Friday, June 30, 2006
Meeting America's Boy
When I get home on Wed. morning at around 5:30 a.m., I have had too much coffee and decide to finish reading 'America's Boy'. I've only got about 100 pages to go - but I feel it's important for me to finish the book before my interview later that same day with the author, Wade Rouse. When I finish it I know there is no way I will get any sleep. Rouse's book delights you from page one, with stories that dip into the eccentricities of his family and put you in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. It's good for a first book - a memoir. It keeps you reading. But the second half gets even more intimate in a way you don't even expect and made me - slightly uncomfortable. Later, when I talk to Rouse, he'll tell me he didn't want the book to fall into a niche - which it easily could - being that it deals with subjects like homosexuality and being overweight. Oddly enough those were the two subjects that kept me reading and made me think - the way I love it when books do. Uncomfortable is a bad word. It's just that Rouse's writing is so completely honest it almost gets you off guard. I'm not a boy and I'm straight. So you'd think I couldn't relate to 'America's Boy'. But oh boy could I. Rouse uses the word "different" when describing himself. Later he'll tell me he thought his stories could be unique and universal. They are. I deal with the self-conciousness of my own weight daily. When I meet up with Rouse in person, he is smaller than me. Lean, tan and muscular. He has an unbelievable smile. In his book he mentions his once long, soft curly blonde hair - cut off when his grandfather got tired of people mistaking him for a girl. Though he says it was never the same after that fateful day, I can see traces of beautiful blonde in it while sitting across from him. He's so geniuinely nice that it's hard to be a reporter with him. This is what kept me up until 7 a.m. when I knew I had to be up again at 11:00 to be at the interview on time. My first interview with a writer. I realized that I could be a character in a following memoir. The girl so obviously uncomfortable with herself...who sat with hunched shoulders or asked stupid questions. I was nervous as hell. I grew up with two brothers and an emotionally jumbled mother. I looked like a boy a lot of the time and was teased enough to never forget it. My sexuality has been questioned almost more than Sadam Hussein. Okay, so I'm exaggerating...but it has been questioned...and it's not that I take offense...but after a while it can make you think there's something wrong with you. Which can make you feel "different" as if you didn't have enough to make you feel different all the time anyway. From the little things, (dealing with weight from the age of five) to the littler things, (being the only jew in a regular school) to the obscure things, (being the only girl with two brothers) and the heavy things (being so afraid of men that nobody believes you actually adore them) - we are all different in our own little ways. And most likely in the broad seascape of our differences is a family that laughs with us as we stumble through them. And then there are the people like Rouse...who write about them...so we don't feel so different after all.