to brush it off as a historical by-way in your collection. "They're a funny little thing, mostly directed at working women, you know, fairly chaste sort of 1950 sort of way. Really interesting from a feminist and literary history perspective."

It'd be creepy if your whole collection was nothing but nurse novels. A fetish even. But since you have thousands of books, they probably aren't even the weirdest thing in your collection.
posted by Jilder at 5:01 PM on June 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

I thought this was funny too, and also sweet (and kinda astute) that you can see it might come off creepy.

I'd say yeah, if she sees them in the context of all the other books, and you tell her the same thing you told us (that you got them all in one grouping for a song, that you have lots of other books, that they aren't particularly sexy, etc.) I think it'll be fine.

Now I want to know what other books you have.
posted by loveyallaround at 5:18 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Perhaps make it about her?
"OMG! One of the large book lots I acquired a few years back had a shit ton of romance novels about nurses! You're a nurse! I'm sooo digging up those boxes! ima start READING! Ima be an expert!!!

OK ok! Romance novels aren't the best use of time, but if you're ever looking for a campy nurse image to scan for a login profile or work shenanigans or something, now you know there is a stack of old 50's book covers available. Just passing the word. My library has everything!"
posted by anonymisc at 5:28 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

All of them together, in a box, under your bed is problematic. Could you disperse them throughout your collection?
posted by werkzeuger at 5:40 PM on June 9, 2013 [19 favorites]

Mix them all up with your other books. A few nurse books in your collection of cheesy romance novels is to be expected by chance. A group of books segregated by subject (nurses) and then given special treatment (hiding under the bed) says something else entirely.
posted by ctmf at 5:43 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about selling that collection and if she asks you about it later, tell her you sold it because you didn't want her to think you have a nurse fetish.
posted by Dansaman at 5:54 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Toss them, or sell them, or box them up and seal the box if you are unsure. If it gets serious, dispose of that box.

I wouldn't bother trying to spin this, it's just not worth it.
posted by jbenben at 6:17 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why are you keeping hundreds of low-quality paperbacks you don't even want to read? Ugh, dump them all.
posted by doreur at 6:25 PM on June 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

Surely she already knows that you're a book collector with thousands of novels? If so, just tell her that you also have a whole bunch of nurse-themed romance novels, but that you didn't show her because you didn't want to create the wrong impression. Have a good laugh about it.

Or, just dump 'em for cheap. Decades from now, on your death bed, your final words will not be, "if only I had more useless crap lying around my house". It would be one thing if you could display those nurse novels and enjoy them on that kitschy level, but since you can't, they really are just dead weight.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:38 PM on June 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

I am emphatically not a nurse fetishist. I'm a book collector,

Yet you have hundreds of these under your bed. I only have a thousand books or so, and yet not a single nurse romance amongst them - though my collection is indeed eclectic and wide-ranging. By those metrics, someone with thousands of books might have, maybe ten of these. This may not be a fetish, but I think it's worth owning that you have a thing.

Two things, really. A thing for nurses, and thing for hoarding/keeping hundreds of books you never intend to read. You know, I actually think the nurses thing is the healthier of the two. I would get rid of the books: they are rubbish; you're never going to read them (you say); they are kind of rare but not at all valuable; they take up lots of space. And I think many - not all - but many people would think that you do indeed have a nurse fetish and have dated a nurse for at least partly that reason. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, but it's completely understandable that a nurse may feel reduced to a fantasy when they discover such.

If the relationship is worth more to you than the books (it should be), ditch the books. If a friend mentions it, tell her you picked up a box at a garage sale, but you didn't want her thinking you were only dating her because she was a nurse, so you ditched them.
posted by smoke at 6:47 PM on June 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just tell her. I'm a nurse and I would find this hilarious. we deal with far, FAR weirder stuff on a daily basis so it's really not worth hiding and stressing out about.
posted by makonan at 6:53 PM on June 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Show her this.

FWIW - I'd probably have second thoughts about anyone who didn't laugh at loud at Think_Long's response.
posted by she's not there at 7:12 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you've managed to explain the book collection in a cute, self-effacing way in this post. So I would either show her this question, or bring it up to her with a tone similar to what you've used here. Good luck.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 7:38 PM on June 9, 2013

FWIW, I'm a lady working in a profession that regularly is the subject of romance novels and while I wouldn't be weirded out by discovering a guy I'd been dating for 1.5 months had a collection of PROFESSION romances, it might make me wonder if they weren't dating me because of me, they were dating me because of PROFESSION.

But it doesn't sound like you particularly even care about this collection. What's to stop you from sticking it on eBay and getting rid of it?
posted by arnicae at 7:40 PM on June 9, 2013

Please at least remove them from under the bed. If she is to accidentally find them, then that is probably the worst possible location for misunderstanding! I would be inclined to get rid of them, but assuming you want to keep them, then you probably do need to tell her about them.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:47 AM on June 10, 2013

You've hidden 400 nurse-themed books under your bed? Without her noticing? How big is your bed?!
posted by devnull at 5:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree that it's FAR worse that you are keeping them under your bed. Just come clean and even what made you think it's better to hoard them all under the bed. Because it's really funny.

I say you scan the covers, put them on a Tumblr and give them away if you're not even reading them. You can probably even involve her in this with funny commentary.
posted by like_neon at 5:33 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

How did you meet/start dating? If you met at a bar or something and started going out and then you found out she was a nurse I think any of the above strategies for explaining the books should work fine. If you met, say, in a hospital or other function where she was wearing her nurse uniform and you asked her out then it does make things more suspect.
posted by mikepop at 7:37 AM on June 10, 2013

Give them all to her as a birthday present, if she's got the right sense of humor.

I once gave a friend a big stack of copies of the same book, Jaws, because I knew people were always giving him shark-themed stuff and he was sick of it. When he unwrapped the first one he had a strained "Ah, thank you, a shark book, how thoughtful" reaction. By the third one he knew I was fucking with him. He was amused.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:51 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Scan the covers, sell the books and if anyone brings it up in front of her you can honestly say that you had them for the camp value of the covers and you sold them ages ago.
posted by Julnyes at 11:46 AM on June 10, 2013

OHMYGOD I am a nurse and if my new date revealed a large collection of nurse pulp I would propose immediately! This is not an albatross, this is your golden ticket!
posted by latkes at 1:11 PM on June 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

This is hilarious. I am friends with a bunch of nurses, all of whom would find this hilarious. But yeah, get em out from under the bed, that's weird.
posted by desuetude at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you are a collector in the sense of regularly buying and selling things, this is easy to deal with.

"I'm getting some books ready to sell -- there's a lot of nurse novels with these funny, campy covers. I thought I'd see if you would like any to make a campy display or for gag gifts."

If you're planning on keeping 400 books you don't want to read because someone would find them to make an oddball topical display, you've got other issues.

Get them out from under the bed, it's all too easy for someone to find something there looking for a shoe or something, and it will seem like you keep them there for convenient access in the bedroom.
posted by yohko at 6:21 PM on June 10, 2013

I say don't get rid of them. I think they're pretty cute/kitschy. do you have other themed collections you can display them with, like other pulp or Men's Magazines? Put them together with that.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:55 PM on June 11, 2013

How do you expect us to advise you on how to be honest with her when you can't even be honest with us? I mean seriously, this is not the least bit plausible. You have 400+ COUNTED nurse fetish paperbacks hidden under your bed that you haven't read yet have obsessively collected over a long period of time and are currently dating a nurse? If you have a thing for nurses that is not the least bit weird and would maybe be a valuable thing for your special nurse to know, if only so she can better poke those buttons. I don't think most people would be really put off by a profession fetish, hell it'd be a bonus for many, but most people would indeed be put off by being cagey and weird about it.

If this really is a fantastic coincidence of a kitchy art thing then discard the books for the worthlessly unread pulp they currently are and keep the covers for the awesomely kitchy art they currently are and suddenly its a lot easier to explain and show off. Make finding a cool way to display them a project.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:37 PM on June 16, 2013

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