Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch anything. MTV. Simpsons. Wrestling. One of the most horrific moments of my childhood was at a middle school sleepover, and my friend’s mom announced to the entire room that we had to turn off South Park because “Eddie’s not allowed to watch it.”
The craziest part is that my Mom wasn’t overbearing — it’s not like she called the sleepover to find out what was going on. No. Her and her restrictions were just so notoriously well known that there was no escape.
Now, I was a pain in the ass as a kid. I mean, I still can be today, but especially as a kid. And every time I was told I couldn’t watch or listen to something, I would come up with a million reasons as to why whatever I wanted to watch or listen to not only had redeeming value, but why it was an absolute necessity toward my growth as a human being to consume that content. And in my opinion, I would present flawless arguments proving I was right. But did it matter? Of course not.
So what happens? I grow up and write a book that contains sex, binge drinking and profanity. That’ll show you, Mom!
For real though, what happened was that it made me extremely conscious of the impact of things. And even though my mom has told me at least 500 times that she doesn’t endorse some of the stories or language in “I Hate You Jimmy,” I can honestly say that I don’t believe anything in there is for shock value — that there is a deeper truth or purpose for even the most asinine stories. Including Chapter 25.
So it was weird for me to think about creating a “clean” version of I Hate You Jimmy to share with middle and high schoolers. Naturally, I took out the profanity and stories relating to sex and underage drinking (even though in consulting with multiple teachers and parents, I came to find out that those things are in many of the books students read).
But what about the story about the idiot cop who threatened to give the 21-year-old Jimmy a DUI because he had a sip of beer and was operating his wheelchair? Can I include a story about one police officer that acted unjust, without impressionable teenagers incorrectly thinking I am making a statement on all police officers? If you watch the news, that doesn’t even seem to be a distinction adults can make—people on both sides of the issue quick to vilify or praise an entire profession based on one action of one individual.
Or what about a story that mentions a happy hour where Jimmy and I were drinking casually? Is it bad for teenagers to read about adults responsibly and legally consuming alcohol? Or should that be avoided completely, because at the end of the day it’s a dangerous drug that people have a much higher chance of abusing at some point in their lives than all other drugs combined?
To top it off, I can’t imagine the world these kids are living in. Sure, when I was 10 years old the Lewinsky scandal happened (and you better believe I spun everything I was seeing on the news into a reason why I should be allowed to watch PG-13 movies. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work). But gone are the days of only a few news channels and dial-up internet. From television to social media, the last couple weeks have been a nonstop barrage of our country’s Senators, a Supreme Court nominee, and a Doctor talk about booze, sex, and assault… that occurred in high school! No matter where you stand on the issue, you have to admit, a bunch of old people asking other old people about their teenage drinking and sex lives is some of the most perverted, twisted stuff I ever seen. And this isn't HBO after dark. This is C-SPAN!
I don’t share these things to make a statement on police, or drinking, or the Supreme Court nomination. I share these things because it is funny to me to think about what we deem inappropriate, or offensive. Kids aren’t blind. They see the world they are living in.
Long story short, even after I removed the cursing, sex, and drinking, I still had a hard time with what is and isn’t appropriate, considering the impact I want the stories to have on people who read the book. So it came down to this: I know my mom wouldn’t let me read “I Hate You Jimmy” as a teenager. Shoot, if it was up to her, I wouldn’t be allowed to read it now. But I do know she would let me read “Perception is Everything.” And if all those years of being restricted and arguing and feeling left out from everything cool gave me the perspective to consider my impact, maybe all that suffering was worth it.
But then again . . . that slumber party was brutal.
“Perception is Everything” is an edited version of “I Hate You Jimmy,” geared toward middle and high school students, promoting an important and timely message through entertaining and engaging short stories. Perfect for teenage readers, classroom settings, or Moms that find their son’s high quality humor and priceless insight offensive.
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