Wednesday, November 16, 2011

nobody makes hair shirts nowadays (part three)

Now it's time to talk about the water.

In the first post on this subject, I mentioned that I'd told Rachael you can't honestly write something THE PEOPLE are going to call Young + Adult and omit the element of sexuality/sexual identity.

It's the same thing as the water to the fish in the Zen parable: It is everywhere, at all times; it is the universal climate change that occurs during the Young Adult experience. And it puts particular pressure on boys, which, I suppose, is why Rachael found The Marbury Lens so intriguing, and why she asked the question.

In the book, in several passages, Jack rants about how much he hates being a teenager -- that there is nothing remotely whimsical or adorable in the sexual awkwardness and the external pressure he feels to "be a man." Like a lot of kids, he is confused and anxious,  even questions his sexual orientation at times.

This is all part of the universal experience, I think, but it can also be emotionally troubling for kids like Jack, especially when combined with other traumatic (in Jack's case, at least) events.

Let me tell you a little side note about mean comments (and another mean comment story will come up later in this post): When my first book, Ghost Medicine, came out, I received more than a few comments from people (none of whom happened to be males, but I am not going to make a generalized statement as to the significance of this) who said Boys are not introspective like this in real life. They do not look inside themselves and examine things like love and life and friendship. This stuff never happens with real boys.

I am not making this shit up. That is the truth.

The thing is, that because boys (like Jack) feel so much pressure to "suck it up," to not express unmanly feelings (as though society dictates that genderless emotions such as love, attraction, or appreciation of beauty are feminine, and that other -- equally genderless emotions -- are masculine) externally, they are, in fact entirely vastly more likely to be introspective than girls, especially when it comes to sexuality, sexual identity, and the anxiety they feel because of sexual expectations -- pressures from outside.

If you don't realize that, then I am glad I taught you something which may make your head explode.

It is my job to tell the truth.

And this really is (if there were such a thing) a recurring concept that ripples through just about every book I have ever written.

When you pile all these pressures and expectations on a reasonably bright and aware kid, like Jack, from The Marbury Lens, it is not at all unreasonable for him to conclude -- as he does -- that there must be something wrong with him, and he better not talk about it, too.

Which brings us to Conner.

Lots of over-the-top mean comments came in about that character, the book, and me -- all because of Conner Kirk. In fact, there was a blogospheric supernova that occurred on one Oh-I-am-a-self-proclaimed-BOOK-BLOGGER's blog about how homophobic and bullying I am to have included a character like Conner Kirk in The Marbury Lens.

I am not making that shit up, either.

That person just doesn't get teenage boys.

Conner Kirk is the absolute opposite of a homophobic person. He masks his own curiosity and self-doubt behind a veneer of boisterous masculinity -- always testing Jack, wondering if his friend will have more guts than Conner does himself and come out and talk openly about sexual confusion and the pressure to "act like a man."

Of course, neither boy does that, because boys aren't allowed to do such things, and Conner, if nothing else, is society's manifestation of a perfect boy. Inside, he's got some issues, like most of us did at that age.

It's normal stuff.

Tomorrow, I am off to Miami, where I promise to make 700 kids' heads explode.

I have been working on this speech and presentation for them, and I honestly think it's some of the coolest shit a writer will ever tell young people.

I'll tell you about that later.