A couple weeks ago I did something no one should have to do: I went back to high school. Yeah, I know. Like that dream you’re always having—scratch that, nightmare—where you find yourself sitting in Algebra, naked from the waist down, totally clueless about the spelling of your own name, let alone quadratic equations. That was me, except I wasn’t dreaming.
I was promoting my first Young Adult novel, CONFESSIONS OF A TRIPLE SHOT BETTY. Standing there regaling my audience with Tales from the Writing Life, I cringed as they cracked their gum, yawned, and smirked at each other mercilessly. It was horrifying to face, but the evidence was right there: I wasn’t cool. All my old high school insecurities came back like a swarm of flesh-eating locusts.
Okay, to be totally fair, not all the schools I visited were like that. One was filled with kids so into reading and writing, I left with a serious contact high from their enthusiasm. Others were more like visiting a coma ward.
For these tougher crowds, I passed around a hat and scraps of paper so anyone too shy to ask questions aloud could scribble theirs down and deliver their query anonymously. Any idiot can see where this is headed.
“Okay then,” I said, fishing around in the hat. “Let’s see what we have here.” The first one I pulled out read “Can I stick two fingers in your butt and stroke your balls?”
Apparently, not only had I failed to impart the importance of reading, but (much more crushingly) I hadn’t even conveyed that I am female.
Ahh, well, details, details.
The next scrap of paper was even more cryptic. I read it aloud: “Did it hurt much when you fell from heaven?”
Here I thought I was so well versed in the language and customs of the under-twenty set, and so far one hundred percent of their questions were a total mystery to me.
The third one I more or less understood. It was a drawing, actually. It depicted the prominent feature of male anatomy in a state of excitement. When I showed it to the English teacher afterwards, she nodded. “Yeah,” she said wryly. “We get a lot of those around here.”