Monday, March 11, 2013

Chicken Queen or Old Lech?

I've read two books in the last week that have been amazing, wonderful reads.  They've also made me feel a tad uncomfortable.

Suicide Notes is by Michael Thomas Ford.  He'd written many gay humor columns which were then collected into a fun string of books.  I did a gay fiction search on my county library's catalogue and came upon his name.  I hadn't thought about him for quite some time, so I thought I'd see what he was up to.  I requested Suicide Notes be put on hold for me (it's at another library).  Two days later, it came in and I was surprised to see it was filed under Young Adult.

It's a well-informed, introspective, sometimes LOL journal kept by Jeff.  Jeff slit his wrists on New Year's Eve.  Suicide Notes is his daily view of the 45 days he spends in a young people's psychiatric ward.  Those of you who've read my blogs on suicide know why I checked this out.  I was not disappointed.  Ford presents Jeff's case very well and most convincingly.  Jeff is thrown into a way of life he had no idea existed.  He desperately wants out, then resigns himself to having to be there, and finally comes to grips with himself through the help of others in the ward.  Funny, harrowing, and as real as it should be.

My Most Excellent Year:  A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger blew me away.  By far one of the most entertaining books I've ever read (honest), it involves three almost-seniors writing a diary about their 9th grade adventures.  The kids are TC, Alejandra and Augie.  It's difficult to sum up the book in a paragraph, but "love" is explored in its many facets, Mary Poppins plays an incredibly wonderful part, and TC lives in Boston and is a hopeless Red Sox addict.

The three kids form a tight bond through their high school freshman year.  TC and Augie formed a friendship when they were 6 and TC's mother died.  Augie, who never spoke to TC before that, instinctively knew how to help TC (Augie calls him Tick) through that horrible time; they became so close they informed their parents they had a new son.  Alejandra's father was a diplomat, now teaches, and expects her to go into the diplomatic corps.  Augie's Broadway gene is raging from his earliest days.  I wanted the story to be told exclusively by him.

Hence, my problem.  I love these kids.  I want to take Jeff under my wing and help him however I can.  I want Augie in my life...somehow.  I want to tell TC how much I admire his outlook.  Admittedly, there were times I wanted to smack Alejandra up the side of her head, but she ultimately came around and I understand this trio.  So, I can't help feeling like an old perv.

Is there a way for an old fart to befriend kids and not be perceived as a lech?  Can an admitted chicken queen still admire kids without everyone suspecting ulterior motives?  This becomes a serious thing for me to face.  First of all, in this day of viewing anyone who shows an interest in kids as a potential kidnapper, how do you even get a fair shake at expressing your interest in being a friend or a mentor?  On the bright side, all of the young adults involved take gayness in stride, as do most of their friends.  I like this and I hope it's true, but I have a perspective they should know.  There was a Stonewall.  There is AIDS.  We have a history and they need to know. 

But I don't know if I should read any more gay Young Adult books.  Jack hasn't minded so far; he knows I like young guys...not as a turn-on but to watch and observe.  (That will be a blog sometime when I can figure out a non-lecherous way to write it.)  I know that library check-out lists are supposed to be confidential, but I kind of wonder what the librarians think when they see The Old Guy check out books for teens.

Suicide Notes is a journal; there are 45 chapters, one for each day Jeff is part of the hospital's program.  Theoretically, the book is written by Jeff.  His wit is delicious, his language is refreshing, his admission of his gayness may take too long but it also makes sense.  My Most Excellent Year is epistolary and comes from a class assignment to write diaries, but it also includes instant messages, emails and other (to my old brain) inventive means of furthering the plot.

Two other items: 
1.  Thanks to Suicide Notes, I had to laugh at my therapist last session.  I noticed that when I said something he considered significant, he'd make a note on his pad.  When he noticed my smile, I told him about Cat Poop, Jeff's psychiatrist.
2.  Thanks to My Most Excellent Year, whether it was purely fictional or based on truth, I love and admire Julie Andrews even more.

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