Painfully And Unapologetically Yourself: How To Do It Without Being A Jerk
TODAY’S BREW: Tastes like coffee. I think it’s coffee. It’s hot and I need it. That’s what she said.
I wear a shit ton of hats. They don’t all always work together. Sometime preschool teacher’s aid at my son’s preschool, former Panty Peddler In Chief and corporate propaganda monkey, PTA member and writer of vampire books, lover of offensive horror and smut and punk rock and fishnets and leather and I also read to first graders. I’m watching Bubble Guppies while writing scenes about threesomes with strangers. I looked like a pretty, pretty princess in my wedding dress and my bridesmaids were covered in tattoos, my guests consisting of former bosses and pro BMX riders and elderly aunts and a dude wh0 makes his own leather body armor that he never removes. I drink like a fish sometimes, but I’m the most responsible person you know.
Talking with The Undead Intern Sara and Kristen about how much of yourself do you let leak into public, I’m a little extreme. Twitter, for example. I talk regularly with everyone from my friend’s little sister who’s obsessed with Nikki Minaj or whoever the hell she is to one of the most successful literary agents in the UK to gamer geeks to kids to old dudes and renowned authors to dominants and submissives and everything in between. I like who I like. Everyone has something to offer, and I connect with a lot of different people. Because I have a lot of different conflicting qualities in myself.
One thing that never ceases to make me say “hmmmmm” is that THE ANIMAL is pretty dirty. THE HARPY is edgy, racy, offensive at times. I’m sure I’ll write something else that makes the world shudder. That’s sort of my thing. I don’t plan to ever use a pen name because my brand is that I keep you guessing, that I give you what you wouldn’t expect, that I make you think and be uncomfortable, and find comfort in places you wouldn’t dream of.
What do you think my kids will think of that when their friends are old enough to know what I think about and write about for a living? I never want to HURT anyone, least of all my children. I never want to cause them embarassment or make them uncomfortable. I still haven’t worked out what exactly that will mean when my kids are in middle school. But I try to keep in mind that I shouldn’t underestimate the ability of people to handle what you give them. If I raise my kids to know anything, I want them to know that they should like what they like and make no apologies for it. They should pursue what makes them happy, no matter who disapproves. That appropriate is a state of mind, and handled intelligently and conscientiously, is both honest and accepting. That being who you want to be doesn’t always mean you’ll have to defend yourself.
I’ve gained more acceptance from people I would never expect by being unapologetically honest in what I say and do. I don’t hold back, but I don’t offend. I think before I act, but I don’t restrict myself. I make sure that what I say and do matters, and that I don’t just release the inner idiocy for the sake of FUCK YOU, I DO WHAT I WANT. There’s a difference between being offensive, inappropriate, and a leader. A leader has reasons. A leader has a greater vision and a duty to themselves. and wants you to come along for the ride. A leader accepts the faults in themselves, the chinks in the chain, and revels in yours, sees your oddities as assets, as beautiful. Your weirdness intoxicates the right people, inspires them. Be the person that sees the inner freak and says, “I like it. Keep it coming.” You, yourself are a work of art before you create one. Own your eccentricities and remember that the person you’re looking at, talking to? The middle grade kid, the IRS agent, the dog walker, the cashier, the CEO, your own kid…..they all have a thing that makes them wince to reveal. Be the person they want to reveal it to. Be that leader by doing it first and smiling when they show you theirs.
I’ve learned that putting every aspect of myself in the open for all to see shows me a lot about others. I don’t ever want to be the saleslady that says “I’m not showing you this, it’s out of your price range” to the grungy kid in jeans. That grungy kid in jeans might have a pocketful of cash from their super rich mom. You don’t know anything about the person you’re looking at until you open yourself up to it. By underestimating the people you interact with, you limit yourself. Don’t be an asshole. Know that the world is full of complexitites, and every single person in it has warring identities inside them, looking to come to a peace agreement. Get to know every one of them. There was a time when if some well-to-do sophisticate asked me what my book was about, I’d find any way I could not to say “vampires.” How the hell do I know that the suit doesn’t have a secret love of classic horror? I DO NOT. So, I don’t cringe anymore based on what I think will be the reaction. Because if I do that, the other guy will do the same thing about the thing he’s self-conscious about, and it’s one more nail in the coffin of being honest and confident in who you are.
I may have answered some of my own concerns in writing this. When I inevitably go to the parent-teacher meeting where my stuffy neighbor says “What filth have you written this time, Juie?” I’ll probably say, “the kind of filth you and a lot of people want to read.” It doesn’t mean that I even have interest in doing the things I write about. I don’t want to have a threesome with strangers in a restaurant bathroom. But I do want to write about the darkest corners of my characters’ minds, push them and make them utterly real in that they do things they’re ashamed of, do things that they regret. I’ll apologize for hurting someone, but I will not apologize for who I am and what my interests are, and where my imagination takes me. I hope that translates well when some kid shows up with a copy of THE ANIMAL in Bennett’s high school classroom.