Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I never planned to use this place as a therapy session, but I'm hoping if I put my current frustrations down in print, some day I'll be at a place where I can look back and realize that things did get better. At the moment, I feel like I'm standing at the entrance of a very long, very dark tunnel with not even a pinpoint of light at the far end.

My daughter is experiencing a very painful "mean girls" time in her life. As much as you are apart from your child, it's amazing how much their pain becomes your own. My blood is boiling and I really do want to beat some particular people into a mushy pulp. Add in my adult perspective and I feel a level of impotence that is pretty hard to handle. I can't help her. I can't do anything to make things better. I can only offer her my support and the knowledge that she's a great kid who is the better person, and that this, too, shall pass. But it isn't enough. When your baby is hurting, you would move mountains to stop the pain. Except that I can't do that in this particular case. She just has to get through the hurt on her own.

What's doubly frustrating is that I understand the dynamics at work. I stand outside of the situation and see exactly what is going on. I see why she chooses to handle things the way she does, why she believes she has to put up with the crap she's being dealt even though what she should do is tell her supposed friends to go take a flying f@$!. I also know that telling her that things will get better doesn't help her deal with right.this.very.minute. Who cares what things will be like in a couple of years, or in a month or even next week? Right now sucks and that's all there is.

And as angry as I am right now, I can only imagine the bile I'm going to have to swallow when this episode is over and things go back to being the way they were and I have to interact with these girls without indicating in any way that I'd be quite fine if they all got eaten by alligators, slowly and painfully. My adult way of handling people who don't deserve respect or decent treatment doesn't work in this scenario, so I have to keep my mouth shut, smile and try not to scream while I haul their asses around in the minivan. Moms deserve combat pay.

No one tells you when you have kids that you will have to relive all of the crap you thought you put behind you once you grew up and left high school. They should write a book for that. "What to Expect When Your Kid's Life Sucks."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Not Quite On the Same Page

I've discovered a new blog - The Book Lantern - that I love, however the post that appeared today is really causing me to scratch my head. I know how I feel about what this person is saying, but I'm struggling to put those thoughts to words.

What I get out of the post is that Ceilidh is frustrated with an industry - society in general, actually - which defaults to the proto-typical heterosexual white male/female as the standard character type with all variations of ethnicity and/or sexual orientation falling outside the spectrum of "normal". Additionally, when gay characters (or characters of ethnicity) are portrayed, they take the form of the most simplistic stereotypes (gay boys who giggle a lot), or the reader is constantly reminded that this person is capital-G Gay (or capital B-Black/capital A-Asian, etc.). Characters who fall outside of the narrow white-and-straight are under-represented, and stories that do feature someone who doesn't fit that description are classified as "issue" books rather than just stories.

While I agree with the overall sentiment - that society needs to move in the direction where every variation of human being is just as normal and accepted as another - I'm not sure if I can wrap my brain around Ceilidh's argument that the publishing industry, writers included, are perpetuating a form of reinforcement of bad attitudes in their assume standard=white-and-straight approach.

First, to state my fundamental opinion on homosexuality. I believe you love whom you love. Being a homosexual is not a choice or an alternative lifestyle or something that you can turn off or turn on or dabble in or, heaven help us, "fix". God makes no mistakes, and, to quote Lady GaGa (god!), everyone is born that way. And those who insist that homosexuals don't deserve the same respect and rights as heterosexuals are practicing a form of bigotry and racism that is intolerable and ignorant.

As for homosexuality portrayed in fiction, some of the most romantic couples I have ever encountered have been gay couples. I've stated before that the Brian and Justin love story depicted on the US Queer As Folk was one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching of any ever. I wept over Brokeback Mountain and felt sorry for anyone who refused to experience such a heartbreaking story because of their homophobia. Gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy is one of my favorite characters in contemporary romance, and until his relationship with Robin devolved into something too cutesy for even my thirteen year old daughter, it was one of Suzanne Brockmann's best depicted in all of her Troubleshooters series.

If the romance is done well, I don't give two hoots if the couple is male/male, male/female, or female/female.

So here's my problem with Ceilidh's problem. If a character's sexual orientation doesn't matter to the story, why bring it up? Ever? Why tell the reader this person is gay? Ever?

If you insist on labeling a person as gay, you inherently imply that this aspect of their person is important to the story. That this person's sexual orientation makes a difference in some way. Because if being gay doesn't affect the story in any way, then why mention it at all?

Best analogy I can think of is hair color. Hair color is a trait that has little bearing on the bigger picture of a character's story. Unless a particular character is persecuted, lauded or otherwise treated differently because of his or her hair color, other than a mild curiosity on the part of the reader, specifying a character's hair color is unnecessary.

If, on the other hand, the author reminds the reader every chapter or so that the main character is blonde, hair color starts to mean something. By calling it out, the writer has given hair color importance. For some reason, the hair color of this particular person makes him/her different. Not better, not worse, not wrong, not anything. But being blonde affects how this person deals with the world or how the world deals with them.

Same thing with being gay. If a person's sexual orientation has no bearing on the story, then why bring it up? Why does a writer have to "state for the record" that any one character is gay or not gay?

Who cares if people assume that the character is straight if sexual orientation doesn't matter? Back to my hair analogy, it's like saying that there is something wrong with imagining a character to be blonde all through the book only to find out at the end that she was actually brunette. Why is it important for me to know all the way through that she was brunette if it doesn't make her any different?

Absolutely shining example is Headmaster Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. Never once in seven books and some 4,000 plus pages of the series is Albus Dumbledore's sexual orientation mentioned. Because it didn't matter to the story. After the fact, writer J.K. Rowling stated that Dumbledore was gay, that he'd always been gay, that this was how she had imagined him from the very beginning, and she offered zero apology for that because none was needed.

And now, readers have spent seven books and some 4,000 plus pages liking and empathizing with a character who, it turns out, is just like them even though he's gay. Well, most of us readers aren't magical wizards, but you get the point.

If being gay/ethnic/blonde changes the way the main character(s) deal with the world or how the world treats them, then you can't ignore it as a trait. And then I would argue that stories that deal with how a  character is treated differently because of some specific trait are issue books.

Net, net, what I think I'm trying to say is that by insisting that gay people (or people of non-white races) have increased representation, you are saying that their gayness matters in some way. Otherwise, who cares if the main character is gay or not?

Really, in this case I feel words are failing me.