I don’t constantly post stuff that’s political in nature, but I’m not terribly shy about it. People respond, of course, and it’s been interesting to discover who among my FB friends disagrees with the things I post, and in what way. That should be expected, I suppose – my FB friends collectively skew in the politically progressive direction, but it’s a big old world. People have lots of different opinions. So I’ll discover that specific people I already like, respect, and previously knew only in a writing-related context have ideological differences with me, sometimes in ways that I’d probably have to work very, very hard to get past if I wanted to try and establish a NEW friendship. But in these cases, the friendship is already there, and thus far the newly discovered differences in opinion haven’t affected my feelings of friendship and affection for the people who hold those opinions. It’s not a large number of people, but it’s not zero either. That’s a good thing, right? I think that’s a good thing.
I’m not naturally tough in the way our society tends to define it, which has been a complicated thing throughout my life. I’ve experienced plenty of moments in which an ability to step up and be confrontational, respond forcefully to aggression, and not turn the other cheek would probably have been a good thing. These days I worry about it most in relation to my son – he’s a sweet, gentle, affectionate boy, and we live in a society that does not value those qualities in boys and men. Our society celebrates and rewards the alpha male who takes what he wants without asking, conceals emotion and stiff-arms vulnerability, and stands with a fist. I’ve never even come close to being that kind of person. I believe I can teach my son kindness and generosity, at least in the flawed and sputtering way I do everything, and I believe we need more men of kindness and generosity. However, I don’t know how to teach him toughness that intersects with kindness and generosity in a way that mirrors my values; I really don’t know how to teach him toughness in any way. That worries me.
The very first time I met Jay Asher was at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2010. We were in a big crush of people in the banquet hall, it was chaos, I introduced myself on the spur of the moment, and I’d be shocked if Jay remembers. I remember thinking he seemed a bit withdrawn, and wondering if it was because he faced a constant stream of random people like me saying “OMG YOU’RE JAY ASHER” and whatnot.
We met in a more substantial way two years later at my first-ever faculty gig, at the 2012 Kansas SCBWI conference. We had a couple of real conversations, and I thought “oh, he’s an introvert! Which is awesome because I AM TOO!” I hadn’t suspected that before just because, you know, Disco Mermaids, eighteen bazillion speaking gigs, etc., am I right? It’s easy to overlook the truth in the glare of the lights, I suppose.
We keep running into each other here and there, and something I like about Jay is the fact that he appears to truly grasp the gigantic scope of what’s happened to him. He’s clearly grateful and happy about his career, but he also gives the distinct impression of a man thinking “dude, this $*%& is intense and out of control!” Which seems like an eminently sane and human response. It seems real, you know? I like people who are real. I’m glad I get to hang out with Jay every so often, even if it’s usually just for a short while.